The origins of “Bharat,” “Bharata,” or “Bharatvarsha” can be found in Puranic texts and the epic Mahabharata.
These scriptures define Bharata as the region situated between the southern sea and abode of snow in the north.
Bharata is also the name of an ancient king considered as the forefather of the Bharatas, a Rig Vedic tribe, and consequently, the progenitor of all peoples of the subcontinent.
Origin of “Hindustan” and “India”
The term “Hindustan” likely originated from ‘Hindu,’ the Persian version of the Sanskrit ‘Sindhu’ (Indus), dating back to the Achaemenid Persian conquest of the northwestern part of the subcontinent around the 6th century BC.
Initially, the Achaemenids used “Hindu” to describe the lower Indus basin. Later, around the 1st century CE, the suffix “stan” was added to form “Hindustan.”
The Greeks then transliterated it as ‘Indus.’ By Alexander the Great’s 3rd-century BC invasion, ‘India’ had become synonymous with the region beyond the Indus.
During the early Mughal era in the 16th century, ‘Hindustan’ was used to refer to the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. But in the late 18th century, British maps started using ‘India’ more, and the word ‘Hindustan’ started to lose its association with all of South Asia.
How did ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’ come in the Constitution?
In 1949, Dr B R Ambedkar presented to the House the final version of the provision, which included both ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’. Several members objected to the use of ‘India’, which they saw as a reminder of the colonial past.
Members like Seth Govind Das preferred to place Bharat over India. Another member , Hargovind Pant said people “wanted Bharatvarsha and nothing else”
However, eventually both the words, “Bharat” and “India” were incorporated into the Article 1 of the constitution. Article 1 uses the two names interchangeably: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
Judiciary’s take on the issue
In 2016, Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur told activist Niranjan Bhatwal from Maharashtra that the choice was his, to call his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’. Nobody, no authority, State or court, had the power to dictate to citizens what they should call their country.
An identical petition again came up before the Supreme Court, this time before Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, in 2020. The petition asked for the removal of ‘India’ from Article 1, arguing that there should be uniformity in the nation’s name. Chief Justice Bobde explained to the petitioner that both ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’ are names specified in the Constitution. In fact, ‘India’ is already referred to as ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution.