This article is written by Hariom Pandia, from University Five Year Law College, Rajasthan University.
Article 1 of the Constitution of India is on the subject of ‘Name and territory of the Union’. Within this, sub-clause one states that ‘India, that is ‘Bharat’, shall be a Union of States.’ Notionally, the country is recognised by two names stated in article 1(1). The name India has been given precedence to the name ‘Bharat’. On this precedence, as Seth Govind Das, member of constituent assembly, said India, that is, ‘Bharat’ is not beautiful words for the name of a country. We should have put the words & ‘Bharat’ known as India also in foreign countries.
One may argue that this precedence does not matter much and both names are at equal status. This is theoretically correct; however, this has not been followed even in the constitution itself. The preamble does use only India as name and all the places wherever name of the country is used, India has been used. So here appears a need of detailed discussion on the topic.
The origin of ‘Bharat’ name is an important point here. The country of has been called by many names including: India, Bharat, Bharatvarsh, Hind and Hindustan. Bharat, the name for India in several Indian languages, is known to be derived from the name of either Dushyanta’s son Bharata or Rishabha’s son Bharata.
According to the Puranas, this country is known as Bharatavarsha after Bharata, the son of Rishabha. Puranas also mention the name of the country is ‘Bharat’. Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabha, ‘Bharat’avarsha (India) arose from Bharat’s and Sumati arose from Bharat’s.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)
This country is known as ‘Bharatavarsha since the times the father entrusted the kingdom to the son ‘Bharata and he himself went to the forest for ascetic practices.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,32)
The country (varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharatam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata.
—Vishnu Purana (2. 3. 1)
This description also follows in Vedas, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita. Bharata Khanda term is also used in these sacred and ancient tests to describe the geographic region which encompassed the modern countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar or which is South Asia.
Other names, like Hindustan are ancient but are not as ancient as ‘Bharat’. Moreover, these names are what foreigners like Persians called India. So, there is no doubt in the fact that ‘Bharat’ is the original name of our motherland. After finding the originality of name for the country, it appears logical to find the positive impacts of taking steps in its favour. ‘Bharat’ name has deep connections with our culture. It brings us down to the memory lane of millennia ago. Role of culture in a nation’s development and shoring up happiness among its citizens is not an unknown fact. The cultural activities add to an increase in the intellectual potential and build a conscious, open and tolerant society. The role of culture in a nation’s development is well explained in this excerpt.
‘Culture is one of the main pillars of development and sustenance of communities and no society can progress in its absence. It is the identity where common values, attitudes, preferences, knowledge are attributed to the behaviour in a particular social group, and has a positive influence on social development in any given country.’(Kimanuka, Why culture is vital in a nation’s development 2016).
In a country such as India, it was highly likely to lose self-conscience. India has faced 3 centuries of cruel mughal tyranny. The soul of India was crushed in the whims and tyranny of intolerant rulers. The long standing noble principles of Indian culture were under cloudy cover. Before Indians could take a sigh of relief from this whimsical tyranny, fate brought us in the hands of British. It was like hitting the hot iron, some of scars of which are visible till now. These lines of Kamalapathi Tripathi in assembly describe it as:
“When a country is in bondage, it loses its soul. During its slavery for one thousand years, our the country too lost its everything. We lost our culture, we lost our history, we lost our prestige, we lost our humanity, we lost our self-respect, we lost our soul and indeed we lost our form and name.”
Indian culture was suppressed. Even after such attacks on it, it is still alive in the hearts of a billion people, then, it is a miracle. It can be said that things were not favourable to it even after its independence. It was weakened, whether intentionally or not. Our duty, as conscious citizens are to preserve it now.
Some may argue that what is needed is such a big step. However, this is no tremendous job keeping in mind its returns. For a culturally rich heritage country like India, it is no tremendous step at all. The name India shows a colonial hangover too and shows cultural superiority of British over Indians. Many countries have changed their name after their independence. For a more relevant and recent example of name changing for removing colonial hangover; we can look towards the name changing of Ceylon to Sri Lanka, Rhodesia to Zimbabwe and many more.
It can also be argued, just takes an arguer, that it is detrimental to the secular structure of the constitution. The answer of this question, I think, is enough in a counter-question that ‘would you say; when you go in a suppressed colony in Africa and say it against secularism when they try to preserve their centuries old culture(which welcomes other groups). A brief view of the events of constitutional assembly will help in better understanding and decision making. The constitution was drafted under extremely difficult circumstances, just two years after the massive bloodshed resulting after the partition. It was a testing time although India had won independence. There was a clear division of opinions among the members of assembly over Article 1(1). P.V.Kamath proposed it to be ‘‘Bharat’, or, in the English language, India, shall be and such’ which he said was based on Irish constitution. Kamlanath Tripathi suggested it to be ‘‘Bharat’, that is India’. Seth Govind Das, another member, suggested only ‘‘Bharatvarsha’.
Recently this issue came into spotlight again, after the constitutional assembly debates, when a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by one Namah asking for a name change. The plea argued for name changing to “ensure the citizens of this country to get over the colonial past”. It argued that replacing the word India with Bharat or Hindustan will instil a sense of pride in our own nationality. The Supreme Court allowed the petition and asked the central government to take this issue as a representation. Now it depends solely on the central government whether it will take any positive step.
Finally, it can be concluded that ‘Bharat’ is the most suitable and original name of our nation. As Nikki Giovanni once said “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” Maybe that time, the constituent assembly made an error, for conditions were very tense that time. It is the time when, we as a nation have made enough progress to address this issue. The Government must, at least, let the houses debate on this and consider this vital issue of renaming the nation.
- Kimanuka, O. (2016, August 11). Why culture is vital in a nation’s development. Retrieved June 23, 2020, from https://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/202542
- Constitutional assembly debates
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