Monday, November 23, 2009

Changing names of Indian places

The modern European forces began arriving in India since 1498. The Portuguese arrived first and later on the English arrived in 1600. Indians speak different languages and their general accents are different from that of the Europeans. The Europeans had some difficulties pronouncing Indian names and they renamed some Indians places so that it was easy for them to pronounce.
In the present wave of nationalism, many Indians places were officially renamed back to their original names or were given new names. But the former names are still used by the general public and sometimes the places are still recognized by their former names rather than by their new official names.

Former and present names of Indian places

Former name
Present official name
Cape Comorin
New Bombay
Navi Mumbai


After the partition of British India into India and Pakistan, there were in India 9 provinces and about 460 princely states. Most of the princely states within the Indian territory consented to join India. Some joined India under their own initiative and others were convinced by Sardar Villabbhai Patel (a very senior member of the Indian Congress) to join India. Patel who hold negotiations with the princely states, came to an agreement with the princely state rulers that they would continue getting monthly allowances as they were given to them by the British. And so began the designing of the internal map of India.

The big princely states of Mysore, Hyderabad and Kashmir remained in their original sizes and became new Indian states. To the big provinces like Bombay, Orissa and Bengal, small princely states around them were joined and these provinces also became new India's states. In north India some clinging princely states were joined together to create a new state. Rajastan was created in this way. Along with the states which the government created, there were also regions in India which for different reasons were subjected directly to the central government and were called union territories. For example Himachal Pradesh in north India was created by adjoining some princely states. It was a union territory. 

Indian leaders and politicians who had different linguistic and cultural backgrounds demanded that the Indian states should be based on linguistic and cultural boundaries. The central government leaders, which belonged to the Congress party, opposed this idea. They feared that this could eventually lead towards separation of different Indian societies from India and would break the unity. But after a few years opposition the central government agreed to create Indian states based on linguistic differences.

The first step in this direction was made in 1953 when Andra Pradesh, in south India, was created for the Telegu speakers. In 1956 began the first organized process of creating Indian states based on linguistic differences. Among the states created that year were, Andra Pradesh which was created by adjoining certain parts of Telegu speaking areas from former Madras province and most of Hyderabad. For speakers of Malyalam, the state of Kerala was created. For Kanadda speakers the state of Mysore was created (which later on changed its name to Karnataka) from the former Mysore state and also from Kanadda speaking regions in Bombay, Madras and Hyderabad states. Along with states created based on linguistic boundaries, some other big states were created by joining small nearby states. For example Madya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajastan.

The central Indian government did not accept demands of all different cultural leaders for an autonomous Indian state. For example, the Sikhs wanted an autonomous Punjabi state which would have a Sikh majority with its official language, Punjabi. The central government did not accept this demand, instead created in 1956 the state of Punjab, which included also Hindi speakers in its territory and did not have a Sikh majority. But the Sikhs did not give up and continued demanding the Punjab state and in 1966, Punjab was parted into three new states. One of three states remained with the name Punjab and most of the Sikh population of India lived within its territory, but they were not the complete majority of that state. Another demand the central government did not accept was of the Maithali speakers, in present day Bihar, who also demanded a separate autonomous state for Maithali speakers.

Maharashtra for Marathi speakers and Gujarat for Gujarati speakers were created in 1960. Gujarat was created on northern part of the former Bombay state and Maharashtra was created from southern Bombay state and were joined to it parts of Madya Pradesh and Hyderabad. This process erased from India's map the state of Hyderabad, which was now distributed within three different states. Not all Gujaratis were enthused by the creation of new Gujarati state because this division meant that they had to give up the city of Bombay to the Maharashtrians.

Later on other states were created. In east India the state of Assam was parted a few times to create some new states. In 1963, Nagaland was created. In 1972, Manipur was created and there were others small states created from parts of Assam. In west India, Goa was established as a state in 1987. Before their establishment as states, Goa; Manipur and Nagaland were union territories. In the states that exist in India today, there are demands by other communities of India to create new autonomous states for their communities.

These demands for new states in India rise and fall according to the political power of the demanders. To point out such demands, which exist or existed, one can point out the demand of Jammu residents for an autonomous Jammu state in present day Kashmir. The Buddhist of Ladakh in Kashmir also demand autonomous state. In Bihar there was a demand for a separate Maithali state for Maithali speakers. In west Bengal, the Gurkha demands an autonomous Gurkhaland in north Bengal. Along the borders of Orissa and Bihar some tribal communities demanded to create Jharkhand. Similar demands of the aboriginal tribes of India exist in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andra Pradesh. 

In the year 2000, three new states were established in India. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were created from parts of Bihar and Orissa. And Uttaranchal was created from north Uttar Pradesh.

Besides with these demands for autonomous states within Indian union, there were and are also separation demands from India.


About 2% of India's population are Sikhs. Even so, the Sikhs, because of their unique appearance sometimes stand for India. Traditionally the men keep their hair and do not shave their beard or moustache. They gather their head hair in a turban.

Sikhism is comparatively a new religion in India. This religion was established by Guru Nanak. Nanak was born into a Hindu family in 1469 in the Punjab region. Since childhood he loved to travel, learn and preach humanity. In those days people who taught and preached were titled Guru meaning teacher, his followers became to be known as Sikhs meaning learners. And so Guru Nanak developed a new religion and it also included beliefs from the two dominant religions in the Punjab region, Hinduism and Islam. Some claim that Guru Nanak tried to developed a new religion and included in it what he thought were the good beliefs of these two religions. Like in Islam the belief in the existence of one invisible God. Like in Hinduism the belief in Karma and reincarnation, meaning your actions in this life will decide your fate in the next incarnation. The Sikhs also cremate their dead ones as is done in Hinduism.

The creators of Sikhism tried to abolish some of the Indian customs such as the caste system and Sati - burning of the widow. In Sikhism everyone has equal rights irrespective of caste, creed, color, race, sex or religion. Sikhism rejects pilgrimage, fasting, superstitions and other such rituals. Sikhism does not have a clergy class as it considers this as a gateway to corruption. However they have readers and singers in their temples.

A Sikh place of worship is called Gurdwara. Sikhism does not support pilgrimage to holy sites because according to Sikhism, God is everywhere and not in any certain place. But Sikhism has a few important sites, of which, the Hari Mandir, also known as the 'Golden Temple' in Amritsar in Punjab is the most important site and is considered the holiest shrine of Sikhism.

Sikhism emphasis community services and helping the needy. One of the distinct features of Sikhism is the common kitchen called Langar. In every Gurdwara there is a Langar. Every Sikh is supposed to contribute in preparing the meals in the free kitchen. The meals are served to all and are eaten sitting on the floor and this is to emphasis the point that all are equals. Sikhism does not believe in holding fasts for body is God's present to human being and therefore humans must foster, maintain and preserve it in good sound condition, unless fasting is done to foster the human body like healthy diets.
Guru Nanak who established Sikhism was its first Guru. After him there were nine more Gurus who were the highest religious authority. The last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, proclaimed that after him the Guru of the Sikhs would be the holy book of Sikhism, Guru Granth Sahib.

Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurumukhi script. It includes the writings of the Sikh Gurus and the writings of Hindu and Muslims saints. But out of humility Guru Gobind Singh did not include his own writings in the book he had proclaimed as the permanent Guru of the Sikhs. His writings appear in a separate book called Dasam Granth. Guru Gobind Singh is also the Guru behind the unique appearance of Sikh men.

During Guru Gobind's term as the Guru of the Sikhs and also before him, the ruling empire of Punjab region was the Moghul Empire. The Moghuls were Muslims. Some of the Moghul emperors, like Aurangazeb were fanatic Muslims who harassed the non- Muslims, including the Sikhs. Some of the Sikh Gurus were even executed by the Moghul emperors. In order to stop their persecutions, Guru Gobind decided to make his followers, the Sikhs (meaning learners), a community of fighters. He changed his surname to Singh, which means lion. His followers also changed their surname to Singh. Since then a ceremony of baptizing was established among the Sikhs in which the boys were given the title Singh and the girls were titled Kaur meaning princess. In those days "Singh" as a surname was very popular among a famous warrior caste of north India, the Rajputs. Some of the first Sikhs were also Rajputs.

In order to make it easier for his followers to recognize each other, Gobind Singh, chose five marks, some of which even today symbolize the Sikhs. The five signs were, uncut hair; comb; sword or dagger; bracelet on the right wrist and shorts. The religious Sikhs dress according to Guru Gobind Singh's order, carrying a sword. Most of the Sikhs even today have uncut hair and gather it in a turban. But some easygoing Sikhs cut their hair or they do not gather their uncut hair in a turban.

The emphasis on militant tradition and community service in Sikhism continues even today and many Sikhs serve in the Indian army or police. The Sikhs also have a reputation as experts in steering, from cars to airplanes.They were among the first communities in India who dared to drive vehicles specially lorries. India being a vast country needed drivers who could also travel at nights. But many Indians believed in superstitions like ghosts and haunted places, while the Sikhs rejected these kinds of beliefs and therefore traveled at nights, since then their reputation as steering masters of India.

Aryans and Dravidians - A controversial issue

The most basic division of the Indian society is of Aryans and Dravidians. According to this division, nearly 72% of Indians are Aryans and 28% are Dravidians. The north Indians are the descendants of Aryans and the south Indians are Dravidians. The languages spoken in five states of south India are considered Dravidian languages and most of the languages spoken in the north are considered Aryan languages. The general script of the Aryan languages is different from the general script of Dravidian languages. The Indians also distinguish themselves by the general north Indian accent and general south Indian accent.
According to general Indian legend, the Aryans arrived in north India somewhere from Iran and southern Russia at around 1500 BC. Before the Aryans, the Dravidian people resided in India. The Aryans disregarded the local cultures. They began conquering and taking control over regions in north India and at the same time pushed the local people southwards or towards the jungles and mountains in north India. According to this historical fact the general division of Indian society is made. North Indians are Aryans and south Indians are Dravidians. But this division isn’t proper because of many reasons.

Many Indians immigrated from one part of India to other parts of India and not all local people of north India were pushed southwards by the Aryans. Some stayed and served the Aryans and others moved to live in the forests and the jungles of north India. Before the arrival of the Aryans there were also other communities in India like Sino-Mongoloids and Austroloids. There were also other foreign immigrations and invaders who arrived in India, from time to time. 

There are many that completely doubt that there was ever any Aryan invasion in India. This skepticism is based on the dating of the Aryan invasion of India and the fact that Hinduism and the caste system are believed to have been established as the result of the meetings between the intruding Aryans and original residents of India, the Dravidians. 

The caste system is believed to have been established by the Aryans. The fair skinned Aryans who occupied parts of India established the caste system, which allowed only them to be the priests (Brahman), aristocracy (Kshatria) and the businessmen (Vaisia) of the society. Below them in hierarchy were the Sudras who consisted of two communities. One community was of the locals who were subdued by the Aryans and the other were the descendants of Aryans with locals. In Hindu religious stories there are many wars between the good Aryans and the dark skinned demons and devils. The different Gods also have dark skinned slaves. There are stories of demon women trying to seduce good Aryan men in deceptive ways. There were also marriages between Aryan heroes and demon women. Many believe that these incidences really occurred in which, the gods and the positive heroes were people of Aryan origin. And the demons, the devils and the dark skinned slaves were in fact the original residence of India whom the Aryans coined as monsters, devil, demons and slaves. Normally the date given to Aryan invasion is around 1500 BC. But according to Hinduism experts some of the events in Hinduism occurred much earlier. Some of the events like the great war in the Mahabharta epic is believed to have occurred  7000 years ago. 

According to this Hindu experts the word Aryan is a misinterpretation of the original Sanskrit word, Arya. Arya means pure or good in Sanskrit. In the holy Vedas the good people were called Arya. Some of the European scholars of Indian culture in the 19th century were Germans. These German scholars who found that Swastika was also a holy symbol among the Hindus distorted, the word Arya to Aryan.

Official language

One of the main political issues in Indian politics is connected to language problem. After India’s independence the government decided that the official language of India will be Hindi. Hindi belongs to the family of Aryan languages. Speakers of other languages, especially the Dravidian languages, saw in this decision an attempt to erase their language cultures . But the Indian constitution has declared that English can also be used for official purposes. Hindi has at least 13 different dialects and she is the most commonly spoken language in India. But the reason Hindi was chosen to be the official language of India wasn’t because it is the most commonly spoken language in India, but it has connection with India history before it’s independence. 

Before its independence, most of India was a British colony. Before the British the most dominant Empire of north India was the Moghul Empire. The Moghuls were Muslim invaders who arrived in India from the present day Afghanistan . The official language of the Moghul courts was Persian. The Moghuls, like other residents who lived to the west of the Indian sub-continent named India as ‘Hind’ or ‘Hindustan’, after the river Indus which flows in the present day Pakistan. The language spoken in ‘Hind’ was called by them Hindi or Hindustani. This language and its script were based on an ancient Indian language called Sanskrit. Most of the sacred books of Hinduism are written in Sanskrit and the script is called Devanagiri. 

Some of the Moghul family members were great patrons of poetry and music. Slowly there developed a ‘Hindustani’ poetry, based on Hindustani language which used words from Arabic and Persian and was written in Perso-Arabic script. This language was called Urdu. Urdu also replaced Persian as the language of the Moghul courtyards. And so there developed two languages with different writings but were actually one language when spoken except for their higher vocabularies. For example, rulers were titled in Urdu language as Shah, Nawab or Nizam. While in Hindi they were called Raja or Maharaja. Among the Hindustani speakers of north India, Urdu became the language of the Muslims while Hindi became the language of others. 

After the collapse of the Moghuls the British became the rulers of north India. The British introduced English to India and continued using Urdu for official purposes. But nationalist Hindus demanded from the British to change the official language from Urdu to Hindi which is written in Indian script. Even Hindus whose mother tongue were not Hindi supported this argument. This debate between the Hindus and the Muslims continued right up to the independence of India. Against this stand of two different languages two of India’s notable leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, supported the idea of one Hindustani language which could be written in both forms. But when British India was divided in two countries, India and Pakistan. Muslims who got Pakistan made Urdu their official language and Indians made Hindi with Devanagiri script as their official language. But the debate over the official language didn’t end up with choosing Hindi with Devanagiri script as the official language. New debates occurred because of this decision.

One problem was connected to the different dialects of Hindi and the second problem was connected to other languages which exist in India. The first problem was which dialect of Hindi is the right Hindi. Hindi has at least 13 dialects, some of them completely different from each other. Two reasons caused to it that Hindi language includes in it so many different dialects. One reason was related to the fact that India is called Hind in many languages spoken west from it up to the Middle East. Muslim invaders of India like the Moghuls came from these regions and called the language spoken in ‘Hind’ as Hindi. The Indians also began calling their different languages as ‘Hindi’. The other reason which concerns to the fact that Hindi has so many different dialects is related to the independence period of India and the debate of the official language of India. 

Most of the Indians belong religiously to Hinduism and they perceive Urdu, written in Perso-Arabic script as Muslim language. Before the independence of India the Muslims supported the continuation of Urdu as the official language of India, while the Hindus supported Hindi. In order to secure Hindi’s position as the sole official language of India the political leaders convinced the north Indians to claim that they speak a Hindi dialect and so different dialect speakers were put together in the Hindi speaking category by the British bureaucrats. After India’s independence when Hindi was chosen as the official language of India, different ‘Hindi’ language speakers began demanding official recognition of their languages. Maithali and Punjabi speakers also demanded to recognize their languages as separate languages from Hindi. Of the different ‘Hindi’ languages, only Punjabi got this recognition. Other ‘Hindi’ languages are considered dialects of Hindi and their status in the different states of India isn’t clear and is interpreted differently by different parties. The official Hindi is based on the dialect which was spoken in the Delhi-Agra region with a Sanskrit vocabulary. While the popular Hindi spoken by majority of Indians is based on this dialect, it is also affected by the different cultures of India mainly the Hindi cinema based in Mumbai(formerly Bombay) in west India and it includes many English words. 

Among the other language speakers of India, the decision to choose Hindi as the official language was seen as an attempt to erase their cultures. After different struggles – political, violent and passive – the central government decided to allow the state governments to pick their official languages and recognized constitutionally other languages of India. For now the Indian constitution recognizes 18 Indian languages. One of meanings of the constitutional recognition is the right to use any of these languages for government service examinations. But, in reality this possibility isn’t always given to the examinee. 

The different states of India have different official languages, some of them not recognized by the central government. Some states have more then one official language. Bihar in east India has three official languages - Hindi, Urdu and Bengali – which are all recognized by the central government. But Sikkim, also in east India, has four official languages of which only Nepali is recognized by the central government. Besides the languages officially recognized by central or state governments, there are other languages which don’t have this recognition and their speakers are running political struggles to get this recognition. Anyway as stated earlier the central government decided that Hindi is the official language of India and therefore it has also the status of official language in the states. Another language that has a official status in all states is English.

Caste system in modern India

The leaders of independent India decided that India will be democratic, socialist and secular country. According to this policy there is a separation between religion and state. Practicing untouchability or discriminating a person based on his caste is legally forbidden. Along with this law the government allows positive discrimination of the depressed classes of India.
The Indians have also become more flexible in their caste system customs. In general the urban people in India are less strict about the caste system than the rural. In cities one can see different caste people mingling with each other, while in some rural areas there is still discrimination based on castes and sometimes also on untouchability. Sometimes in villages or in the cities there are violent clashes which, are connected to caste tensions. Sometimes the high castes strike the lower castes who dare to uplift their status. Sometimes the lower caste get back on the higher castes.

In modern India the term caste is used for Jat and also for Varna. The term, caste was used by the British who ruled India until 1947. The British who wanted to rule India efficiently made lists of Indian communities. They used two terms to describe Indian communities. Castes and Tribes. The term caste was used for Jats and also for Varnas. Tribes were those communities who lived deep in jungles, forests and mountains far away from the main population and also communities who were hard to be defined as castes for example communities who made a living from stealing or robbery. These lists, which the British made, were used later on by the Indian governments to create lists of communities who were entitled for positive discrimination. 

The castes, which were the elite of the Indian society, were classified as high castes. The other communities were classified as lower castes or lower classes. The lower classes were listed in three categories. The first category is called Scheduled Castes. This category includes in it communities who were untouchables. In modern India, untouchability exists at a very low extent. The untouchables call themselves Dalit, meaning depressed. Until the late 1980s they were called Harijan, meaning children of God. This title was given to them by Mahatma Gandhi who wanted the society to accept untouchables within them. 

The second category is Scheduled Tribes. This category includes in it those communities who did not accept the caste system and preferred to reside deep in the jungles, forests and mountains of India, away from the main population. The Scheduled Tribes are also called Adivasi, meaning aboriginals.

The third category is called sometimes Other Backward Classes or Backward Classes. This category includes in it castes who belong to Sudra Varna and also former untouchables who converted from Hinduism to other religions. This category also includes in it nomads and tribes who made a living from criminal acts.

According to the central government policy these three categories are entitled for positive discrimination. Sometimes these three categories are defined together as Backward Classes. 15% of India's population are Scheduled Castes. According to central government policy 15% of the government jobs and 15% of the students admitted to universities must be from Scheduled Castes. For the Scheduled Tribes about 7.5% places are reserved which is their proportion in Indian population. The Other Backwards Classes are about 50% of India's population, but only 27% of government jobs are reserved for them.

Along with the central government, the state governments of India also follow a positive discrimination policy. Different states have different figures of communities entitled for positive discrimination based on the population of each state. Different state governments have different lists of communities entitled for positive discrimination. Sometimes a specific community is entitled for rights in a particular state but not in another state of India.

In modern India new tensions were created because of these positive discrimination policies. The high caste communities feel discriminated by the government policy to reserve positions for the Backward Classes. In many cases a large number of high caste members compete for a few places reserved for them. While the Backward Classes members do not have to compete at all because of the large number of reserved places for them compared to the candidates. Sometimes in order to fill the quota, candidates from the lower classes are accepted even though they are not suitable. Sometimes some reserved positions remain unmanned because there were few candidates from the lower classes causing more tension between the castes. Between the lower castes there are also tensions over reservation.

In the order of priority for a reserved place of the Backward Classes, candidate from the Scheduled castes is preferred over a candidate from the Scheduled Tribes who is preferred over a candidate from the other Backward Classes. As stated earlier Other Backward Classes are about 50% of India's population but only 27% of the Other Backward Classes are entitled for positive discrimination according to central government policy. Some Other Backward Classes communities are organizing politically to be recognized as Backward Classes entitled for positive discrimination.

The Scheduled Tribes who are seen as the aborigins of India got ownership and certain rights over Indian land. Many communities in India claim also to be aborigins of India and they are claiming the same rights as the Scheduled Tribes.

The caste identity has become a subject of political, social and legal interpretation. Communities who get listed as entitled for positive discrimination do not get out of this list even if their social and political conditions get better. In many cases the legal system is involved to decide if a certain person is entitled for positive discrimination. 

But with all this positive discrimination policy, most of the communities who were low in the caste hierarchy remain low in the social order even today. And communities who were high in the social hierarchy remain even today high in the social hierarchy. Most of the degrading jobs are even today done by the Dalits, while the Brahmans remain at the top of the hierarchy by being the doctors, engineers and lawyers of India.

List of States and Union Territories

India is a Union of 28 States and 7 Union Territories. Each state has its own government with a Governor as the figurehead, while each Union Territory is administered directly by the President through an administrator appointed by him.

Andra Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh
Jammu and Kashmir
Srinagar and Jammu
Madya Pradesh
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal

Union Territories

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Port Blair
Dadar and Nagar Haveli
Daman and Diu