India that is Bharat
So far, that has been done only once, in 1976, when the 42nd Constitutional Amendment added three new words to the Constitution: socialist, secular, and integrity.
Both the words ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ reflect the multi faceted identity of this vast and diverse nation. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with 'We, the people of India', which constitutes the identity of every Indian citizen. However, in the Berubari Union case (1960), the Supreme Court once declared that the Preamble was not a part of the Constitution, revising the opinion once again in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), when the Apex Court stated that the Preamble was a part of the Indian Constitution and could be amended without affecting the basic structure. So far, that has been done only once, in 1976, when the 42nd Constitutional Amendment added three new words to the Constitution: socialist, secular, and integrity.
Article 1 declares, "India, that is, Bharat, shall be a union of states,", rather than a federation of states. The father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, preferred the phrase 'Union of States' because the Indian federation was not a result of an agreement among the states like the U.S.A., and as such, the states had no right to secede from the federation.
Here, the concept of state and nation can be applied to India and Bharat. ‘State’, first used by Machiavelli in its modern sense, consists of four elements: people, the territory on which they live, a government to rule and regulate, and lastly, sovereignty. India can be termed a modern concept of state. On the other hand, nation is a term where people are united within the framework of the idea of an organization. Thus, nationality has a cultural connotation that reflects a sense of sentiment. ‘Bharat’, thereby, can be associated with it since it denotes the cultural ethos rather than a physical landmass.
A famous text by Herodotus named 'Histories' is probably the first text to refer to Indians by the name 'Indon'. Many centuries later, we began to call our land India. Another argument is that India got its name from the Sindhu (Indus) river, next to which Indian civilization began. Thus, with India being one of the oldest countries in the world, it has been called by different names. The name Aryavarta is mentioned in Vedic literature around 100 BC. Another was Meluha, which was the Sumerian name for the Indus Valley Civilization.
The 'Bharatas' were regarded as the most important Aryan tribe, after whom India came to be known as Bharata. The Bharata ruling clan in the Rig Vedic period fought a battle at the bank of the river Parushni (Ravi) with a host of ten chiefs (five of them were Aryans and the rest were non-Aryans), which came to be known as Dasarajna Yuddha, or the battle of ten kings, establishing the supremacy of the Bharatas. The country was eventually named Bharatvarsha after the Bharata tribe. This term has ancient origins and finds mention in various Hindu scriptures, such as the Mahabharata and Manusmriti. In the Puranas, Bharat also refers to the island of Jambudvipa.
The Constituent Assembly debated ‘Name and Territory of the Union’ on September 17, 1949, witnessing sharp exchanges among the members. Hari Vishnu Kamnath from the Central Provinces proposed amendments to Article 1, putting Bharat, or alternatively, Hind, as the primary name for the country and pronouncing India only as the name in the English language. Referring to the naming process of the new Republic as the ‘Namakaran ceremony’, he said, "If there was no need for a Namakaran ceremony, we could have continued India, but if we grant this point that there must be a new name for this baby, then of course the question arises as to what name should be given". Seth Govind Das, representing the Central Provinces and Berar, opined that ‘India that is Bharat’ is not a beautiful word for the name of a country. Instead, it should have been ‘Bharat known as India', even in foreign countries. He cited the Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and the writings of Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang to say that Bharat was the original name of the country. KV Rao from Andhra Pradesh also supported India being named only Bharat. B.M. Gupta, Sriram Sahai, Kamalapati Tripathi, and Har Govind Pant were among other members of the Constituent Assembly who supported the idea of naming India Bharat. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, however, was the one who suggested Article 1 with ‘India that is Bharat’, and he even wanted Article 1 to be adopted on the same day, September 17, 1949. He reminded the house that the civilization debate was unnecessary since the name Bharat was not opposed by members.
The framers of the Constitution acknowledged the umbilical cord relationship connecting independent Bharat with its civilizational legacy. J. Sai Deepak in India that is Bharat comments that the presence of ‘India that is Bharat’ in Article 1 of the Constitution is the consequence of conscious suggestions with respect to this legacy that were put forth by several members of the Constituent Assembly and were ultimately accepted. In the present scenario, those in favour of the term Bharat, opine that the term India is an exonym. The word is given by outsiders as European nationalism and its colonial tendencies desperately try to silence the voice of the natives. Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world, but even there, ‘India’ is nowhere mentioned, they argued.
On the occasion of Independence Day 2022, the Prime Minister of India appealed to the citizens to take five pledges, one of which was freedom from the trace of colonial history. The government has taken many initiatives to move away from the colonial hangover, like changing the design of the Old Parliament building and renaming Rajpath as Kartavyapath. The orientalist controversy of British rule clearly indicates that the British did not want the majority of Indians to be educated. The New Education Policy 2020 is another initiative to remove these chains, which is further highlighted by the alteration in the IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act.
If we go through the judicial interventions, the Apex Court in 2020 heard and rejected a plea by a person named Namah who requested that the name ‘India’ be dropped from the Constitution and the country be referred to as Bharat, by amending Article 1 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that India is already called Bharat in the Constitution itself. In 2016, too, the Apex Court rejected a similar petition. The then CJI, T.S. Thakur, had orally remarked that every Indian has the right to choose between calling his or her country 'Bharat or India, and the Supreme Court has no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he or she should call the country.
Both 'Bharat' and 'India' have created the same level of emotions among us. ‘India’ is the name used internationally, harking back to its colonial history and reflecting its modern, cosmopolitan face by emphasizing its economic prowess, technological advancements, and global engagement. ‘Bharat’ is the country's ancient name in several Indian languages, rooted in its rich cultural and historical heritage and signifying the traditional, rural, and spiritual aspects of the nation, thus underscoring its deep connections to its roots. The coexistence of these two names exemplifies the country’s ability to embrace its diverse identities and harmoniously blend its ancient traditions with its modern aspirations.
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