Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bangalore readies to take on a new name: Bengaluru


Following Bombay's transformation to Mumbai and Calcutta's rebranding as Kolkata, it will soon be Indian technology-hub Bangalore's turn to be given a new moniker.

Yesterday, the top elected official of southern Karnataka state was expected to formally begin the process to re-christen Bangalore as Bengaluru, a name considered by nationalists in the southern Indian state to be closer to the city's pre-colonial name, Benda Kaluru.

Bangalore has emerged in recent years as the center of India's booming software industry. Most top US technology companies have offices in Bangalore.

Murky politics

The reaction to the state government's move was hardly flattering.

"It's murky politics. There was no public pressure on the state government to change Bangalore's name," said Sharath Babu, an environmentalist based in Bangalore.

"The old name is better as it is synonymous with Bangalore's growth as a technology hub," said M. Chakravarthy, a government employee, when reached by the phone in Bangalore.

"People will still call it Bangalore," Chakravarthy said.

The decision to change the name was taken in December last year by state authorities in response to a demand from regional nationalists -- including Kannada writers who want to promote the southern Indian region's native tongue, Kannada.

However, Dharam Singh, the then top state elected official, didn't pursue it as his Congress party lost power in the state legislature elections.

Yesterday's announcement for the change in Bangalore's name coincided with the golden jubilee celebrations of Karnataka state's formation.

The state's present boundaries were formed in 1956 from the Kannada-speaking regions of southern India.

The name change would have to be approved by the federal government and India's president.

The state government would have to wait for a few months before it formally changes Bangalore's name to Bengaluru.

Growing trend

There is a growing trend among India's politicians to go back to the old names.

The name of India's financial capital has already been changed from Bombay to Mumbai; the southern city of Madras is now known as Chennai; and Calcutta in the east -- the original seat of the British colonizers who ruled India until 1947 -- has switched its name to Kolkata.

The new names have gradually caught on and are gaining acceptance in India and abroad.

Bangalore was originally named Benda Kaluru, or "the place of boiled beans" in Kannada, because of a legend that says a local chieftain and his warriors spent the night there following a battle and an old woman offered them some boiled beans for dinner.

India's British colonial rulers had simplified the name to Bangalore.

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