“Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable.” –WH Auden
Whenever we travel, we take our culture and language to a faraway land. We give them a bit of ours and bring back some of theirs.
Different civilizations created their own method of communication which became languages and made their own strategies to live life which came to be known as cultures.
The fertile land adjacent to a perennial river gave birth to civilizations and one of the oldest is the Indus Valley civilization.
India is one of those civilizations which have a rich history, amalgam of cultures and languages.
Many rulers and conquerors came to India in different eras and centuries. Some came to loot it, some came to appreciate its beauty and some came to make it their colony.
With different purpose, in different centuries many came to India from foreign land, to blend into the culture and to give some of theirs.
If ever you keenly observe the old Indian cities and their names, you will surely spot a hint of different eras of history in them.
Kanpur was Cawnpore for the British. Similarly, United Provinces is now called Uttar Pradesh.
Gateway of India during the industrialization era, Bombay has now become Mumbai. Central Provinces came to be known as Madhya Pradesh and Calcutta is Kolkata now.
The summer capital of British raj Simla is now called Shimla which remains to be the queen of hills.
Ooty has become Udhagamandalam, Cochin became Kochi and good old Madras became Chennai.
Maharashtra’s happening city Poona is called Pune and capital of mini Portugal, Goa, Panaji was called Panjim. Vizagapatnam is called Visakhapatnam though millenials are more comfortable with calling it Vizag. Bangalore is now Bengaluru.
These names give a hint of English and mark the prominence of west in Indian history.
Not only the names, architecture and governing policies reflect the western influence. For instance, you visit Kolkata, the Victoria Palace and Eden Gardens will take you back to British time and you might call the city, Calcutta instead of Kolkata for a while.
National Capital New Delhi is an epitome of west in India. Connaught Place is not only an English word but the architecture is equally English. Parliament House, Supreme Court and President House are the standing proves of British presence.
While one may say what’s in a name, old names of Indian cities are fascinating and have the ability to take you back to old times. This is how past and present live together. They are the proof of how rich Indian history is and how vibrant and dynamic India has been since forever.