Bharat, You Say? Looking For Clues At The G20 If India Is Really Changing Its Name
One official invitation and two booklets, issued ahead of the G20 meeting in New Delhi, refer to India as "Bharat" — a word with a long history of political, etymological and religious significance. But there is little clarity as to which name should be used in English.
NEW DELHI — Ahead of the G20 summit, the Indian government has released two booklets: “Bharat: The Mother of Democracy” and “Elections in India,” tracing the roots of Indian democracy from 6,000 BCE — and stating at the outset that “Bharat is the official name of the country.”
The issuing of the booklets comes just days after a G20 dinner invitation referred to Droupadi Murmu as the “President of Bharat” as opposed to “President of India,” drawing ire from opposition parties.
The first booklet traces democracy in the country through the "Sindhu-Saraswati civilisation" the Ramayana and Mahabharata (with Bharat root) epics, the rule of Ashoka, Akbar, the Cholas and the Vijayanagar empire, as well as the teachings of Kautilya and Megasthenes among others; the second compares the conduct of elections in India from the first general elections in 1951-52 to the latest one in 2019.
The two booklets have been uploaded on the G20 website as New Delhi prepares to host the annual summit this weekend.
A Constitutional question
The first, 52-page booklet titled “Bharat: The Mother of Democracy” states from the very first page that “Bharat is the official name of the country. It is mentioned in the Constitution as also in the discussions of 1946-48.”
However, Article 1 of the Indian Constitution begins with the words, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.” The official Hindi version of the Constitution says, “Bharat artharth India, rajyon ka sangh hoga”, or ‘Bharat, that is India…’, making it clear both names are official, one in Hindi the other in English.
Bharat is the official name of the country. It is mentioned in the Constitution.
The booklet traces “democratic ethos in Bharat over thousands of years” from 6,000 BCE to the adoption of the Indian constitution.
“In Bharat, that is India, the view or the will of the people in governance has been the central part of life since earliest recorded history,” it states.
“According to Indian ethos, democracy comprises the values of harmony, freedom of choice, freedom to hold multiple ideas, acceptability, equality, governance for the welfare of the people and inclusivity in a society. All of these allow its common citizens to lead a dignified life.”
Image of the booklet released
A democratic guiding light
In the section on the Vedas — the earliest body of Indian scripture — the booklet makes several denominational distinction, stating that in the Rigveda, “the world’s oldest composition, and the Atharvaveda, the terms sabha (assembly of elders), samiti (assembly of common folks) and sansad (parliament), each a representative body, find frequent mention.”
In the section titled “The King, chosen by his people”, the booklet refers to the Ramayana as a “living guide in India and also in many parts of the world.”
“Ram-rajya – the rule of Lord Rama – is the epitome of an ideal government. In Ram-rajya, people live secure, prosperous lives knowing that their welfare is paramount to the ruler they have chosen.”
The booklet also refers to the Mahabharata, here again using the "Bharat" root, saying that democracy is about doing things that are right for the people. “This is brought to life in the Mahabharata, the great epic of India.”
Jainist and Buddhist undertones
It also refers to Jainism for key principles of democracy, including “coexistence and tolerance”, and to Buddhism for influencing the spread of democratic ethos in India.
The booklet refers to the contribution of Kautilya and Megasthenes as well as the rule of Ashoka, Akbar and Shivaji.
Quoting from the ancient Sanskrit Arthashastratreatise, the booklet states that “[the] deep rooted value of serving, not ruling” is a democratic ideal that has always defined India.
In a chapter titled “The Power To Choose & To Change”, the booklet states that a ruler “rules not by birth right or coercion but by bowing to the will of the people.”
“This democratic principle is seen throughout India’s history.”
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