India is home to 29 states which comprise numerous cities, towns, and villages. Every state or city has a story behind the evolution of its name. The names of the states can be associated with their culture, ruler, the religious beliefs of people, or any other significant thing. Renaming a city, town, or even a state is definitely a matter of debate.
The ancient city of Allahabad has been officially renamed as “Prayagraj” by the cabinet of UP’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath on 16th October 2018. The BJP government decided to restore the religious sanctity of this holy place where three rivers of religious importance meet each other.
There are many other cities in India of which names have been changed ever since the country got its independence. For every name change, there is a good number of reasons associated with them. There are over 100 cities and towns which have been renamed or respelled after Indian Independence in 1947.
Based on the popularity and familiarity of the cities, we bring you the new as well as the old names of the cities with a short glimpse into their past-
Gurgaon to Gurugram in 2016: The corporate hub of Haryana, Gurgaon was renamed Gurugram in 2016. According to history, this city was given as a ‘gurudakshina’ to Guru Dronacharya by the Pandavas in lieu of the training of archery he imparted to them. As a reason, the city came to be known as “Guru-gram”.
Bangalore to Bengaluru in 2014: Bangalore was renamed as Bengaluru in 2006 owing to a legend in the history of India. There was a place by the name “Bengaluru” in Begur in the ninth century Western Ganga Dynasty.
Mysore to Mysuru in 2014: Mysore is the archaic city of Karnataka which joined the list of cities that adopted a new name ‘Mysuru’ in 2014. Mysuru got its name from the demon king Mahishasura or Mahishuru who ruled over this city until Goddess Chamundeshwari killed him.
Mangalore to Mangaluru in 2014: Just like other cities of Karnataka that were renamed in the year 2014, the city of Mangalore became Mangaluru. It is named after the deity Mangaldevi.
Pondicherry to Puducherry in 2006: In 2006, the picturesque small French city of Pondicherry got its new name. The literal meaning of Puducherry is ‘new town’.
Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001: The city of Calcutta officially changed its name to Kolkata in 2001. The new name Kolkata was derived from the Bengali word ‘Kolikata’, a village that supposedly existed at the time of colonial rule in India.
Baroda to Vadodara in 1974: The well-known city of Baroda in Gujarat was renamed as Vadodara in 1974. The new name of this city has been derived from ‘Vatpatrak’ or the leaf of the Banyan tree, and ‘Vatodar’ or the heart of the Banyan Tree.
Bombay to Mumbai in 1996: The name of the financial capital of India, Bombay, was changed to Mumbai in 1996. It was the Britishers who gave this city an English name, Bombay, in the 17th century. In 1996, the government decided to change its name to Mumbai as “Mumba” means Maha Amba and Aayi means mother in Marathi. This move of the government may be just to get away with the impact of the Britishers on the Indian states after so many years of Independence.
Madras to Chennai in 1996: The most of all the name changes was the renaming of Madras as Chennai in 1996. The name ‘Madras’, derived from the term Madraspattinam, was given to this city by the colonizers. As far as the new name Chennai is concerned, there are multiple stories attached to it.
Cochin to Kochi in 1996: The government decided to change the name of Cochin to Kochi in 1996. The new name Kochi is supposedly taken from the Malayalam word ‘Kochu azhi’, that means a ‘small lagoon’.
Poona to Pune in 1978: The oldest reference of the city can be found inscribed on a copper plate dating back to 937 BC belonging to Rashtrakuta Dynasty that refers to the town as ‘Punya Vishaya’. Britishers named the city Poona, but it was replaced with a more traditional ‘Pune’ in 1978.
Gauhati to Guwahati in 1983: The city of Gauhati was renamed as Guwahati in 1983. The name Guwahati is a combination of two terms – ‘Guwa’ which means ‘areca nut’ and ‘haat’ meaning market.
Benaras to Varanasi in 1956: The holy city of Benaras was renamed as Varanasi in 1956. The new name Varanasi has been derived from the name of the two rivers: Varuna and Assi.
Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram in 1991: The capital of Kerala is no longer called Trivandrum. The name of this city has been changed to Thiruvananthapuram from the year 1991. The new name Thiruvananthapuram means the city of Lord Anantha, the chief deity at the popular Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Waltair to Vishakhapatnam in 1987: The city of Waltair got renamed as Vishakhapatnam in 1987. This name of this city has been changed thrice. It was known as Waltair during the British rule, then Vizagpatnam after India gained independence and finally became Vishakhapatnam in 1987.
Panjim to Panaji in 1961: The city of Panjim was renamed as Panaji after the Liberation in 1961. The name Panjim was given to this city by the Portuguese in the 19th century.
Simla to Shimla: Shimla was known as Simla at the time of British rule in India. Simla was a popular summer capital for the English people. After Independence, Simla was renamed as Shimla, derived from the name of Goddess Shyamala Devi.
Calicut to Kozhikode: Calicut was renamed as Kozhikode after the Independence. The name is a combination of kovil meaning a palace and Kota meaning fort.