Is It Time to Change the Name of India to Bharata?


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The name of this country “India” is a word with no meaning. We have accepted the name given by foreign invaders, and consider that fine. But if someone says we should restore the ancient name of this land, people will say it is “communalism” (religious fanaticism).

India is a mispronunciation of the Greek Indoi, which means people who live near the Indus river. First of all, we don’t even have access to this river, as it runs through Pakistan. Secondly the river’s correct name is Sindhu. Thus we have a series of mispronunciations piled on top of each other by various invaders, resulting in our present national identity.

The Sindhu river was mispronounced as Indhu by the Persians, then the Greeks took that mispronunciation and further mispronounced it as Indos, and created the name of the country as Indoi. Later the British mispronounced this and created the modern name “India”, a word with no actual meaning and no connection to the local population. All of these names are names imposed by outsiders and invaders. Even the name Hindustan is a name imposed by invaders.

Hindustan is the Persian name for India. If you look into the Avesta (the sacred texts of Zoroastrian religion), you can find they have borrowed many Sanskrit words but have replaced all ‘s’ letters with ‘h’. For example hapta-hindu is used instead of sapta-sindhu. “Ahura” is used instead of “asura”.

Why was the Sindhu river used to define the sub continent? Because all the invaders were initially stopped there. If you look at Alexander the Great’s invasion of India he turned back just after crossing the Sindhu river. That region doesn’t define the country, it defines the limit of their invasions. We do not even have access to the Sindhu river today, so why should the country be named after that landmark which no longer exists for us?

As different groups invaded from the west, the first geographic layers of the “country” they encountered were along the Sindhu river. Since they could not penetrate deeper to the heart of the subcontinent at the time, they named the entire subcontinent after the outer boundary they first encountered (at the Sindhu river).

Traditionally this land has been glorified in shastra as having sapta-sindhu (sapta-sindhavah), seven great sacred rivers. Naming the entire country after just one river located at the outer boundary would be like naming the entire United States as New York.

We need to restore the traditional ancient name of this country, Bharata, as has been in use for more than 5,000 years by the ancient rishis, the indigenous residents of this land and forefathers of all modern Indians.

This is not communalism or religious fanaticism, this is simply truth and history. People should be called by the name they themselves choose, and the name their ancestors chose, not the name imposed on them by foreign invaders.

In modern times, many neighboring countries have restored their ancient names or chosen the name they want to identify with (freeing themselves from their British colonial past). Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka. Burma was changed to Myanmar. Siam became Thailand. It is time for India to break free from its colonial past and restore the ancient name of the country, Bharata.

As a side note, it is my personal opinion that it would be best for the name to remain as Bharata (the Sanskrit version), and not Bharat (the hindi version that drops the final “a”), to be most acceptable to all states, and especially the southern states that are against imposition of Hindi. The original Sanskrit name is the oldest and thus best name to adopt, and it would make it clear that it is not an imposition of Hindi on them, as the name exists in all of the local languages in this form.

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