Trailing the change in names of places from times dating back to several centuries of recorded history in various parts of the world, including India in general and its cities, towns as well as villages in particular, not to forget the pre-historic periods of the land’s epics, estimated by scholars to be nearly 10,000 years ago, can make a fascinating study. Virtually, every town and most of the villages in the state have a history of their names that have witnessed a change of name, given the common practice of local residents, particularly the literati among the elderly, narrating the related episodes called sthala purana. The case of Bangalore, now Bengaluru, deriving its name from the event of a straying warrior offered cooked grains by a hospitable host and also the case of Mysore, now Mysuru, deriving its name from event of Goddess Chamundi slaying the demon Mahishasura, ascribed to the epic. However, the change in the names of nine (?) other cities of Karnataka that happened during the last decade sticking to Kannada intonation was marginal, if not cosmetic, not to forget the resulting sense of pride and delight on the part of some sections of society.
Arguing that the time-honoured names of three metropolises of India, namely Bombay, Calcutta and Madras was an unwanted legacy of British colonial rule of India, the outfits pursuing the cause of erasing that legacy in the respective regions pushed for name change for many years prior to 1995, with the emergence of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai name of the old state Travancore-Cochin to Kerala 1956 happens to be a unique example of substantial make-over of name. Orissa is now Odisha (March 2011) and Pondicherry, the Union Territory which includes the city by the same name is now Puducherry.
The name game, which began in pockets of some regions witnessing happy ending in all cases seems to be gaining ground, triggered by the sentiment of nationalism and urge to get back to the periods preceding alien rule, particularly over the extended times of the land in total control of Moghals and British. The feeling of hurt caused by the aliens at the helm has to be traced to their coercive conversion of indigenous people to the two faiths not witnessed earlier. While the clock cannot be put back in the matter of change of faith of people, the pursuit of the country’s ancient and vibrant culture has its unquestionable merit, as there is everything in a name.
The issue of name change for places that acquired names other than those with centuries of history preceding the two alien rules need not be addressed from the angle of which section of population feels assuaged and which other feels denial of a right, in order to keep clear of controversy. More importantly, the measure of reverting to correct names for places must be guarded against any political party salivating for getting mileage from the change.