Naming ceremony is, perhaps, the most significant ritual immediately following the birth of a child. The task is not that easy though, as it is marked by a rigorous discussion and debate as to the name that best suits the newborn. The sheer sanguinity on the face of the loved ones is a sighting to die for. A very similar sighting was witnessed amongst the Indians, on the stroke of midnight, when the Indian Republic was born on 15th of August, 1947. And shortly arose the call for a Namkaran ceremony, following its birth, of the Indian Republic aswell. In the Indian tradition, the name of the child, if not chosen by the parents, is often chosen under auspicious stars by someone who is held in high esteem by the family– like the elderly or the priests. As regards the name of newborn India, the said responsibility was entrusted upon the Constituent Assembly (hereinafter- ‘the Assembly’)– which was convened to draft the Constitution of the Indian Republic. The Assembly members were held in high regards by the Indians for these were the people who had led the nation’s freedom struggle. Much like the original Naming ceremonies, this too was marked by a rigorous discussion amongst the Assembly members as to the name that would be the best fit for the newly born India. Article 1(1) of the Constitution enunciates the final name as decided upon by the Assembly members:
(1) India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
Bharat, though, was not the only name suggested in the debates, as numerous other suggestions were put forth by the Assembly members as per their understanding of the history and culture of this great civilisation. The most echoed suggestions among others were Hindustan, Hind, Bharatvarsh, Bharatbhumi and so forth.
H. V. Kamath argued for Bharat or Hind, preferably for the name Hind as he suggested that most European countries recognised India as Hindustan and the Indians as Hindus irrespective of their religion. He later settled for Bharat as his primal concern was rather the structure of the provision. Labelling the description— “India, that is Bharat,”— clumsy, he moved to restructure it as “Bharat or, in the English language, India”, inspired by the Irish Constitution. The idea was to impart greater emphasis on the name Bharat. The said proposal was, however, negatived by the Assembly via show of hands.
Seth Govind Das too suggested that the aforesaid description was ‘not beautiful’ as he asked to put the words as “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries”, though it was not taken up for consideration. He was, however, satisfied with the name Bharat for India was called the same in ancient times. Mentions of it could very clearly be traced, Govind Das suggested, right from the Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Brahmanas and Mahabharata to Huien-Tsang’s travel book. He argued that the said name was more ancient than the word India which was coined by the Greeks after the river Indus. Even the battle of freedom was fought under the slogan: Bharat Mata ki Jai!
Kala Venkata Rao added that VayuPurana describes Bharat as the land that is south to the Himalayas and north to the Samundras. He suggested, hilariously, that since ‘Sa (स)’ was pronounced ‘Ha (ह)’ in prakrit, the river Sindhu (Indus) becomes ‘Hindu’. And since the river flows in Pakistan, latter can be called ‘Hindustan’. For India, he thought, best name would instead be Bharat.
Most of the Assembly members heartily conformed with name Bharat as it was found historically and culturally befitting for the country.
Govind Ballabh Pant was discontented towards the Assembly members for their reluctance in accepting the word Bharatvarsh despite its cultural significance, though he was satisfied with the name adopted.
Hasrat Mohani moved an amendment to name India as Union of Indian Socialist Republics, to be called U.I.S.R., on the lines of U.S.S.R. After a very lengthy debate, this amendment too was negatived when put to vote. The name Bharat was finally adopted and added by the Assembly to the clause (1) of article 1 of the Constitution– on 18th of September, 1949– as: India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
Reference: The Constituent Assembly debates, September 18, 1949, Vol. IX.