India is a multilingual country and it is clearly visible in the name of its states, since most of the names are in the states’ native language. Also, many of the states have their origin in Sanskrit words, which was once the main language of India. History, language, rulers etc of a particular region have also contributed to the names. Check out different state names and their etymology.
Andhra Pradesh – The Sanskrit meaning of Andhra is ‘South’. Tribes in the state were also originally called ‘Andhras’. Maurya officials, Satavahanas were known as Andhra-Bhrutya, which means ‘Officers of South’.
Arunachal Pradesh – Sanskrit meaning of Aruna is ‘dawn lit’ and acha is ‘mountain’.
Assam –Asama is an Indo Aryan word which means ‘uneven’. According to some scholars, ‘Ahoms’ the rulers of Assam who ruled the region for about six centuries may also be the reason for Assam to have this name. Ahom is again derived from the word Asama.
Bihar – The name Bihar has a Sanskrit origin and is derived from the word ‘Vihara’ which means ‘abode’. Vihara is a Pali word. Earlier the state was Abode or Vihara of Buddhist monks. Vihara with time has changed to Bihar. Also there was a popular town with the name of Bihar, that used to be the headquarters of Muslim invaders. This town is now known as Bihar Sharif.
Chhattisgarh – Chattisgarh region was earlier known as Dakshin Kosala. There are no concrete evidences regarding the name. Chhattisgarh has 36 forts so may be this is one of the reasons that state is known as Chhattisgarh as Chhattis means Thirty Six.
Goa – How the name Goa came into existence is not clear. It may have originated from European or Portuguese language. It is also believed that name Goa may have originated from the Sanskrit word ‘go’ which means Cow.
Gujarat – The land of Gujjars. The name Gujarat has originated from Gujara who ruled that region from mid-8th to 11th century.
Haryana – Etymology of Haryana comes from two words. “Hari” and “ana”, in which “Hari” means ‘Vishnu (or even Lord Krisha, since he was considered a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) and “ana” means ‘to come’. During Mahabharata, Lord Krishna came to this place, so the state got its name from this legend.
Himachal Pradesh – Himachal Pradesh is a state of snow-capped mountains and many deities.The name has a Sanskrit origin. Hima means ‘snow’ and achal means ‘mountain’.
Jharkhand – Jharkhand is the land of low forest or ‘jhari’. In Sanskrit Jhar is ‘forest’ and khand is ‘land’. Jharkhand is also known as ‘Vananchal’.
Karnataka – Word Karnataka has been derived from Karu which means ‘lofty’ and Naad that means ‘land’.
Kerala – Geographically speaking, Kerala originated as an addition of land mass by the sea. Also, there are two theories behind the name Keralam. According to one theory, it may have originated from the word “Chernna” which means added and “alam” that means land. As per the second theory, the name Keralam is associated with the Chera dynasty, rulers of the region from the 1st to 5th century AD. So it may have come from the word “chera alam” which later on began to be known as Keralam. But the second theory is debatable. In Sanskrit Keralam is known as ‘the land added on’.
Madhya Pradesh – Madhya Pradesh is a Hindi version of ‘Central Province’. Before independence, the British used to administer most parts of the state as Central Provinces. After independence, many of these jurisdictions were joined. The Central Province and Berar in 1950 were combined with Makrai and Chattisgarh and now known as ‘Central Province’.
Maharashtra – Maharashtra has also many theories behind its name. In Sanskrit Maharashtra means a ‘great nation’ from a combination of the words “Maha” and “Rashtra”. Maharashtra has also originated from the clan known as rashtrika. This has been described in some of the inscriptions of Ashoka. The word Rashtra may also have been originated from ‘ratta’ or more precisely Rashtrakuta (a dynasty that ruled this part of India from 8th to 10th centuries). Origin of the word Rashtra may have also been from Rathi or Ratha that means ‘Charioteer’.
Manipur – Manipur is the land of Jewels.
Meghalaya – The land of clouds. Meghalaya has Sanskrit origin in which “Megha” means clouds and “Alaya” means abode.
Mizoram – Mizoram has been derived from two words “Mi” that means people and “zo” that means highlander.
Nagaland – The Land of Nagas.
Odisha – Odisha has been derived from the Sanskrit word “Odra Vishaya”or “Odra Desa”. Instead of a meaning, it refers to the Odra people living in central India.
West Bengal – Sanskrit word ‘Vanga’ is the original word for Bengal. From this word, different versions have been originated like Bangalah in Persian, Bangal in Hindi and Bangla in Bengali. Partition of Bengal in 1905 has added the word West to it. In 1947, it was again partitioned and with this West Bengal became a state in India and East Bengal as a separate nation that is now known as Bangladesh.
Punjab – Land of Five Rivers. The word Punjab has originated from the Indo-Iranian word “Punj” that means five and “ab” which means water.
Rajasthan – In Sanskrit the word “Raja” means king. It was earlier known as Rajputana meaning ‘Land of Rajputs’.
Sikkim – Sikkim in Tibetan language is known as Denjong. The name has originated from two words of Limbu orgin in which “Su” means new and “Khyim” means palace.
Tamil Nadu – Tamil means ‘Sweet nectar’ and Nadu in is a Tamilian word which means ‘homeland’ or ‘nation’. Tamil Nadu essentially means, homeland of the Tamils.
Tripura – Tripura is the third smallest state of India. There are many theories behind its name. Tripura may have been derived from Tipra, original inhabitant of the region. The name may have been derived from two Kokborok words “tui and “para” in which “tui” means water and “para” near. The name might have derived from the name of the deity Tripura Sundari at Udaipur. Another theory that suggest the etymology of the state came from the king whose name was Tripur and who ruled the region.
Uttar Pradesh – Uttar Pradesh means ‘Northern Province’.
Uttarakhand – The new state of Uttaranchal was initially named Uttaranchal which means, ‘northern mountains’. The state got separated from Uttar Pradesh in 2000. The name was later changed to Uttarakhand which means ‘Northland’.
Telangana-The name Telangana is derived from the word Telugu Angana, which means a place where Telugu is spoken. The Nizams (1724-1948) used the word Telangana to separate it from the Marathi speaking regions of their kingdom.
Andaman and Nicobar Island – Meaning of Andaman is ‘Island of God’. It original name was ‘Handuman’ (a Sanskrit word) that means ‘Hanuman’. Most likely Nicboar has been derived from the Chola Dynasty and the name given was “Nakkavaram” which means naked man in Tamil.
Chandigarh – This city beautiful got its name from the Chandi temple of Chandi devi who is believed to protect locals.
Delhi – How Delhi got its name is uncertain. Back in the 5th century BC, the city was built by a king of the Mauryan dynasty and most likely he had given his name to the city.The Hindi version of Delhi, “Dhili” means loose and it was used by the Tomara rulers for this city. Also, coins of that period were known as “Dehliwal”. Some scholars also believe that the original name of Delhi was Dhillika.
Jammu and Kashmir – Jammu and Kashmir is a beautiful valley and also known as heaven on earth. But this valley is also known as the Valley of Rishi Kashyapa from which comes the word Kashmir. Origin of the name like most of the states in India is again Sanskrit in which “Ka” means water and “shimeera” means to desiccate. Legend has it that Lake Kashmira was drained to kill a demon ‘Jalodbhava’. The word Jammu may have originated from the name of its ruler Raja Jambu Lochan. It will become a UT from October 31, 2019.
Lakshadweep – Hundred Thousand Islands.
Ladakh – The origin of the name lies in Tibetan language La-dvags, which means “land of high passes”. The remote mountainous region of Ladakh will become a Union Territory from October 31, 2019.
Puducherry – Earlier called Pondicherry, this name has been derived from Puducheri which is a Tamil word. “Pudu” means new and “cheri” means settlement.
Then there are two more union territories, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu whose etymology is not known with certainty.
To know more about India and its States, you may refer to the following: