Altering the city names, even countries, is not a recent phenomenon and it is not confined to South Asia solely. If we go back through history, we will find that perhaps the entire planet exists under different names. -not only cities, the names of countries to have changed. Macedonia is the newest to enter this list. In a referendum, after 27 years of struggles and talks, the new country will be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.
But why the change?
In one line-There is no need to change the name as just that. So why are the names changed so frequently? In ancient times, changes were made by vernacular. The Greek Mughals changed the name of many cities in India as according to their language. Then came the British who changed their names to demonstrate their heritage, and several times Asian countries were tongue twisters to them so many of the local names shared their titles.
Time of independence, the name of the cities was changed to demolish the British heritage and commemorate the national independence and individuality. The names of the cities were peoples identities. Presently, renaming of cities is something of an expression of culture. The statement that the cultural identity stays intact. Instead of individuals, its at the hands of the political figures. Its a way of ensuring that they’d like to maintain the old heritage and the traditional identity of the community.
Much of the name change is made based on historical art and cultural heritage. The renaming is done on the basis of a vocabulary such as how demographic transition contributes to a change in the pronunciation of a specific name. – for example, Calcutta was pronounced Kolkata by many and Bangalore was pronounced Bengaluru. This allows political officials to establish the cultural / vernacular / class identities and to influence on the peoples perceptions who are closely associated with that as well.
Although they change the name of the city, they are not really forceful as to its immediate validation. It occurs slowly and over time. Costs are generated for adjustments to the signboard, etc., which are not really massive. The financial repercussions are not necessarily expressed since they are carried out in a gradual way. It doesn’t make much difference if you use the old names. Slowly, everyone gets used to new names.
Here are a few cities/countries whose names have changed around the globe. Burma-MYANMAR-The former capital Rangoon became Yangon. Many still believe that Yangon is the capital of Myanmar, but in fact, since 2012, the capital is Naypyidaw which is one of the worlds emptiest capitals.
Kampuchea-Cambodia (a new name). Its capital Phnom Penh was formerly called Krong Chaktomuk. Peking, the Chinese capital is now called Beijing. In 1932, from the Sanskrit name of Siam, the country was retitled Thailand. Before 1935, Iran was Persia. (Iran is a shortened form of Airyana Vaeja, namely a homestead of the Aryans)
Iraq used to be Mesopotamia.
Vietnam was Annam.
Indonesia was East Indies.
Taiwan was Formosa.
Malaysia was Malaya.
France was Gaul.
Gurugram was Gurgaon.
Faisalabad was Lyallpur.
And in era of colonization, New York City was named New Amsterdam.Varanasi in olden times was also called Anand Van, Kashi and Banaras.
And the list is exhaustive…
Author – Rtr. Megha Ranjan
Rotaract Club of Dumdum Metropolitan