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 What is the constitutional name given to India?

  • Article 1 of the Indian constitution says – “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. 

  • This provision deals with two things – (1) Name, (2) Type of Polity. 

  • Bharat and India are both names mentioned in the Constitution. 

  • There was no unanimity in the Constituent Assembly with regard to the name of the country.

  • Some members suggested the traditional name (Bharat) while others advocated the modern name (India). 

  • Hence, the constituent assembly had to adopt a mix of both (‘India, that is, ‘Bharat’).

Political and cultural implications regarding the name

Arguments that support the name Bharat:

  • The cultural echoes of Bharat have never been in doubt, and the current hype around it is more about a campaign to discard the use of India, as if both cannot exist in harmony. 

  • India, according to this telling, is a foreign imposition, and hence unsuitable for national dignity. 

  • Bharat, linked as it is to various ancient sources, goes beyond the geographical and cultural landscape that constitutes the modern republic of India. 

  • Bharat has been part of popular culture, political and cultural idioms, and literature across many Indian languages. 

  • The words India and its variants such as Hind in Arabic are of foreign origin. 

  • It is generally believed that these were used by foreigners to denote the land south and east of the Indus or Sindhu river. 

  • During Afghan and Mughal rule, the northern areas of the Indian subcontinent were largely referred to as Hindustan.

  • Later the Europeans, especially the British, roughly referred to not only the northern region but also to all the subcontinent as India. 

  • However, for them, it was a geographical expression. 

Arguments that support the name India:

  • The name India is used by millions within and outside the country who yearn for its progress. 

  • The country’s international personality was and continues to be denoted by the word India.

  • Generally, whenever the English language is used in international, multilateral or bilateral settings, the word India is used. 

  • In Hindi, Bharat is used while in English it is India.

Historical implications

  • The transfer of power from the British to Indian hands in 1947 was through the British Parliament’s Indian Independence Act of 1947. 

  • It created two dominions — India and Pakistan — and released the Princely States from British paramountcy, thereby, technically making them independent and sovereign. 

  • At the same time, the British advised the Princely states to join one of the two dominions. Most did so before August 15, 1947. 

  • Thus, two dominions came into being in what was British India and the Princely states in the sub-continent.

  • Pakistani leaders favoured that India should be named either Hindustan or Bharat. 

  • They argued that two ‘successor’ states had emerged from the dissolution of the British Indian empire: Pakistan and Hindustan or Bharat. 

  • India’s position was that it was the successor state to British India, in terms of international law, and that Pakistan had seceded from India.

  • Hence, while India retained its international personality, including its membership of the United Nations (UN).

  • Pakistan, as a new state created through secession, would have to take steps to acquire an international personality. 

  • The matter was finally decided in India’s favour, and Pakistan was compelled to take steps to establish its international status, including applying for a membership of the UN, which, incidentally, Afghanistan opposed.

58th Amendment of the Constitution:

  • The 58th Amendment of the Constitution done in 1987. 

  • Its ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ mentions that:

    • The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in English. 

    • A Hindi translation of the Constitution, signed by the members of the Constituent Assembly, was also published in 1950 under the authority of the President of the Constituent Assembly in accordance with a resolution adopted by that Assembly.

  • The 58th Amendment empowered the President to have published under his authority the authoritative text ‘in the Hindi language’ of the Constitution which could be used in the legal process too. Thus, the Hindi text of the Constitution published by the government following the amendment is ‘authoritative’.

  • The English language version of the Constitution is entitled “Constitution of India’ Its Article 1(1) is “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. 

  • The primacy in this formulation is given to the word India. 

  • The Hindi version is titled ‘Bharat ka Samvidhan’. Article 1(1) in the Hindi version reads “Bharat artharth India, rajyon ka sangh hoga”. The word “artharth” means “that is”. 

  • Clearly, in the Hindi version, primacy is given to the word Bharat. 

  • The logic of the formulations has led to the practice of using the word India in the English language and Bharat in Hindi. 

  • That practice has prevailed in internal documents as well as international documents which are generally in English. 

  • Thus, the Gazette published in English is called the ‘Gazette of India’, and in Hindi it is ‘Bharat ka Rajpatra’.

  • In any event, the tradition of using India in English and Bharat in Hindi is wise and constitutionally correct.

Debates in the constituent assembly over the name:

  • Constituent Assembly debates show that ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ were retained as names of the newly independent nation in the Constitution to align contrasting thoughts voiced by its makers in 1948.

  • The debate in the Constituent Assembly happened while discussing the draft Article 1(1) of the Constitution, which had simply read “India shall be a Union of States”.

  • For some Members of the Constituent Assembly, the name ‘India’ retained a sense of continuity and familiarity, especially among foreign nations.

  • “India has been known as India throughout history and throughout all these past years,” B.R. Ambedkar, who headed the committee drafting the Constitution, said.

  • B.R. Ambedkar was opposing an amendment to Article 1(1) that India should be known as the ‘Union of India’.

  • B.R. Ambedkar reasoned that the name of the country was ‘India’ as a member of the United Nations. All agreements had been signed under the name.

  • But there were others who believed that giving the country an ancient name would not queer the march forward.

  • Member Seth Govind Das supported the name ‘Bharat’.

    • He said even the Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsang had called this country ‘Bharat’ in his book.

  • Likewise, Member Shibban Lal Saxena had moved an amendment to change the name of the Union to ‘Bharat’.

  • The debates ended with the addition of ‘Bharat’ to Article 1(1). The Article currently reads ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’.

  • In fact, some of the Constituent Assembly Members had wanted the term ‘States’ in Article 1 to be replaced with ‘Pradesh’.

Way forward

  • Whether it is India or Bharat, the essence of the meaning that it conveys remains the same. 

  • The needless juxtaposition of the two names should not affect the bonding of the inhabitants in the pursuit of a misplaced cultural combat. 

  • Let India and Bharat coexist as they have always been.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Bharat UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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