The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Tuesday approved a proposal to rename the historic city of Allahabad as Prayagraj, drawing a strong criticism from opposition parties. It’s certainly not the first city to get a new name. Before this, Gurgaon became Gurugram, Bangalore became Bengaluru, Bombay became Mumbai, Calcutta became Kolkata and a host of others went through a significant change, notably Madras to Chennai.
While more than 100 cities and towns have already been renamed, we take a look at 20 prominent ones and a glimpse into their history.
1. Gurgaon to Gurugram
In 2016, Gurgaon was renamed as Gurugram, which is the corporate hub of Haryana on the outskirts of Delhi. Legend has it that Gurgaon derived its name from Guru Dronacharya, the master of archery in Mahabharata who groomed the Pandavas and Kauravas in military tactics. It is said the village was given as ‘gurudakshina’ to him by the Pandavas and hence it came to be known as Guru-gram, which in course of time got distorted to Gurgaon.
2. Bangalore to Bengaluru
Long before the invasion of technology on the city, a war was fought in 890 CE, according to a Western Ganga dynasty inscription found in Begur. The city was a part of the Ganga Kingdom until the year 1004 when it was named as ‘Bengaval-uru’, also referred to as the ‘City of Guards’ in Old Kannada. The name change took place in 2006.
3. Bombay to Mumbai
Some of the oldest names for the city date back to the 16th and 17th centuries when it was referred to as Mombayn (1525), Bombaym (1552), Bombain (1552), Bombay (1538), Boon Bay (1690), Bombaim (Portugese 1666) etc. During the British rule in the 17th century, they changed the Portugese name to an anglicised Bombay. The financial capital of India, the name Bombay was changed to Mumbai in 1996. It derives its name from the term Mumba or Maha-Amba, the patron goddess.
4. Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram
The city was known as Trivandrum until 1991 when the government decided to change it to its original name Thiruvananathapuram. It’s pronounced in Malayalam as ‘Thiru-anantha-puram’, which means the city of Lord Ananta. It’s one of the oldest cities with tradition traditions dating back to 1000 BC.
5. Calcutta to Kolkata
The city ubiquitous for its ‘adda’ (casual gathering of people engaging in friendly banter), adopted it’s Bengali name Kolkata officially in 2001. The name is derived from the Bengali term ‘Kolikata’ which was the name of one of the three villages predating the British rule in India. The other two villages were Govindapur and Sutanati.
6. Madras to Chennai
The name Madras predates the arrival of British in India. It was reportedly derived from the term ‘Madraspattinam’, a fishing village situated north of Fort St George. The name change took place in 1996. There are, however, several different interpretations to the term Chennai, with one theory claiming it was named after the Chenna Kesava Perumal temple.
7. Cochin to Kochi
In the 14th century, Kochi was an important trading centre dealing in spices. It was also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea. The origin of the name Kochi is reportedly derived from the Malayalam word ‘Kochu azhi’, which means ‘small lagoon’. The anglicised name gave way to a more traditional Kochi in 1996.
8. Pondicherry to Puducherry
Lovingly referred to as ‘Pondi’, the pleasantly old-world city of Pondicherry changed to Puducherry in 2006.
9. Waltair to Vishakhapatnam
Vishakhapatnam’s (Vizag) history can be traced back to the 6th century BC. It was historically a part of the Kalinga region and then eventually ruled by the Vengi kingdom, Pallava and Ganga dynasty. It is the largest city of Andhra Pradesh both in terms of area and population. It went from being called Waltair during British rule to Vizagpatnam after independence and later became Vishakhapatnam in 1987.
In ancient texts, Guwahati is referred to as the city of Pragyjyotishpura. The name Guwahati is derived from the word ‘Guwa’ which means ‘areca nut’ and ‘haat’ (market). The city changed it anglicised name to Guwahati in 1983.
11. Benaras to Varanasi
Varanasi is traditionally known as the culture centre of north India for thousands of years. Known for its various ghats and embankments where ritual cleansing takes place everyday, the city is also a global pilgrimage center. It derives its name from two rivers: Varuna and Assi. Benaras became Varanasi effective 1956.
12. Poona to Pune
Pune was closely associated with the Indian freedom struggle between 1875 and 1910 when it became the centre of agitation spearheaded by prominent Indian leaders Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The oldest reference of the city can be found inscribed on a copper plate dating back to 937 BC belonging to Rashtrakuta Dynasty that refers to the town as ‘Punya Vishaya’. Britishers named the city Poona, but it was replaced with a more traditional ‘Pune’ in 1978.
13. Trichur to Thrissur
The name Thrissur is the short from of Thiru-shiva-per-ur, which means ‘The City’ with the name of Lord Shiva’. It was one of the places where the Indian freedom movement gathered momentum after a committee was formed in 1919 of the Indian National Congress (INC). First sites of human settlement during the stone age have also been discovered here. The anglicised Trichur was changed to Thrissur in 2014.
14. Baroda to Vadodara
According to history, Vadodara was inhabited by early trade settlers who settled in the region around 812 AD. The province was primarily dominated by Hindu kings who ruled until 1297. The name Vadodara traces its origins from a term called ‘Vatpatrak’ or banyan tree leaf. The name change from Baroda took place in 1974.
15. Tumkur to Tumakaru
Known as the coconut city, the name Tumkur is widely believed to have mutated from the term ‘Tumbe ooru’ (a widely used flower), which was available in abundance in this region. It’s also one of the cities under PM Modi’s Smart Cities Mission. The name change took place in 2014.
16. Hubali to Hubbali
Old Hubli, also known as Rayas Hubli, grew as a commercial centre under the rule of Vijayanagar empire in 1336 AD. Back then it was famous for cotton, saltpetre and iron trade. In Kannada, Hubli means a ‘flowering creeper’. The name was changed from Hubli to Hubbali in 2014.
17. Mysore to Mysuru
Mysore is derived from the word ‘mahishuru’. The term means ‘Buffalo’ in Sanskrit and ‘Mahishasur’ (demon) in Kannada, who could shape-shift into a buffalo as well as human. The place is well known for the sweet dish Mysore Pak and silk sarees. According to Hindu mythology, the area was ruled by Mahishasur until Goddess Chamundeshwari killed him. The name change came about in 2014.
18. Mangalore to Mangaluru
Mangalore is known by four different names in four different languages: Kudla in Tulu, Maikala in Beary, Mangaluru in Kannada, and Kodial in Canarese Konkani. It is named after the deity Mangaldevi.
19. Bellary to Ballari
Bellary changed its name to Ballari in 2014. There are several accounts on the origin of its name. One legend says when a few worshippers travelling to Ballari couldn’t find a Shiva Linga to worship, they installed a Balla (measuring cup) upside down as Shiva Linga and worshipped it. The other legend derives its name from the old Kannada word Vallari.
20. Craganore to Kodungallur
Kodungallur, just over an hour’s drive from Kochi in central Kerala, stands at the very spot where an ancient port city by the name of Muziris stood, which many say dates back as early as 3000 BC. Conceived at a cost of Rs 94 crore and situated in Kodungallur, Kerala’s Muziris Heritage Project is billed as India’s largest heritage conservation plan. According to common belief, the name is derived from the term ‘Kodi-linga-puram’ which means the land of 10 million Shiva Lingas.