Names of India
The Republic of India has two principal short names in both official and popular English usage, each of which is historically significant, India and Bharat. The first article of the Constitution of India states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states,” implicitly codifying India and Bharat as equally official short names for the Republic of India. A third name, Hindustan, is a historical term for the north and northwestern subcontinent (especially during the British India period) that is now widely used as an alternative name for the region comprising most of the modern nations of the subcontinent when Indians speak among themselves. The usage of Bharat, Hindustan or India is dependant on the context and language of conversation.
The name India is derived from Indus, which originates from the Old Persian word Hinduš. The latter term stems from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, which was the historical local appellation for the Indus River. The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ινδοί), which translates as “the people of the Indus”.
The geographical term Bharat (pronounced [ˈbʱaːrət̪], which is recognised by the Constitution of India as an official name for the country, is used by many Indian languages in its variations. The eponym of Bharat is Bharata, a theological figure that Hindu scriptures describe as a legendary emperor of ancient India. Hindustan ([ɦɪnd̪ʊˈst̪aːn] was originally a Persian word that meant “Land of the Hindus”; prior to 1947, it referred to a region that encompassed northern India and Pakistan. It is occasionally used to solely denote India in its entirety.
The name Bhārata (/bˈhɑːrəθ/) (भारत) has been used as a self-ascribed name by people of the Indian Subcontinent and the Republic of India. Bhārata is the official Sanskrit name of the country, Bhārata Gaṇarājya, and the name is derived from the ancient Indian texts, that which refers to the land that comprises India as Bhārata varṣam, and uses this term to distinguish it from other varṣas or continents. For example, the Vayu Puranas says he who conquers the whole of Bharata-varsa is celebrated as a samrāt (Vayu Purana 45, 86). However in some puranas, the term ‘Bharate’ refers to the whole Earth as Emperor Bharata is said to have ruled the whole Earth. Until the death of Maharaja Parikshit, the last formidable emperor of the Kuru dynasty, the known world was known as Bharata varsha.
According to the most popular theory the name Bhārata is the vrddhi of Bharata, a king mentioned in Rigveda.
The Sanskrit word bhārata is a vrddhi derivation of bharata, which was originally an epithet of Agni. The term is a verbal noun of the Sanskrit root bhr-, “to bear / to carry”, with a literal meaning of “to be maintained” (of fire). The root bhr is cognate with the English verb to bear and Latin ferō. This term also means “one who is engaged in search for knowledge”.
According to the Puranas(Gita), this country is known as Bharatavarsha after the king Bharata Chakravarti. This has been mentioned in Vishnu Purana (2,1,31), Vayu Purana,(33,52), Linga Purana(1,47,23), Brahmanda Purana (14,5,62), Agni Purana ( 107,11–12), Skanda Purana, Khanda (37,57) and Markandaya Purana (50,41) it is clearly stated that this country is known as Bharata Varsha. Vishnu Purāna mentions:
ऋषभो मरुदेव्याश्च ऋषभात भरतो भवेत्
भरताद भारतं वर्षं, भरतात सुमतिस्त्वभूत्
Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabh,
Bharatavarsha (India) arose from Bharata, and Sumati arose from Bharata
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)
ततश्च भारतं वर्षमेतल्लोकेषुगीयते
भरताय यत: पित्रा दत्तं प्रतिष्ठिता वनम (विष्णु पुराण, २,१,३२)
This country is known as Bharatavarsha since the times the father entrusted the kingdom to the son Bharata and he himself went to the forest for ascetic practices [ Rishabha/ Rishabdev is First Trithankar (Teacher) of Jainism. He had two sons Bharat and Bahubali’ ]
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,32)
The realm of Bharata is known as Bharātavarṣa in the Mahabhārata (the core portion of which is itself known as Bhārata) and later texts. The term varsa means a division of the earth, or a continent. A version of the Bhagavata Purana says, the name Bharata is after Jata Bharata who appears in the fifth canto of the Bhagavata.
– Vishnu Purana (2.3.1)
uttaraṃ yatsamudrasya himādreścaiva dakṣiṇam
varṣaṃ tadbhārataṃ nāma bhāratī yatra santatiḥ
उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।
“The country (varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata.”
The term in Classical Sanskrit literature is taken to comprise the present day territories of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Republic of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. This corresponds to the approximate extent of the historical Maurya Empire under emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great (4th to 3rd centuries BC). Later political entities unifying approximately the same region are the Mughal Empire (17th century), the Maratha Empire (18th century), and the British Raj (19th to 20th centuries).
The English term is from Greek Ἰνδία (Indía), via Latin India. Indía in Koine Greek denoted the region of the Indus (“Ἰνδός”) river in Pakistan, since Herodotus (5th century BC) ἡ Ἰνδική χώρη, hē Indikē chōrē; “Indian land”, Ἰνδός, Indos, “an Indian”, from Old Persian (referring to what is now known as Sindh, a province of present day Pakistan, and listed as a conquered territory by Darius I in the Persepolis terrace inscription). The name is derived ultimately from Sindhu, the Sanskrit name of the river, but also meaning “river” generically. Latin India is used by Lucian (2nd century).
The name India was known in Old English, and was used in King Alfred’s translation of Orosius. In Middle English, the name was, under French influence, replaced by Ynde or Inde, which entered Early Modern English as Indie. The name India then came back to English usage from the 17th century onwards, and may be due to the influence of Latin, or Spanish or Portuguese.
Sanskrit indu “drop (of Soma)”, also a term for the Moon, is unrelated, but has sometimes been erroneously connected, listed by, among others, Colonel James Todd in his Annals of Rajputana. Todd describes ancient India as under control of tribes claiming descent from the Moon, or “Indu” (referring to Chandravanshi Rajputs).
The name Hind (Persian: هند) is derived from the Iranian equivalent of Sindh. The Persian -stān means “country” or “land” (cognate to Sanskrit sthāna “place, land”).
Modern day North India was included as Hindustān (Persian: هندوستان) in Persian, الهند is the term in the Arabic language (e.g. in the 11th century. It also occurs intermittently in usage within India, such as in the phrase Jai Hind (Hindi: जय हिन्द).
Hindustān, as the term “india” itself, entered the English language in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the term as used in English referred to the northern region of the subcontinent between the Indus and Brahmaputra rivers and between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas in particular, hence the term Hindustani for the Hindi-Urdu language. Hindustan was in use synonymously with India during the British Raj.
Today, Hindustān is no longer in use as the official name for India, although in Modern Standard Arabic as well as dialects it is the only name for India, (al-Hind الهند).
Historically, the term “Hindustan” is usually applied to the Gangetic Plain of North India, between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas and the Indus river basin in Pakistan.
Further, it may pertain to numerous aspects belonging to three geographical areas: the Indus River basin during medieval times, or a region in northern India, east and south of the Yamuna river, between the Vindhya mountains and the Himalayas where Hindustani language is spoken.
In modern Persian, Urdu and Hindi, Hindustan and its abbreviated version Hind usually refer to the current Republic of India. The abbreviated version appears in the common nationalist salutation of India, Jai Hind, coined by Major Abid Hasan Safrani of the Indian National Army as a shortened version of Jai Hindustan Ki (translation: Victory to India). It was popularized by Subhas Chandra Bose, who used it on Azad Hind Radio during the Indian independence movement. It appears in the revered song, Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon. Today, it is widely used as a salutation and a battle cry in the Indian Armed Forces. It is also commonly used to sign off at the end of major speeches.
Most formally, in the proper disciplines of Geography and History, Hindustan refers to the region of the upper and middle Ganges valley; Hindustan by this definition is the region located between (but not including) the distinct lands of Punjab in the northwest and Bengal in the north-east. So used, the term is not a synonym for terms “South Asia”, “India”, “Country of the Hindus” [sic], or of the modern-day Republic of India, variously interpreted.