NEW DELHI: The name ‘Bharat’ wasn’t there in the first draft of India’s Constitution introduced by the chairman of the drafting committee, BR Ambedkar, on November 4, 1948. Although some members flagged the omission of a native name, the debate on this took place almost a year later when the work on finalising the text was coming to an end.
On September 18, 1949, Ambedkar moved the following amendment to draft Article 1, which mentions the country’s name: “India, that is, Bharat shall be a Union of States.”
But Assembly member HV Kamath said this was a clumsy construction and a constitutional slip.He suggested two alternatives: “Bharat, or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States” or “Hind, or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States”. Kamath cited the example of Ireland: “The name of the State is Eire, or, in the English language, Ireland.”

He wanted to specify “in the English language, India” because in many other countries India was still known as ‘Hindustan’, “and all natives of this country are referred to as Hindus, whatever their religion may be…” Asked to pick one name for his amendment, Kamath chose “Bharat, or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.”
Then followed an intense debate in which members Seth Govind Das, Kamalapathi Tripathi, Kallur Subba Rao, Ram Sahai and Har Govind Pant passionately argued for Bharat. Das said India was not an ancient word and was not found in the Vedas. It was only used after the Greeks came to India, while Bharat was to be found in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas, the Mahabharata and the Puranas, as well as in Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang’s writing. Das suggested “Bharat known as India also in foreign countries”.

He said the name was not backward-looking but befitted India’s history and culture. “If we do not arrive at correct decisions in regard to these matters the people of this country will not understand the significance of self-government.” Kallur Subba Rao said the name India came from Sindhu or Indus, and the name Hindustan suited Pakistan more as it had the Indus river. While referring to India as Bharat, he asked Seth Govind Das and other Hindi speakers to rename the Hindi language ‘Bharati’, for the goddess of learning.
Ram Sahai supported the name Bharat, saying the union of Gwalior, Indore and Malwa called itself Madhya Bharat and “in all our religious scriptures and all Hindi literature this country has been called Bharat, our leaders also refer to this country as Bharat in their speeches”. Then Kamalapati Tripathi gave a rousing speech saying that “Bharat, that is India” might have been more proper and in accordance with the “sentiments and prestige of the country”. He claimed that during its “slavery for one thousand years”, the country had lost its soul, history, prestige and form and name.

He said Bapu’s revolutionary movement had made the nation recognise its form and lost soul, and that it was due to his penance that it was regaining its name too. Tripathi said that the mere uttering of the word conjured up a picture of cultured life. That despite centuries of prolonged slavery, the name persisted, that “the gods have been remembering the name of this country in the heavens” and have a keen desire to be born in the sacred land of Bharat. “We are reminded that on the one hand, this culture reached the Mediterranean and on the other it touched the shores of the Pacific,” he claimed.
It reminded one of the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, of the teachings of Krishna and the Buddha, of Shankaracharya, or Rama’s bow and Krishna’s wheel, he said. As Tripathi rhapsodised over the past, Ambedkar asked, “Is all this necessary, sir… There is a lot of work to be done.” While Ambedkar was in a hurry, Assembly president Rajendra Prasad allowed another intervention from Hargovind Pant, who said he had suggested the name Bharat Varsha, which was “used by us in our daily religious duties while reciting the Sankalpa.

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Even at the time of taking our bath we say in Sanskrit, “Jamboo Dwipay, Bharata Varshe, Bharat Khande, Aryavartay, etc…It means that I so and so, of Aryavart in Bharat Khand, etc.” Pant said Bharat was used by Kalidasa to refer to the kingdom of the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, whereas India was a name given by foreigners who were tempted by its wealth, and that clinging to it “would only show that we are not ashamed of having this insulting word which has been imposed on us by alien rulers.” The Constituent Assembly voted by show of hands with 38 ayes and 51 noes, so Kamath’s amendment was rejected and the original wording stayed

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