India That Is Bharat: An Exploration of Historical and Constitutional Significance

India That Is Bharat: An Exploration of Historical and Constitutional Significance

Sanjeev Chanda the author of this article is a practising Advocate at the Meghalaya High Court. He has expressed his views on Article 1 of the Indian Constitution which provides for the name of the Nation.


India, known as Bharat in Hindi and many Indian languages, is a name steeped in history, culture, and constitutional significance. The phrase "India that is Bharat" prominently appears in the Indian Constitution, anchoring the nation's ancient heritage with its modern identity. This article delves into the historical roots and the constitutional context of these twin names, unraveling the story behind "India that is Bharat."

Historical Roots

The name "Bharat" has ancient origins, tracing back to several millennia. It is derived from the name of a legendary king, Bharata, who has ruled the land in ancient times. According to Hindu mythology, King Bharata was an ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas of the Mahabharata. His reign is often depicted as a golden era, and the land he ruled came to be known as Bharatvarsha.

Bharatvarsha, in classical texts, denotes the Indian subcontinent and finds mention in numerous ancient scriptures and epics, such as the Rigveda, Mahabharata, and Puranas. These texts establishes the region spanning from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south, drawing a picture of a culturally and geographically unified entity.

The term "India" has a different origin. It comes from the Sindhu River (also known as Indus River), called "Sindhu" in Sanskrit. The ancient Persians, who had difficulty pronouncing 'S', referred to the river and the region around it as 'Hindu.' The Greeks adopted this term, calling the land beyond the Indus River 'Indos,' which later became 'India' in English. This name was popularized by European explorers and colonizers, who used it to describe the vast and diverse subcontinent.

Constitutional Context

Post-independence, the framers of the Indian Constitution faced the challenge of uniting a diverse nation with multiple languages, cultures, and identities. The choice of the country's name was a significant part of this endeavor. The Constituent Assembly debated the issue, and the consensus was to acknowledge both "India" and "Bharat" to reflect the country's ancient heritage and its modern, international identity.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with the words, "We, the people of India," and Article 1 states, "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States." This dual nomenclature is a testament to the country's historical continuity and its embrace of modern nationhood.

The name Bharat signifies the civilizational and cultural ethos that have shaped the Indian subcontinent over millennia. It evokes a sense of pride and connection to the land's ancient traditions and values. On the other hand, India represents the country's contemporary identity in the global arena, reflecting its aspirations as a modern, democratic republic.

Cultural Significance

The dual names also resonate with India's linguistic diversity. While "India" is more commonly used in English and international discourse, "Bharat" is widely used in Indian languages. This linguistic plurality is a sign of purity of the nation's rich cultural tapestry.

"Bharat" appears in national symbols and expressions of patriotism. For instance, the Indian national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana," written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, refers to the country as "Bharata Bhagya Vidhata" (dispenser of India's destiny). The name evokes a sense of belonging and reverence among Indians, cutting across regional and linguistic boundaries.

The debates which took place within the Indian Constituent Assembly regarding the name "India that is Bharat" was pivotal in shaping the country's identity as well. These discussions highlighted the importance of acknowledging both historical continuity and the aspirations of a newly independent nation. Here, we delve into the key points and perspectives that emerged during these debates.

Context of the Debates

The Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting the Constitution of India, convened between December 1946 and November 1949. Among the numerous issues discussed was the official name of the newly independent country. Members of the Assembly debated whether to adopt "India," "Bharat," or a combination of both, reflecting the country's ancient heritage and its contemporary identity.

Key Debates and Perspectives

1. The Proposal
The Draft Article 1, as proposed, read: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States." This phrasing was intended to balance the historical and cultural significance of "Bharat" with the internationally recognized name "India."

2. Arguments for "Bharat"
In the Indian Constituent Assembly debates, several members passionately argued for the name "Bharat" to be included in the Constitution to reflect India's ancient heritage and cultural identity. Some of the prominent figures who advocated for "Bharat" were:

1. K.M. Munshi
Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, a prominent lawyer, freedom fighter, and member of the Constituent Assembly, was a strong proponent of the name "Bharat." He argued that "Bharat" was deeply rooted in India's history and tradition. Munshi emphasized the importance of reclaiming an indigenous identity, distinct from the colonial legacy of the name "India."
Quote: "We must be clear that Bharat is our own name, while India is given to us by foreigners."

2. H.V. Kamath
H.V. Kamath, another notable member of the Constituent Assembly, strongly supported the name "Bharat." He underscored the cultural and historical significance of the name and its deep connection with the Indian people's identity.
Quote: "Let us call our country Bharat, a name which is enshrined in our hearts, enshrined in our history, and enshrined in our culture."

3. Seth Govind Das
Seth Govind Das, a senior leader from the Central Provinces and Berar, was also a vocal advocate for the name "Bharat." He highlighted the historical and cultural heritage associated with "Bharat" and its widespread recognition among the Indian populace.
Quote: "The name 'India' has been given to us by foreigners, and it is a reminder of our subjugation. 'Bharat' is our ancient name, and it is intimately associated with our cultural and historical traditions."

4. K. Santhanam
K. Santhanam, a distinguished member from Madras, supported the inclusion of "Bharat" in the Constitution. He stressed that "Bharat" represented the country's ancient civilization and cultural ethos.
Quote: "Bharat is a name that is embedded in our culture and history. It signifies the continuity of our civilization and the unity of our people."

5. Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of India, also favored the inclusion of "Bharat." Although his role was more as a mediator, he recognized the significance of acknowledging India's ancient identity alongside its modern name.
Quote: "The name 'Bharat' reflects the ancient and continuous civilization that has existed on this land for millennia. It is a symbol of our cultural heritage."

3. Arguments for "India"
On the other hand, some members argued for retaining "India," highlighting its international recognition and practicality in global affairs.

1. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, played a crucial role in the framing of the Constitution. While he recognized the cultural significance of "Bharat," he emphasized the practical importance of retaining "India" due to its established international recognition and continuity.
Quote: "The world knows us by the name 'India,' and it is advisable not to completely disregard this fact. We cannot afford to ignore the importance of continuity and identity in international affairs."

2. T.T. Krishnamachari
T.T. Krishnamachari, a prominent member of the Constituent Assembly from Madras, supported the inclusion of "India" for practical reasons. He argued that "India" was a name that had gained international recognition and was important for the country's identity in global affairs.
Quote: "The name 'India' is recognized all over the world and has established an identity for our country. Changing it entirely could lead to confusion and diminish our international standing."

3. Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, while not directly quoted in the specific debates about the name, was a proponent of modernity and continuity. He believed in maintaining a balance between tradition and progress. Nehru's vision for India as a modern nation-state included the retention of "India" for its established global identity.
Quote: "We are inheritors of a proud civilization, and as we build a new India, we must ensure that our country is recognized and respected globally." (This quote is paraphrased to reflect Nehru's general sentiments during the Constituent Assembly debates.)

4. K.M. Munshi
Although K.M. Munshi supported the name "Bharat," he also recognized the importance of "India" for international purposes, advocating for a balanced approach.
Quote: "While we honor our ancient heritage by recognizing 'Bharat,' we must also ensure that 'India' continues to represent us globally, maintaining continuity and recognition."

5. Frank Anthony
Frank Anthony, a prominent member representing the Anglo-Indian community, also argued in favor of retaining "India." He stressed the need for a name that would be widely accepted and recognized both within the country and internationally.
Quote: "The name 'India' carries with it a sense of continuity and established identity that is essential for our nation as we engage with the world."

4. Compromise and Consensus

The eventual compromise was to include both names, ensuring a dual identity that respected both historical and modern perspectives. This led to the final phrasing of Article 1: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."

This compromise was seen as a way to honor the country's ancient heritage while also embracing its modern, globally recognized identity. It allowed for a seamless integration of the two names, reflecting the country's cultural diversity and historical depth.

Cultural and Symbolic Significance

The inclusion of both names in the Constitution holds profound cultural and symbolic significance. "Bharat" links the nation to its ancient heritage, evoking a sense of pride and continuity. It resonates deeply within the cultural and linguistic context of the Indian subcontinent.

Conversely, "India" represents the country's modern identity and its role within the global community. It symbolizes the nation's aspirations as a democratic republic and its commitment to progress and development.


The debates in the Constituent Assembly regarding "India that is Bharat" highlighted the country's complex and multifaceted identity. The decision to include both names in the Constitution was a reflection of the nation's rich heritage and its modern aspirations. It represents a harmonious blend of the ancient and the contemporary, symbolizing the enduring spirit of a civilization that has continually evolved while staying true to its roots. The phrase "India that is Bharat" thus stands as a powerful reminder of the country's unique journey through history and its vision for the future.

"India that is Bharat" is more than a constitutional phrase; it is a profound representation of the country's identity, encapsulating its ancient heritage and modern existence. The historical roots of Bharat and the colonial legacy of India come together in the nation's constitutional framework, symbolizing a seamless blend of the past and the present. This duality is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of a civilization that has withstood the test of time, emerging as a vibrant and dynamic nation in the modern world.

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