What’s in a name? Plenty of politics… looks like.

Anytime soon, Bangalore is expected to be officially christened Bengaluru. But the issue is now stuck with the Union Home Ministry.

The name Bengaluru, though, appears to be catching up fast, with several major corporate houses and television channels adopting the new name. The official nod for the change in name has, however, not been given yet. Also, the confusion over how to spell the new name (‘Bengalooru’ or ‘Bengaluru’) still prevails.

The Centre reportedly has no objection to permitting the change of 12 of the 13 names sent across by the Karnataka:

Bangalore as Bengaluru; Mangalore as Mangaluru; Bellary as Ballari; Bijapur as Vijayapura; Chikmagalur as Chikkamagaluru; Gulbarga as Kalburagi; Mysore as Mysuru; Hospet as Hosapete; Shimoga as Shivamogga; Hubli as Hubbali; Tumkur as Tumakuru and Kaup as Kapu.

Although a small town along the west coast, the name change of Kaup as Kapu was sought much earlier and has been pending with the Centre for years.

Karnataka name change truck

The objection only pertains to Belgaum as Belagavi, but Karnataka has categorically told the Centre that it would like to affect all the 13 changes at one go. If the State gives in to the objections (unofficial) raised by the Home Ministry, it could be read as neglect of Belgaum, and that would be construed as politically insensitive. It could also be seen as neglecting Belgaum’s interest. Kannada protagonists have said the name change should first start with Belgaum since Belagavi is closer to Kannada than Belgaum. As Union Home Minister Shivaraj Patil hails from Maharashtra, he could be under pressure from his home turf for rejecting this proposal. So the name change is now entangled in political twirl.

From Boiled Beans to Bangalore to Bengaluru…

Among the metropolises in India, Bangalore is next to Delhi in antiquity

An interesting peek in to history reveals the evolution of the name Bangalore. A popular anecdote recounts that the 11th-century Hoysala king Veera Ballala II, while on a hunting expedition, lost his way in the forest. Tired and hungry, he came across a poor old woman who served him boiled beans. The grateful king named the place benda kaala-ooru (literally, ‘town of boiled beans’), which was eventually simplified to Bengalūru.

Another tale talks of Benacha kalluru (Benachu is quartz stone found in plenty in this area) becoming Bengaluru. Another theory traces the name to Benge trees found in Bengeuru, which became Bengaluru.

Bangalore also had other names such as Devarayapattana (16th Century) and Kalyanapura/Mangalapura.

The earliest reference to the name Bengaluru was found in a ninth century Western Ganga Dynasty stone inscription on a vīra kallu (literally, ‘hero stone’, a rock edict extolling the virtues of a warrior). In this inscription found in Begur, Bengaluru is referred to as a place in which a battle was fought in 890 AD. It states that the place was part of the Ganga kingdom until 1004 and was known as Bengaval-uru, the ‘City of Guards’ in old Kannada. It was during the British rule that the name of the city became anglicised to Bangalore. (See an earlier Citizen Matters article on Bangalore Cantonment)

The proposal of name change first came up in December 2005, during a meeting of litterateurs at the state’s golden jubilee Suvarna Karnataka celebrations. Jnanapith award winner UR Anantha Murthy mooted that Bangalore be renamed Bengaluru to mark the occasion. The then Chief Minister N Dharam Singh welcomed the idea and announced that it would be done.

In September 2006 the BBMP passed a resolution to implement the name change. On November 1st, 2006 the then CM, HD Kumaraswamy announced that it was official.

As with any other change, the city’s name change has been opposed by many. A few are worried about the city’s brand value diminishing , while some say it goes with local culture. Unlike the debates over the name change of most other cities in India (Bombay to Mumbai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Madras to Chennai, Trivandrum to Thiruvanantapuram) and elsewhere in the world (Peking to Beijing, Edo to Tokyo, Constantinople to Istanbul, etc.), the debate over the name ‘change’ of Bangalore is happening at the local, national and global levels. Being a city with high immigrant population, some media polls show that the majority of its people are not in favour of the name 'Bengaluru'. But, one feels that the change will be quickly adapted and ‘brand’ Bangalore will remain intact the world over, as with Mumbai and Chennai. It will be business as usual.