Saturday, 26 January 2013

India And Bharat

The Preamble to The Constitution of India begins with, ‘WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA….  Article 1, Clause (1) of The Constitution of India states, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. In the Preamble, ‘India’ is not followed by the explanatory name ‘Bharat’.

India is perhaps the only country of the world which has two official names.

Why did the framers of our Constitution, with all their nationalistic fervour, decide to continue with the name ‘India’ and not choose the name ‘Bharat’?

Somewhere, I had read that the reason for this was that the name of country was long recorded as ‘India’ in the United Nations Organisation and all other international organizations. Although the country was called ‘Bharat’ in the ancient texts including the Vedas, this name had not been legally recorded anywhere either in India or in the outside world. Had we given the country the  name ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution, we would have legally become a new State since the region was partitioned and a new country, ‘Pakistan’ was carved out of it. ‘Bharat’ would have legally become a ‘new’ State like Pakistan. India was one of the original member-countries which had joined the U N O when it was formed in 1945. ‘Bharat’ would have, like Pakistan, become a new member of U N O.

However, when I searched for this in the Constituent Assembly Debates from internet, I could 
not locate any discussion about this legal aspect about the choice of the name of the country, 

Many people are under the impression that ‘India’ is the name given to us by the British rulers. This is not a fact. The name ‘Bharat’ appears in the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas as well as the epic Mahabharat. Our country was originally called 'Bharat' after Bharat, the brave son of Shakuntala and Dushyant. When the Persians came, they called it 'Sindhu Desh' after the river Sindhu. The word ‘India’ began to be used when the Greeks came here in the 3rd Century B C. Many know that when Alexander asked Puru, the defeated King of Sindhu, how the latter would like to be treated, he replied that he expected to be treated like a King by another King. The Greeks called the Sindhu river as ‘Indus’. They came across this river when they entered the area and so, called the country as ‘India’. Since then, our country has been known as ‘India’ in the international community.  

When Columbus set out on the sea-route, he landed, in 1492, in what later came to be known as America (so named after Amerigo Vespuccii, who landed in The New World in 1501 and realized that it was a new country and not India.) That is why the native South Americans are still called ‘Red Indians’.

(By the way, as the river Sindhu became a part of Pakistan, one member of the Constituent Assembly suggested in a lighter vain that Pakistan should be named ‘Hindustan’! The word ‘Hindustan’ is linked to the river Sindhu and has nothing to do with Hindu religion.)

The Constituent Assembly formed several Committees to discuss and prepare Drafts of the different parts of the Constitution. Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel headed 2 important Committes, viz. ‘Union Powers Committee’ and ‘State Powers Committee’ respectively. Similarly, there were other Committees to deal with Fundamental Rights and other parts of the proposed Constitution. Reports of all these Committees were processed, compiled and collated by the Secretariat of the Constituent Assembly, headed by S. N. Mukherjee, who was the chief draftsman. He was assisted by an expert ‘Constitutional Advisor’, B. N. Rau, a retired  I C S Officer.  

The Constituent Assembly then appointed a ‘Committee to Scrutinise the Draft Constitution’, headed by Dr. B. R.Ambedkar. The other Members were Gobind Ballav Pant, K M Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer,N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar and T T Krishnamachari.This Committee was and is popularly known as Drafting Committee. This Committee finalized the Draft Constitution which was presented to the Constituent Assembly for discussion and adoption with necessary changes. This Draft contained Article 1 (1) which stated, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”.

 When Article 1 of the Draft Constitution was discussed in the Constituent Assembly, the debate was on whether the country should be named as ‘India’, or ‘Union of India’ or ‘United States of India’.  Piloting the Draft, Dr. Ambedkar said, “India has been known as ‘India’ throughout history and all these past years. As a member of U N O, the name of the country is India and all agreements are signed as such.”   

H V Kamath proposed that the Draft Article 1(1) should be amended as:

(i)                 Bharat, or in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States, or
(ii)               Hind, or in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.

Personally, he preferred the first.

Kamalapati Tripathy felt that it would have been more proper to say, ‘Bharat, that is, India”.

H V Kamath’s proposal was negated by a vote of 51 to 38.

Apparently, the Constituent Assembly never considered ‘Bharat’ as the only name of the country. ( I shall be glad to be proved wrong.)

The Draft Constitution was prepared in English language and adopted as such by the Constituent Assembly.

After this Draft in English was adopted, a Hindi translation of the Constitution was prepared. This translation was approved by the Constituent Assembly as the official version. The 308 members signed the hand-written English and Hindi versions of the Constitution on the 24th January, 1950. When the original version was adopted on the 26th November, 1949, 284 members had signed it.

The original Constitution is hand-written with beautiful calligraphy, each page beautified and decorated by artists including Beohar Ram Manohar Sinha and Nandalal Bose (the famous painter) from Shantiniketan.

Years later, there was a controversy as it was said that after all, a translation was only a translation and could never be same thing as the original. Apparently, this legal conundrum is yet to be resolved. Hair- splitting?

Perhaps, had the Constitution been first prepared in Hindi and then translated into English, the sole name 'Bharat' would have been chosen or 'Bharat' would have been followed by the explanatory words 'that is India'.

But then, the framers of our Constitution, a large number of whom were lawyers, were familiar with British jurisprudence and the language used in the Courts at that time, was (and even now, is) English.   

Interestingly and incongruously, there was a reference to the British House of Commons in our Constitution as adopted by the Constituent Assembly. Article 105(3) originally read as:

 In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament and of  its members and the Committees of each House shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and, until so defined, shall be those of the members of House of Commons of United Kingdom.

The reference in the Constitution of a sovereign country to the practice (U. K. does not have a written Constitution.) in another country was odd. In 1978, when the Janata Government led by Morarjee Desai was in power, the last part was amended as:

  .. shall be those of that House and its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of section 15 of the Constitution (Forty Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978.

The original Article 194(3) dealing with the powers and privileges of members of State Legislatures was similarly amended in 1978.   

This is a queer situation and if one asks what these privileges were before the Amendment, it will lead one to the British House of Commons!

It may be pertinent to add here that these ‘powers and privileges’ of the legislators have not yet been defined either by our Parliament or any State Legislature. Parliamentary privileges continue to be in a nebulous area and have on occasions, been used to punish and harass citizens and journalists.
By the way, the Constitution was adopted the on 29th November, 1949 and it came into force on the 26th January, 1950. This date was chosen to commemorate the 26th January, which was declared as the ‘Independence Day’ by the nationalist leaders led by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji and these leaders were confident of freeing India from foreign rule. However, they declared that if India would be given dominion status like Australia and Canada by the end of 1929, the demand for full freedom would be deferred.  A session of the Indian National Congress was being held at Lahore on the 31st December, 1929.Since no such assurance came, at the stroke of midnight on the 31st December, 1929, Indian National Congress declared 'independence'. It was decided that on the 26th January, 1930, people all over the country would take the Pledge of Freedom. That date was called 'Independence Day' and every year, till the 15th August,1948, the 26th January, was celebrated as such.

('Dominion status' means that the British monarch remains the official Head of State but complete freedom is given to the area. India was in this position till the 26th January, 1950, when our Constitution came into force, India became a Republic and Dr. Rajendra Prasad took over as the Interim President on the 26th January, 1950. He was elected as the full-fledged President after the Parliament and State Assemblies were formed following the First General Elections in 1952. From 1950 to 1952, the Constituent Assembly functioned as the Provisional Parliament. Australia and Canada continue to be British Dominions with the British Queen as their formal Head of State. Their Governors General - Australians and Canadians - are appointed by the British Queen. Lord Mountbatten was the last Vice-Roy and the first Governor General of India. He was Governor General of India from the 15th August, 1947 to the 21st June, 1948. C. Rajagopalachari (the first Indian G.G. and the last G.G. of India) was the Governor General of India from 21.06.1948 to 26.01.1950.)    

Isn’t it time to amend the Constitution to name the country as ‘Bharat’ only, at the latest, before we celebrate the centenary year of our independence in 2047?

Happy Republic Day!

Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!


Can we visualize a day when a ‘United States of India’, comprising the present India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be formed? Even, Mynamar, (the erstwhile Burma) which was a part of India till 1936, can be invited to join it!  Isn't the region called 'the Indian sub-continent'?


  1. I am amazed, I never knew why 'India' was chosen over Bharat. As a kid I always used to wonder why cant we call our country 'Bharat' in all languages.

  2. I can believe in calling all the countries mentioned in the tail piece by one name but I dont think it will ever be called United States of India.
    A very informative piece nonetheless !!

    1. There is no harm in day-dreaming!!!

      2. Thank you.