Is it India or Bharat? The framers of our Constitution debated this and much more. Therefore, Article 1 of the Constitution says, “India i.e. Bharat is a Union of States”.
The two names, India and Bharat, have been made official and legal to be used for legal-political purposes.
Congress said on Tuesday that invites to the G20 Summit dinner sent by Rashtrapati Bhawan had written ‘President of Bharat’, instead of the usual ‘President of India’. This sparked a buzz that a a resolution to rename India Bharat could be presented by the government at the next extraordinary session of Parliament.
Interestingly, a Congressman in 2012 introduced a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha to replace India with Bharat in the Constitution. Shantaram Naik, of the Congress, said that unlike India, Bharat has greater significance than mere geographical boundaries.
The Bharat-only proposal is not new.
There were debates during the debates of the Constituent Assembly on the main use of Bharat for the country. A question to ask is: why did the framers of our Constitution opt for a double name policy?
INDIA VS. BHARAT DEBATE
We call our country India in English and Bharat in other Indian languages. Even in the Dravidian languages – it’s Bharata in Tamil, Bharatam in Malayalam and Bharat desam in Telugu.
In Hindi, the Constitution is called “Bharat ka Samvidhan”. And article 1 is: “Bharata artthat India, rajyon ka sangha hoga”.
Although India refers to a geographical and administrative entity, the indigenous word Bharat owes its origin to the concept of a territory that is socially organized and united by socio-cultural practices, experts say. Later, Bharat came to represent the geographical entity of India, combining it with the cultural aspect.
The debate was present, even if unconsciously. Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who became India’s first prime minister, mentions it in “Discovering India”.
“Often, as I wandered from meeting to meeting, I would tell my audience of our India, of Hindustan, and of Bharata, the old Sanskrit name derived from the mythical founder of the race,” writes Nehru in “Discovering the ‘India”. , published in 1946.
There has been no confusion regarding the use of the term Bharat. Both Bharat Ganarajya and the Republic of India are listed on the passports of Indian citizens.
The term Bharat has ancient roots and appears in Hindu writings such as the Mahabharata and Manusmriti. This is the Bharata emperor to whom Jawaharlal Nehru referred and who would have reigned over a vast kingdom corresponding to today’s India. Proponents of the use of Bharat believe that it embodies the rich cultural and historical heritage of the region.
Even the name India is not new. It comes from the Indus River, which played an important role in the early civilizations of the region. This word was popularized by Greek historians and then adopted by the British during their colonial rule.
DEBATES OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
The Constituent Assembly created on August 29, 1947 a commission to draft the Constitution under the chairmanship of BR Ambedkar.
After two years, in a discussion on September 18, 1949, “India is Bharat…” gave rise to intense debate with members seeking to rephrase it.
Actually, Parliament is convened on September 18 for a special session.
Hari Vishnu Kamath, member of the Constituent Assembly and leader of the Forward bloc, called for the sentence of Article 1 to be reworded: “Bharat or, in English, India, shall be a Union of States”.
Referring to the naming of the new Republic that was about to be born as the “Namkaran ceremony”, Kamath said, “If there hadn’t been a need for a Namakaran ceremony, we could have continued the India, but if we accept that there must be a new name for this baby, then of course the question arises as to what name to give it.
Kamath also listed other suggestions, like Hindustan, Hind and Bharatbhumi or Bharatvarsh.
Congressman Hargovind Pant also fought for the names Bharat and Bharat Varsha, not India.
“I had proposed an amendment that for the name of the country, we should have the word ‘Bharat’ or ‘Bharat Varsha’ instead of ‘India.’ I am happy to see that a name change has finally been accepted,” said Hargoind Pant.
“Bharat or Bharat Varsha is and has been the name of our country for ages according to our ancient history and traditions and in fact this word inspires enthusiasm and courage,” Pant argued.
Another member of the Constituent Assembly, Seth Govind Das, said, “We should have the satisfaction of giving our country the name of Bharat today,” but he disputed how this was done in the Constitution.
“’India, that is to say Bharat’ are not nice words to designate a country name. We should have put the words “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries”. It would have been much more appropriate than the old expression,” said Seth Govid Das.
Another Congress leader, Kamalapati Tripathi, also fought for Bharat to become the main word. “It would have been more appropriate to use the words ‘Bharat, meaning India’ in the resolution before us,” he said.
“When a country is in slavery, it loses its soul. During its thousand-year slavery, our country too lost everything. We have lost our culture, we have lost our history, we have lost our prestige, we have lost our humanity, we have lost our self respect, we have lost our soul and we have effectively lost our form and our name” , Kamalapati Tripathi said during the debate.
Tripathi elaborated on his case for the name of the country Bharat at length and claimed that now that it was free it should revert to its old name. Ambedkar interrupted him by asking, “Is all this essential, sir?” Tripathi retorted: “Is all this essential, sir?
In the end, when President Rajendra Prasad put the amendments to the vote, Article 1 remained “India is Bharat…”.
BUT WHY BHARAT AND INDIA?
During the drafting of the Constitution after partition, the issue of the country’s name was a contentious issue.
And against a backdrop of bloodshed and communal strife, the Constituent Assembly decided on the dual identity of “India, that is, Bharat”.
Author and researcher Catherine Clementin-Ojha, in her research paper “India i.e. Bharat…: One Country, Two Names”, refers to how “the Constitution was written under the extremely difficult circumstances of the period immediately following partition, just two years after appalling chaos and bloodshed”.
“So it was a time when the unity and stability of the new country was in doubt,” says Clementin-Ojha and wonders if that’s why the country’s name was taken over in September 1949, two years after the creation of the country. A drafting committee has been set up.
In his article, Clementin-Ojha also mentions V Sundaram, a retired IAS officer and journalist: “According to V Sundaram, it was because ‘Bharat’ was considered too Hindu by the framers of the Constitution that they introduced ‘India’ as a guarantee to the minorities that they would not be Hinduized.
The choice to use both names in the Constitution was a necessity. It recognizes the historical and cultural significance of both terms, ensuring that the nation’s identity is inclusive and representative of its multi-faceted heritage.
So, if the government chooses to use only Bharat, it will not rename the country.
Purav Thakur assisted in researching and writing this article