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Renaming of cities in India

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Title: Renaming of cities in India  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Trichy, Shimla, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Independent India
Collection: Cities and Towns in India, Geographic History of India, Geographical Naming Disputes, Independent India, Populated Places in India
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Renaming of cities in India

Renaming of cities in India started in 1947, following the end of the British imperial period in India, and continues today. Several changes were politically controversial, and not all proposed changes were implemented. Each had to be approved by the central government in New Delhi.

The renaming of states and territories in India has also taken place, but until recently with actual substantial name changes in both local language and in English such as the old British state name of Travancore-Cochin to Kerala (1956). The most notable recent exceptions being Indian English spelling-changes of Orissa to Odisha (March 2011)[1] and the Union Territory of Pondicherry (which includes the City of Pondicherry) to Puducherry.


  • Renaming in local languages 1
  • Renaming in English 2
    • Change in official English spelling 2.1
    • Realignment of the official Indian English name to an alternative local name 2.2
    • Take up of name changes in India and overseas 2.3
  • Important examples 3
    • States 3.1
    • Cities 3.2
  • Proposed changes 4
  • Need for unification of spellling 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Renaming in local languages

The post-colonial era, saw several State name changes. Some of these coincided with the Madhya Pradesh (1959),[2] renaming of the Madras State to Tamil Nadu (1969), Mysore State to Karnataka (1973) and Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand (2007). Some of these local name changes were changes to all languages, the immediate local name, and also all other of India's languages. An example of this is the renaming of predominantly Hindi-speaking Uttaranchal (Hindi उत्तराञ्चल) to a new local Hindi name (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड Uttarakhand).

Other changes were only changes in some of the indigenous languages. For example the renaming of the Madras Presidency to Madras State (1947) and then Tamil Nadu (1969) required Hindi speakers to change from an approximation of the British name (Hindi: मद्रास प्रैज़िडन्सी Madras Presidency, then मद्रास स्टेट Madras State) to a Hindi version of the native Tamil name (Hindi: तमिल नाडु Tamil Nadu, "Tamil land").

Changes to the local name of cities in the indigenous languages is less common. However, a change in English may also be a reflection of changes in other Indian languages other than the specific local one. For example the change of Madras (Hindi मद्रास Madras) to Chennai (Hindi चेन्नई Chennai) was reflected in many of India's languages, as well incidentally in English, while the Tamil endonym Chennai (சென்னை Chennai) had always been Chennai and remained unaffected by the change.

Renaming in English

Change in official English spelling

The renaming of cities is often specifically from English to Indian English in connection with that dialect's internal reforms. In other words the city itself is not actually renamed in the local language, and the local name (or endonym) in the indigenous languages of India does not change, but the official spelling in Indian English is amended. An example is the change from English "Calcutta" to English "Kolkata" - the local Bengali name (কলকাতা Kôlkata) did not change. Such changes in English spelling may be in order to better reflect a more accurate phonetic transliteration of the local name, or may be for other reasons. In the early years after Indian independence, many name changes were effected in northern India for English spellings of Hindi place names that had simply been romanised inconsistently by the British administration - such as the British spelling "Jubbulpore", renamed "Jabalpur" (जबलपुर) among the first changes in 1947. These changes did not generate significant controversy. More recent and high profile changes - including renaming such major cities as Calcutta to Kolkata - have generated greater controversy.[3] Since independence, such changes have typically been enacted officially by legislation at local or national Indian government level, and may or may not then be adopted by the Indian media, particularly the influential Indian press. In the case of smaller towns and districts which were less notable outside and inside India, and where a well known English name (or exonym) could not be said to exist, older spellings used under British India may not have had any specific legislation other than changes in practice on the romanisation of indigenous Indian language names.

Realignment of the official Indian English name to an alternative local name

Aside from changes to the official English spellings of local names there have also been renaming proposals to realign the official name, hence the English name with an alternative local name. Ethnically sensitive examples include the proposals by the BJP (1990, 2001) to rename Ahmedabad to Karnavati[4] and Allahabad to Prayag. These two proposals are changes from the Muslim (or Mughal) name to a Hindu name. These can be represented as a change from Urdu language to Hindi language, but since the two languages are variants of Hindustani the proposal is effectively a cultural and ethno-religious proposal rather than a linguistic one.[5]

Take up of name changes in India and overseas

Official name changes naturally take place quickly if not immediately in official government sources.[6] Take-up may be slower among the media in India and abroad, and among Indian authors.[7][8][9]

Important examples



Notable city names that were officially changed by legislation after independence include:

For others, by state order, see list of renamed Indian cities and states.

Town names that derive from ancient names:

  • Mandi, derived from Mandav Nagar [15]
  • Nellore, in ancient times Simhapuri [16]

Proposed changes

Several other changes have been proposed.

Need for unification of spellling

As India has variety of local languages, the Romanized English spellings, widely used by different departments of the government and other agencies vary. To say, Quilandy and Koyilandy, Canannore and Kannur, Rangiya and Rangia are few examples of that. Different departments of government use different spellings, while Indian railways mostly follow the British era spellings. These leads to serious consequences like; a person will have two addresses in two of his official records, and same house will have people of different house address. [22]

See also


  1. ^ India and the World Bank: The Politics of Aid and Influence - Page 126 Jason A. Kirk - 2011 "Orissa (Note: This state was officially renamed Odisha in March 2011)"
  2. ^ The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the ... - Page 134 Christophe Jaffrelot - 1999 "The new state included Madhya Bharat, the Bhopal region, the former Vindhya Pradesh, Mahakoshal and Chhattisgarh (the last two regions forming the Hindi-speaking parts in the former Madhya Pradesh; see map, pp. xxii-xxiii)."
  3. ^ Mira Kamdar Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming ... 2007 Author's introduction Page xi "India's information-technology capital's new name, should it be adopted, will mean “town of boiled beans.” The name changes are not without controversy among Indians. In several instances, the name change represents a struggle between a cosmopolitan elite and a local, regional-language populace over defining the city in ways that go far beyond a simple change of name."
  4. ^ Steven I. Wilkinson Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India 2006 Page 23 "The BJP proposed in 1990 and 2001 that Ahmedabad be renamed "Karnavati." Hindu, June 1 1, 2001. Similar proposals have been made to rename Allahabad "Prayag."
  5. ^ Cosmopolitanism - Page 73 Carol A. Breckenridge, Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha - 2002 "In one sense, the decision to officialize the name Mumbai is part of a widespread Indian pattern of replacing names associated with colonial rule with names associated with local, national, and regional heroes. It is an indigenizing toponymic "
  6. ^ Reserve Bank of India's instructions for banks & banking operations Reserve Bank of India 2001 Page 713 "The new name "Mumbai" should be reflected in both English and Hindi and the change in name is to be brought about in all official communications, name plates, sign boards, office seals, rubber stamps, etc."
  7. ^ Perveez Mody The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi Page 59 - 2008 "Throughout this book, I refer to India's commercial capital as Bombay rather than Mumbai. ... I am well aware of the name-change effected by an Act of the Indian Parliament in 1997 that made the city officially 'Mumbai'. ... It is the same convention I adopt when referring to Calcutta rather than Kolkata."
  8. ^ Pingali Sailaja Indian English Page 16 2009 "Bombay is now called Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai and Calcutta is Kolkata, in an attempt to de-anglicise them. In this work, the earlier names are retained since these names were used during the period that we mostly cover."
  9. ^ Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History - Page 3 Krishna Dutta - 2003 "nationalist stance, like Bombay, which changed its name to Mumbai, or Madras, which has become the unrecognizable Chennai, Calcutta has preferred a comparatively minor name change, which frankly is a bit of a multicultural mishmash."
  10. ^ "David Rumsey: Geographical Searching with MapRank Search (beta)". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  11. ^ Beam, Christopher (2006-07-12). "How Bombay became Mumbai. - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Deccan Herald: Centre clears change in names of Karna cities, Belgaum now Belagavi
  14. ^ Times of India: Karnataka cities get new names
  15. ^ Temples and legends of Himachal Pradesh - Page 38 Pranab Chandra Roy Choudhury - 1981 "Mandi takes the name from Mandavya. The name of the place was first Mandav Nagar and then corrupted into Mandi."
  16. ^ Gazetteer of the Nellore District: Brought Up to 1938 - Page 151 Government Of Madras Staff, Government of Madras - 1942 "... of the Ramayana (2000 — 1500 B.C.) was a dense jungle, while the town of Nellore, which came into existence only several centuries later, was known as Simhapuri (Lion's town), from the supposed existence of lions in the adjacent forests."
  17. ^ Harit Mehta, TNN, Feb 1, 2004, 01.42am IST (2004-02-01). "Ahmedabad is Karnavati, only in speeches - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  18. ^ "Dropping names". 2001-03-12. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  19. ^ TNN, Dec 18, 2006, 02.42am IST (2006-12-18). "Now, Indore to become Indur, Bhopal Bhojpal - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  20. ^ "Rediff On The NeT:". 1999-02-11. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  21. ^ "Fresh demand to rename Patna as Pataliputra". 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  22. ^

External links

  • Renaming roads: A 'meaningless' exercise
  • 12 Cities in Karnataka get a name change
  • India's Bangalore in name change
  • Shashi Tharror: Becoming Bengaloorued
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