The Name of My Country


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Recently a debate, almost a controversy, has started about the name of my country — India. Foreigners would wonder what the controversy is in the name. Most foreigners and even Indians living abroad know that the country is India — there is no debate — forget any controversy about this issue.

It has arisen probably because some official Indian statements have written — India that is Bharat. People feel that India is the correct name — certainly while writing the country’s name in English language. In Hindi or any other language, Bharat may be used as the name of the country but in English language a problem has been observed. Should one write just  India or  ‘Bharat that is India’? The word India comes from the river Indus flowing in the north western part of the country. The word Bharat  is an ancient name in Sanskrit and earlier languages for the region.

Another aspect of the country’s name in English represents an image of the country as seen by a foreigner or an outsider. Even Indians get an outside (or relatively superficial) view of the country which is referred to in the English language. It generally does not refer to rural regions or regions where one’s grandparents perhaps used to live.

I remember when I went to France as a tourist I used to ask, in my broken French, some question about a town or an area from the local people I would meet. The answer I would get generally used to be a superficial answer. The local people could understand that I was an outsider and would therefore not provide a detailed answer about their society or the region. They felt a brief answer was adequate, and a detailed answer would be incomprehensible to me.

Similarly, a person asking some aspect of Indian society or region in English language would be given a relatively superficial answer. If the question was being asked in Hindi or the regional language of that area, a more detailed answer could be provided. Thus, a language that was being used would decide the nature of the answer— detailed or superficial.

Another common name of the country is Hindustan. This comes from the division of the country at the time of independence from British rule in 1947. India was divided into Pakistan and Hindustan — the former populated mostly by Muslim people, and the latter by Hindus and Sikhs or Buddhists and other non-Muslims. There used to be large migrations of peoples from one region to another depending on their religion. At that time Bengal was also part of Pakistan — its eastern part.  It became Bangladesh  many years later.

On the world stage, similar issues are observed. Russia feels that Ukraine is part of Russia and holds on to it militarily although now the common feeling is that Ukraine is a different country like Hungary or Romania and Russia should give Ukraine independence.

The world is replete with issues such as Ukraine’s independence. However, many a time might is right and consequently Russia does not like to grant independence. Taiwan also faces problems from China about its independence, especially economically.

The world is a stage where many political dramas take place. Fortunately India has overturned any controversy that used to arise about its independence.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Nov 2023.

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