Have you ever wondered why India is called India? It is an important question to answer, if not for India, we would not be Indians.
Let me start with the Rig- Veda, written in 1700-1100 BCE, mentions Sindhu as the name for the river in the North. The region, Sindh, is conquered by Persians in 516BC. The river was called Hindu by Persians as S sound is replaced by H sound in Persian. The Hindu river is called the Indos river in Greek and Indus in Latin. And from Indos is derived Ivdia in Greek and India in Latin, for the land east of the Indus river and west of the Ganges. India first appears in 4th century BCE in a book written by Herodotus, the Father of History. Interestingly, the people in those times never called themselves Indians, it is the others who started calling the people who lived in that region, Indians.
What were we before we became India? This brings is to the many other names of India through the ages:
- Jambudweep: the name mentioned for the whole world in Jain and Hindu texts.
- Nabhivarsha: from King Nabhi, the last kulkar or leader, grandson of Manu, grandfather of Chakravarti Bharat, father of the first tirthankar of Jains, Rishabhdev and if you are Hindu, father of the 8th avatar of Vishnu, Rishabhdev.
- Bharatam/ Bharatvarsh?Bharat: from Chakravarti Bharat
- Aryavarta and Dravida
- Hind by Persians
- Hindustan by Muslims
and many others in Chinese and Japanese.
India, the name, has persisted into the Constitution of Republic of India, written in 1950. Bharat is the other name that is included. Bharat is considered religiously divisive by a few and so here we are with being called India, and Indians, given us by the Persians and which is Greek/Latin for land of Indus, in 4th century BCE. Our country of origin has a Greek/ Latin name that is at least 2500 years old!
Who do we want to be called? That which they gave us or that which we are. And more importantly, who do you want to be?
The original inhabitants of Jambudweep and Nabhivarsh and then our invaders, the Persians , who followed Lord Zoroashtra, the Moghuls, who brought Islam, and finally the Europeans, with Vasco de Gama, first European to land in Bharatvarsh, and who brought Christianity with him.
We can pull it all apart or use this opportunity to create something new or settle our differences and stay with our given name.
The constitution mentions Bharat as an alternate, which would make us Bharatiya. Bharat was the first king to unify the various kingdoms of Bharatvarsh. Would it be fitting to use his name and demonstrate our unity?
Is a given name better since that way none can lay claim on the land? Is someone less of an invader if we have a Latin name? Does someone have more claim if Republic of india/ Bharat has a name that commemorates its beginnings?
Would a population of Hindus, Muslims, Christians be less Bharatiya if they are Indian or be less Indian if they is Bharatiya? Does being Bharatiya make us less secular? Does being Indian make us more secular? And what’s in a name?
And, I am now thinking:
So who are the original inhabitants of the land called Bharat/ India?
Who are we genetically?
If you read ancient scriptures about the history of the land, we are descendants of Manu, the first man. If you look into the science of it, and the recent results of the DNA testing from the Rakhigarhi archaeological site [part of Indus valley civilization], it points to the past of the inhabitants being a melting pot of migrations from Africa.
We came out of Africa, there have been multiple migrations, not all left the genetic markings on the current humans and these were occurring even as early humans had populated many areas of the world.
Keep on reading, as I explore this further with you, and hopefully keep finding answers for us.
Share what you think, I would love to hear from you.