If Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen V.K Singh’s demand is accepted, the historic Akbar Road in Lutyen’s Delhi, may be renamed as Maharana Pratap Marg. The Minister wants the road to be renamed so, because, according to him, the Mewar ruler has not been given his due. This request has come close on the heels of the capital’s Aurangazeb Road being renamed as Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam Road, in August 2015.
Hundreds of Indian cities, towns and roads have been renamed since independence, in a bid to shed off the colonial tag and bring back the historical name, or in honour of someone. We take a look at 15 Indian cities that have been renamed over the years:
Gurgaon to Gurugram: The district of Gurgaon, known for its swanky multiplexes, gated colonies and MNCs, is the latest city to be renamed. Harayana’s Manohar Lal Khatta Government took the decision to rename the city as Gurugram in April, this year. The reason for the name change, given by the official spokesperson was that, according to the Bhagwat Gita, Gurgaon derives its name from Guru Dronacharya, and the village had been gifted to him as a ‘gurudakshina’ by his students, the Pandavas. In due course, the original name got corrupted and became Gurgaon. The renaming had evoked mixed reactions – while the local administrators said that it would not hamper their work, the MNCs believe that the name goes against the image of the city of being a high tech one.
Bangalore to Bengaluru: Bangalore officially became Bengaluru in November 2014, though it is still unofficially referred to by its old name. Bengaluru has been derived from a 9th century Ganga Dynasty rock edict found in Begur, inscribed in 890 CE, which describes the city as Bengaval-uru, meaning the ‘city of guards’. According to another legend, the name Bangaluru has been taken from the Kannada phrase, ‘Benda-kaalu-ooru,’ which means town of boiled beans. Legend has it that feudal lord Kempe Gowda, who ruled over much of Karnataka in the 16th century, was served boiled beans, one night as he was travelling, and so he named the city Benda-kaalu-ooru, which, over time got shortened to Bangalore.
Mangalore to Mangaluru: Another city to join the name change bandwagon is Mangalore, which became Mangaluru, in November 2014. The name change had been part of a proposal made in 2006 by the then chief minister of Karnataka, Dharam Singh, to rename 12 cities in Karnataka. The city is named after the Hindu deity, Mangaladevi.
Mysore to Mysuru: The picturesque city of Mysore, in Karnataka, was also part of the 12 cities to be renamed in 2014. Officially known as Mysuru, the city derives its name from Goddess Durga, or Mahishasura Mardhini, who saved the people of the region from the Buffalo Demon, Mahishasura.
Poona to Pune: Renamed as Pune in 1978, the city derives its name from Punya Giri, or ‘City of Virtue’. One of the oldest references to Pune has been found on an inscription on a copper plate belonging to the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and, dating back to 937 BC, which referred to the town as ‘Punya Vishaya’.
Pondicherry to Puducherry: The quaint ex-French colony was renamed as Puducherry in 2006. Puducherry literally means ‘New Town’ in Tamil.
Madras to Chennai: The name Madras predates the colonial era, and was allegedly derived from the original Madraspattinam, a fishing village, by the British. In 1996, Madras was renamed as Chennai. There are two differing theories on the origin of the name Chennai. The first is that it is derived from the Nayaka ruler, Damarla Chennappa Nayaka, father of Damarla Venkatappa Nayaka, and a General under Venkata III of the Vijayanagar Empire. The second theory states that the city has been named after the Chenna Kesava Perummal Temple.
Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram: The name Thiru-anantha-puram, means the city of Lord Ananta, the chief deity of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. Trivandrum was renamed as Thiruvanathapuram in 1991.
Bombay to Mumbai: Bombay, which became Mumbai in 1996, was given a number of names by those who inhabited the city. It was referred to as Bombaim by the Portuguese in the 17th century, Mombayn in the 16th century, Boon Bay (1690), etc. The name Mumbai is said to have been derived from Mumba, or the Goddess Mumbadevi, and Aayi, which means mother in Marathi. While some institutions such as the High Court still use Bombay, the Shiv Sena has been demanding that Mumbai replace Bombay in all institutions.
Calicut to Kozhikode: One of the first cities to be renamed, the port city and once prosperous trading town, where Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama first set foot on when he reached India, was called Calicut by the British. The word Calicut is an Anglicised form of Kalikut, the Arabic for the Malayalam name, Kozhikode, which has been derived from Koyil (palace) and kodu (fortified). The name change happened two years after independence, in 1949. According to a government order dated January 27, 1949, which confirmed the name change, there was minimal objection from the public to the name change.
Waltair to Vishakapatnam: Waltair takes its colonial name after the Waltair Railway Station. Historically a part of the Kalinga dynasty, and later under the Vengi kingdom and the Pallava and Eastern Ganga Dynasties during the medieval times, the name Vishakapatnam is said to have been derived from the name of the ruler, King Vishaka Varma.
Benaras to Varanasi: Among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, Benaras became Varanasi in 1956. The holy city is said to have derived its name from two rivers: Varuna, which flows in Varanasi and Assi, which is a small stream near Assi Ghat.
Cochin to Kochi: One of the main ports in the country, Cochin officially became Kochi in 1996, though the Anglicised name is still often used. Kochi is said to be derived from the Malayalam word, ‘kochu azhi’, which means small lagoon. Another theory states that the name is derived from the word ‘Kaci’, which means harbour.
Calcutta to Kolkata: Kolikata was the name of one of the three villages that existed before the British took over (the other two being Sultanuti and Govindapur). The name Kolkata, is derived from the Bengali word Kalikshetra, which means ‘Ground of the Goddess Kali’. The British renamed the city as Calcutta, and, in a bid to shed off its colonial past, the city’s name was changed to Kolkata in January 2001.
Baroda to Vadodara: Derived from the word Vatpatrak, or the leaf of the Banyan tree, and Vatodar, the heart of the Banyan tree, Vadodara shed its colonial name of Baroda in 1974.