Is India changing its name to Bharat?

The country uses both names interchangeably. However, its prime minister wants to stop using 'India' as a "symbol of slavery."

India wants to change its current name and go back to its old name, Bharat. Coming from a word written in Sanskrit, this is the name the country's president used on invitations sent out for the upcoming G20 dinner. The invitation was sent on behalf of "the president of Bharat" instead of " the president of India."

The country, which uses both names interchangeably, seems to want to replace its current name with the one Prime Minister Narendra Modi used on the invitations for the G20 dinner. According to the Hindu Party, the country is trying to get rid of all the names of the colonial era. India is one of them. It seems to want to go back to its original name, Bharat, which according to historians dates from the first Hindu texts which translates to India.

A "symbol of slavery"

However, the word 'India' does not have positive connotations for many of its more than 1.4 billion people. For the Modi Bharatiya Party, led by Narendra Modi, this name is a "symbol of slavery." According to AP, it refers to the 200 years when India was conquered by the United Kingdom. According to the political party, this is when the name Bharat was replaced with India. The party says bringing back Bharat's name is an attempt to reclaim India's Hindu past.

The name change could soon be official. According to The Economic Times, the Bharatiya Janata Party could present a proposal to officially change the country's name in the special session that the Parliament of India has scheduled between September 18 and 22.

Not everyone agrees with the name change. Several members of the opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said they saw no need for India to be renamed Bharat. One of them is Shashi Tharoor. He said on X (formerly Twitter) that the country should continue to be called India as it is a "name that is recognized around the world.":

India, following in the footsteps of Iran, Thailand and the Netherlands

The fact that a country wants to change its name is nothing new. In recent years, several countries have decided to change their name. One of them is Iran. CNBC reported that before it was called Iran, the country was called Persia. However, in 1935 they decided to change both the name and the adjective used by their citizens.

Four years later, in 1939, Siam also changed its name to Thailand. It went back to the name Siam in 1946 - 1948 before switching back to the Kingdom of Thailand, a name that is still used today.

Country name changes are not all that uncommon nowadays. In January 2020, Holland officially became the Netherlands. As they said at the time, the decision was made for rebranding purposes since the Netherlands seemed more fitting for an open, inventive and inclusive country while the name Holland did not fully convey this feeling.

These are not the only examples. Turkey, North Macedonia, Czech Republic and Cape Verde, among others, are some of the countries that also decided, for one reason or another, to change their name.