Mumbai or Bombay: What's in a name?

Written by: Amol
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"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

                - William Shakespeare in his play 'Romeo and Juliet'

I wonder how many more families will have bread on their table today in this country, if everybody in the world calls the financial capital of India - Mumbai instead of Bombay.

Gateway of India

In what has ignited an outrage on social media, British newspaper ‘The Independent' has decided to call Mumbai by its colonial-era name 'Bombay'.

Why this outrage underlines our hypocrisy

When it comes to chest-thumping over one's ‘legendary' past, culture, and tradition, we Indians would surely be ahead in the race irrespective of how economically miserable and socially backward we are in the present.

In India, we have always been so concerned about getting rid of the colonial legacy but alas, it has merely been on the surface limited to superficial issues - changing names of the buildings, roads and cities. While the reality is that we are still suffering from colonial mindset which is apparent in our political and social life.

A cosmopolitan city like Bombay, which boosts of its diversity and has for long been India's link to the world, doesn't belong to anyone. So, expecting the world to see it through a particular lens is absurd, let alone being called by a certain name.

History of Mumbai versus Bombay

The name Mumbai is derived from the name of the goddess Mumbadevi. It means "mother" in the Marathi language. The Old name Bombay originated from the Old Portuguese phrase bom baim, meaning "good little bay".

In the 16th - 17th century, different variations of the name ‘Bombay' were used - Bombain, Bombaym, Bambaye, Boon Bay, Bon Bahia. The British later anglicized the Portuguese name as 'Bombay'.

Shiv Sena, which runs its political business using Marathi and Hindu nationalism as its fodder, changed city's name to Mumbai in 1995 when it came to power in Maharashtra.

Few major such changes include Madras which became Chennai in 1996

There are different theories for the origin of both the names Chennai and Madras.

Chennai - Derived from Nayak ruler Damal Chennappa Nayagar or was named after Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple.

Madras - Derived from Madraspattinam, a fishing-village north of Fort St George or from the word Madhuras meaning "juice of honey" or "sugarcane" in Sanskrit.

Mysore became Mysuru in 2014

Mysore is an anglicised version of Mahishuru. It means the abode of Mahishasura, a mythological demon who used to rule the area.

Orissa became Odisha in 2011

Odisha is derived from the ancient Prakrit word Odda Visaya. A translation of the Mahabharata into the Odia language in the 15th century called the region as Odra Rashtra and Odisha.

Assam became Asom in 2006

It is said that the British used to call the area Assam because they couldn't pronounce Asom, which means uneven. The name Assam was considered to be against the ethos and spirit of Assamese nationalism.

Belgaum became Belagavi in 2014

Belgaum is the anglicized form of the Sanskrit word Velugrama, meaning "Bamboo village". The city is known as Belagavi in Kannada language.

Shimoga became Shivamogga in 2014

The new name Shivamogga is derived from the story that Lord Shiva drunk Tunga river water using Mogge at the city.

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