Shakespeare said what is there in a name. Today’s socio-political environment doesn’t seem to oblige by him. The tradition of changing name of cities has a got some pace again as the Uttar Pradesh government changed the name of Faizabad to Ayodhya after changing Allahabad to Prayajraj.
The tradition of the renaming of a city is not new. The name of Madras, Calcutta, Bombay was changed to Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai respectively. The old names were given by the Britishers which were changed to shed of the bitter memories of the tyranny and oppression the cities faced for a long period of time. The rename of Faizabad to Ayodhya seems very futile as there is already the historic city of Ayodhya existing near Faizabad which would create unnecessary confusion for the local people as well as for the tourist. The history of Faizabad has nothing to do with Ayodhya and ram janam bhoomi.
Why name changing?
There are a number of reasons behind this. When a city’s interaction with the global world increases in terms of trade and commerce, it’s name is changed to give it a global appeal like in case of Deutschland being renamed Germany and Roma renamed as Rome.
The new name given is many times influenced by the ideology of the authority who is changing the name. If the ruler is a Hindu nationalist preacher then it is natural that he might replace the name with names from Hindu mythology that glorify Hindu ethos and history.
The vote bank politics also plays its role here. It may be done to gain votes of a certain community by impressing them and strengthen its political footing over them by renaming the place with name these people can relate to.
Sometimes it is the war of religions. The names of places which have their origin from Islamic culture are renamed and are given Hindu names. In Uttar Pradesh Ali Nagar became Arya Nagar, Humayun Nagar was changed to Hanuman Nagar, and Urdu Bazaar became Hindi Bazar.
The names are changed to give it an Indian identity and scrap of the western soundness of the name as in case of the name of Trivandrum being changed to Thiruvananthapuram, which is a Malayali word.
There is a tradition of naming places on the name of some idols, to pay tribute to them. For instance, naming an area after Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi or someone else. The recent example is the rename of Mughalsarai station to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg.
How beneficial is it?
Just an announcement of the changing name is not sufficient. Changing the name of a place involves money. You need to change the name from all the documents, whether public or private. Think of all the signboards you have ever seen on roads or somewhere, with the change in name, they’ll be changed too. Names from government websites will be changed too. One needs money to do all this.
It does not look so beneficial from the economic point of view as there is nothing much a name change can contribute to the socio-economic development of a place.
Largely, it has to do with the politics and the vote bank. Next time one talks about the changing name of cities, think ‘WHY?’.