Renaming of cities in India

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The renaming of cities in India started in 1947 following the end of the British imperial period. Several changes were controversial, and not all proposed changes were implemented. Each had to be approved by the Central Government in New Delhi.

The renaming of states and territories in India has also taken place, but until the 2010s with actual substantial name changes in both local language and in English such as the old British state name of Travancore-Cochin to Kerala (1956). The most notable exceptions are Indian English spelling-changes of Orissa to Odisha (March 2011)[1] and the union territory of Pondicherry (which includes the city of Pondicherry) to Puducherry.

Causes for renaming[edit]

Need for standardisation of spelling[edit]

India has various local languages. Even (Romanised) English spellings in long and wide use often vary depending upon which government department or agency uses them. To the point, a few examples are Quilandy vs. Koyilandy, Canannore vs. Kannur, and Rangiya vs. Rangia. Different departments of the government may have used official spellings in use at the time, while locations associated with Indian railways mostly maintained British-era spellings. The confusion inherent in such variations has often resulted in serious consequences like people having two "different" addresses (theoretically designating the same place) in their official records leading to legal disputes, or one house having residents of different house addresses due to differing place names. Many people argue that such confusion can lead to indeterminate and/or unintended consequences.[2]

Renaming in local languages[edit]

In the post-colonial era, several Indian states' names were changed. Some of these changes coincided with the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, a major reform of the boundaries of India's states and territories that organised them along linguistic lines. At this time, for example, Travancore-Cochin was renamed Kerala. Later state name changes include the reorganisation of Madhya Bharat into Madhya Pradesh in 1959;[3] and the renamings of the Madras State to Tamil Nadu in 1969, of the Mysore State to Karnataka in 1973, and of Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand in 2007.

Name changes have varied with respect to the levels of language at which they have been applied, and also accepted. Some of these local name changes were changes made in all languages: the immediate local name, and also all India's other languages. An example of this is the renaming of predominantly Hindi-speaking Uttaranchal (Hindi: उत्तराञ्चल) to a new local Hindi name (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड Uttarakhand). Other changes were only changes in some of the indigenous languages. For example, the renaming of the Madras Presidency to Madras State in 1947 and then Tamil Nadu in 1969 required non-Tamil speakers to change from an approximation of the British name (Tamil: மதராஸ் மாகாணம் Madras Presidency, then Madras State Tamil: மதராஸ் மாநிலம்) to a native Tamil name (Tamil: தமிழ்நாடு Tamil Nadu, "Tamil country").

In general, changes to the local names of cities in the indigenous languages are less common. However, a change in English may sometimes also be a reflection of changes in other Indian languages other than the specific local one. For example, the change of Madras (Tamil: மதராஸ் Madras) to Chennai (Tamil: சென்னை Chennai) was reflected in many of India's languages, and incidentally in English, while the Tamil endonym had always been Chennai and remained unaffected by the change.

Renaming in English[edit]

Change in official English spelling[edit]

The renaming of cities is often specifically from English to Indian English in connection with that dialect's internal reforms. In other words, the city itself is not actually renamed in the local language, and the local name (or endonym) in the indigenous languages of India does not change, but the official spelling in Indian English is amended. An example is the change from English "Calcutta" to English "Kolkata" – the local Bengali name (কলকাতা Kôlkata) did not change. Such changes in English spelling may be in order to better reflect a more accurate phonetic transliteration of the local name, or may be for other reasons. In the early years after Indian independence, many name changes were affected in northern India for English spellings of Hindi place names that had simply been romanised inconsistently by the British administration – such as the British spelling "Jubbulpore," renamed "Jabalpur" (जबलपुर) among the first changes in 1947. These changes did not generate significant controversy. More recent and high-profile changes – including renaming such major cities as Calcutta to Kolkata – have generated greater controversy.[4] Since independence, such changes have typically been enacted officially by legislation at local or national Indian government level, and may or may not then be adopted by the Indian media, particularly the influential Indian press. In the case of smaller towns and districts which were less notable outside and inside India, and where a well known English name (or exonym) could not be said to exist, older spellings used under British India may not have had any specific legislation other than changes in practice on the romanisation of indigenous Indian language names.

Realignment of the official Indian English name to an alternative local name[edit]

Aside from changes to the official English spellings of local names there have also been renaming proposals to realign the official name, hence the English name with an alternative local name. Ethnically sensitive examples include the proposals by the Bharatiya Janata Party (1990, 2001) to rename Ahmedabad to Karnavati[5] and Allahabad to Prayagraj, the latter ultimately being officially adopted in 2018. These two proposals are changes from the historically Mughal name to a Hindu native name. These can be represented as a change from Urdu language to Hindi language, but since the two languages are variants of Hindustani the proposal is effectively a cultural and ethno-religious proposal rather than a linguistic one.[6]

Adoption of renamed names[edit]

Official name changes take place quickly if not immediately in official government sources.[7] Adoption may be slower among the media in India and abroad, and among Indian authors.[8][9][10]

Important examples[edit]



Notable city names that were officially changed by legislation after independence include:

For others, by state order, see list of renamed Indian cities and states.

Town names that derive from ancient names:

Proposed changes[edit]

Several other changes have been proposed for states and towns.

States and Union Territories[edit]




Himachal Pradesh[edit]


Madhya Pradesh[edit]



Uttar Pradesh[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ India and the World Bank: The Politics of Aid and Influence - Page 126 Jason A. Kirk - 2011 "Orissa (Note: This state was officially renamed Odisha in March 2011)"
  2. ^ Aggarwal, Rajesh (25 October 2014). "Merging NPR and UID ???". Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
  3. ^ The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s. - Page 134 Christophe Jaffrelot 1999 - "The new state included Madhya Bharat, the Bhopal region, the former Vindhya Pradesh, Mahakoshal and Chhattisgarh (the last two regions forming the Hindi-speaking parts in the former Madhya Pradesh; see map, pp. xxii-xxiii)."
  4. ^ Mira Kamdar Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming ... 2007 Author's introduction Page xi "India's information-technology capital's new name, should it be adopted, will mean “town of boiled beans.” The name changes are not without controversy among Indians. In several instances, the name change represents a struggle between a cosmopolitan elite and a local, regional-language populace over defining the city in ways that go far beyond a simple change of name."
  5. ^ Steven I. Wilkinson Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India 2006 Page 23 "The BJP proposed in 1990 and 2001 that Ahmedabad be renamed "Karnavati." Hindu, June 1 1, 2001. Similar proposals have been made to restore Allahabad to "Prayag", as it had been known as before the Mughal era.
  6. ^ Cosmopolitanism - Page 73 Carol A. Breckenridge, Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha - 2002 "In one sense, the decision to officialise the name Mumbai is part of a widespread Indian pattern of replacing names associated with colonial rule with names associated with local, national, and regional heroes. It is an indigenizing toponymic."
  7. ^ Reserve Bank of India's instructions for banks & banking operations Reserve Bank of India 2001 Page 713 "The new name "Mumbai" should be reflected in both English and Hindi and the change in name is to be brought about in all official communications, name plates, sign boards, office seals, rubber stamps, etc."
  8. ^ Perveez Mody The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi Page 59 - 2008 "Throughout this book, I refer to India's commercial capital as Bombay rather than Mumbai. ... I am well aware of the name-change effected by an Act of the Indian Parliament in 1997 that made the city officially 'Mumbai'. ... It is the same convention I adopt when referring to Calcutta rather than Kolkata."
  9. ^ Pingali Sailaja Indian English Page 16 2009 "Bombay is now called Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai and Calcutta is Kolkata, in an attempt to de-anglicise them. In this work, the earlier names are retained since these names were used during the period that we mostly cover."
  10. ^ Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History - Page 3 Krishna Dutta - 2003 "nationalist stance, like Bombay, which changed its name to Mumbai, or Madras, which has become the unrecognisable Chennai, Calcutta has preferred a comparatively minor name change, which frankly is a bit of a multicultural mishmash."
  11. ^ "David Rumsey: Geographical Searching with MapRank Search (beta)". Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  12. ^ Beam, Christopher (12 July 2006). "How Bombay became Mumbai. - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  13. ^ Staff (21 August 2007). "Bangalore now Bengaluru". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Deccan Herald: Centre clears change in names of Karna cities, Belgaum now Belagavi". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Karnataka cities get new names". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  16. ^ Temples and legends of Himachal Pradesh - Page 38 Pranab Chandra Roy Choudhury - 1981 "Mandi takes the name from Mandavya. The name of the place was first Mandav Nagar and then corrupted into Mandi."
  17. ^ Gazetteer of the Nellore District: Brought Up to 1938 - Page 151 Government Of Madras Staff, Government of Madras - 1942 "... of the Ramayana (2000 — 1500 BC) was a dense jungle, while the town of Nellore, which came into existence only several centuries later, was known as Simhapuri (Lion's town), from the supposed existence of lions in the adjacent forests."
  18. ^ "Kerala to become 'Keralam'? | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. 14 July 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  19. ^ a b Vibha Sharma; Shahira Naim (17 October 2018). "Allahabad is now Prayagraj, Yogi's Cabinet renames historic city". The Tribune.
  20. ^ "West Bengal renaming: Centre says hasn't approved name change; Mamata Banerjee writes to PM Modi | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  21. ^ a b c d "As Gujarat sets to rename Ahmedabad to Karnavati, Shiv Sena demands name change of Osmanabad and Aurangabad". Hindustan Times. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  22. ^ Latief, Samiya (23 October 2018). "10 Indian cities that changed their names". Times of India.
  23. ^ "Tharoor votes for 'Ananthapuri'".
  24. ^ "Now, Indore to become Indur, Bhopal Bhojpal". The Times of India. 18 December 2006. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  25. ^ "BJP to rename Hyderabad, Karimnagar if it forms govt in Telangana: UP CM Yogi Adityanath". 5 December 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  26. ^ ANI (20 August 2019). "BJP lawmaker demands change of Nizamabad's name to 'Indur'". Business Standard India. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  27. ^ "Muzaffarnagar will be renamed Lakshmi Nagar soon, says BJP MLA". The Indian Express. 10 November 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2021.

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