Renaming of places in India

Context: Ahmednagar is set to be renamed as ‘Ahilyanagar’ in honour of the renowned Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar. This renaming decision follows the previous renaming of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad to Dharashiv.

More about the news

  • Ahilyabai was born in Ahmednagar and after her husband’s death in the Battle of Kumbher in 1754, Ahilyabai took charge of the Malwa region. 
  • She established Maheshwar as the capital of the Holkar dynasty in present-day Madhya Pradesh.
  • The demand for renaming Ahmednagar was initially raised by the ‘Dhangar community’, as Ahilyabai belonged to the Dhangar (shepherd) community. 

(To know more about Ahilyabai Holkar, visit the link:

History of Ahmednagar 

  • Ahmednagar, located in the Western region of Maharashtra, has a rich history dating back to 240 BC, mentioned in reference to Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. 
  • During the medieval period, Ahmednagar came under the rule of influential dynasties such as Rashtrakutas, Western Chalukyas and Delhi Sultanate. 
  • Under Delhi Sultanate, the region was indirectly controlled and a revolt by Afghan soldier Allaudin Hasan Gangu resulted in the establishment of the Bahmani kingdom in Deccan.
  • In 1486, Prime Minister Malik Ahmad Nizam Shah defeated Bahamani Sultan’s attempt to remove him from power, which led to the establishment of an independent kingdom called Nizam Shahi (Ahmednagar), after the disintegration of the Bahmani empire. In 1490, the city of Ahmednagar was founded, on the left bank of the Sina River.
  • In his book ‘A Discovery of India’, Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged Nizam Shah as the founder of Ahmednagar in 1490.
  • In 1636 Aurangzeb, then Mughal viceroy of Deccan finally annexed the sultanate to the Mughal Empire.

Renaming places in India

  • The Supreme Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought to rename the commission should focus on ‘ancient India’.
  • The court upheld the principles of ‘rule of law, secularism, and constitutionalism’, and warned against intolerance. 
  • The court stated that the country cannot be held prisoner to the past.

Constitutional provisions for renaming places in India

  • Renaming a city is a task entrusted to the State Legislatures: 
  • A resolution is raised by a Member of the Legislative Assembly, proposing the renaming of a particular city or street.
  • It is deliberated upon, and its consequences are discussed.
  • The validity of the resolution is then voted upon.
  • If there is a simple majority vote in favour of the resolution, it is declared passed.
  • State Legislature, based on the majority view, makes necessary changes to the name of the city.
  • The procedure for renaming a state is a task entrusted to the Parliament: 
  • Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution provides for the renaming of a state.
  • A bill for renaming a state is introduced in Parliament on the recommendation of the President.
  • Before the introduction of the bill, President sends it to the respective state assembly to express their views within a stipulated time.
  • Views of the state assembly are not binding on President or Parliament but are of vital importance as any law made will affect that particular state.
  • The bill is then sent to Parliament for deliberation and it must be passed by a simple majority. 
  • The bill is sent to President for approval and after approval, the bill becomes a law, modifying officially the name of the state. 

The rationale behind renaming places in India

  • Rapid development: India is projected to experience significant urbanization, with an additional 416 million people to reside in cities by 2050. Each new project or street will require a new name. 
  • Fostering Indian identity: Visakhapatnam was given the name ‘Waltair’ by the British, and renaming it aims to reclaim its Indian identity.
  • Honouring leaders: To honour individuals being universally admired for their contributions to the country. Aurangzeb Road was renamed Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road in tribute to former President of India
  • Identity politics: A powerful tool for promoting communal pride.
  • Political changes: A testing ground for political changes that go beyond symbolic gestures and have substantive implications.

Advantages of renaming places

  • Preserving cultural heritage: Changing Gurgaon to ‘Gurugram’ restored the historical name, it got from the Mahabharata story of Guru Dronacharya. Similarly, renaming Allahabad as ‘Prayag Raj’ reflects its cultural significance.
  • Civilizational awakening: Renaming places can contribute to reviving a sense of civilizational consciousness, which has faced invasions and colonialism. 
  • Exerting norms in public space: Allows governments to shape the values embedded in public spaces and contribute to the formation of a desired societal order. 

Challenges in renaming places

  • Creating confusion: In a global economy, changing names after they have gained universal recognition can lead to confusion. 
  • Intangible aspects: Intangible aspects tied to the lived reality of communities may still be associated with the original name. Cultural and historical identities may persist despite official name changes.
  • Cultural genocide: Renaming places can be viewed as part of a larger process of cultural genocide, where communities feel diminished by disregarding their contributions to the nation’s history.
  • Economic costs: Revising signage to updating official documents and data sets, which involve public expenditure.

Way forward

  • Supreme Court’s message: It cautioned against misusing history and emphasised the importance of upholding the concept of fraternity in the Constitution’s Preamble.
  • Focus on re-education: Addressing historical guilt and creating a more inclusive society requires re-educating present societies about past wrongs.
  • Revamp naming philosophy: India needs a revamped philosophy of naming that avoids wasting social capital, especially considering projected urban development and infrastructure expansion.
  • Avoid politicisation: Political parties should refrain from using popular beliefs and historical narratives as political stunts. Lawmakers should prioritize growth over further fragmentation of society.
  • Respect history and fraternity: Prioritize upholding the concept of fraternity as outlined in the Constitution’s Preamble.
  • Inclusive cultural landscapes: Ensure that cultural landscapes embrace names, languages, and scripts from diverse communities, fostering a sense of belonging for all. 

Mains Practice Question

Q. Examine the multifaceted challenges linked to the renaming of places in India, considering the socio-cultural, historical, and administrative dimensions. (10 marks; 150 words)

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to the history of medieval India, consider the following statements:

1. The Nizam Shahi dynasty in the Deccan was founded by Malik Ahmad Shah, during the reign of Mughal emperor Shahjahan.

2. The Ahmednagar Sultanate was defeated and made a part of the Mughal Empire during the reign of emperor Aurangzeb.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Scroll down for answer










Answer: (d)

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