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The geographic region containing the Indian subcontinent

Historically the name India may referred to either the region of Greater India and the Indian subcontinent. Today it refers to the contemporary Republic of India located therein. But originally the name is derived from the name of the Sindhu (Indus River) which is in Pakistan today, and it has been in use in Greek since Herodotus (4th century BC).[1] The term appeared in Old English as early the 9th century and reemerged in Modern English in the 17th century.

The Republic of India has two principal short names in both official and popular English usage, each of which is historically significant, India and Bharat. The first article of the Constitution of India states that "India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states," implicitly codifying India and Bharat as equally official short names for the Republic of India. A third name, Hindustan, is a historical term for the north and northwestern subcontinent (especially during the British India period) that is now widely used as an alternative name for the region comprising most of the modern nations of the subcontinent when Indians speak among themselves. The usage of Bharat, Hindustan or India is dependent on the context and language of conversation.

According to Manusmṛti (2.21–22) North India (i.e., India north of the Vindhyas) is also known as Āryāvarta (Sanskrit: आर्यावर्त, abode of the Aryans).[2]



The concept of country is new in India, in the past, people only identified themselves with the smaller regions to which they lived. [3]

The English term is from Greek Ἰνδία (Indía), via Latin India. Indía in Koine Greek denoted the region beyond the Indus (Ἰνδός) river in the Pakistan, since Herodotus (5th century BC) ἡ Ἰνδική χώρη, hē Indikē chōrē; "the Indian land", Ἰνδός, Indos, "an Indian", from Old Persian Hinduš and listed as a conquered territory by Darius I in the Persepolis terrace inscription).[4] The name is derived ultimately from Sindhu, the Sanskrit name of the river which is a part of Pakistan today, but also meaning "river" generically.[5] Latin India is used by Lucian(2nd century).

The name India was known in Old English language and was used in King Alfred's translation of Paulus Orosius. In Middle English, the name was, under French influence, replaced by Ynde or Inde, which entered Early Modern English as Indie. The name India then came back to English usage from the 17th century onwards, and may be due to the influence of Latin, or Spanish or Portuguese.

Sanskrit indu "drop (of Soma)", also a term for the Moon, is unrelated, but has sometimes been erroneously connected.


Āryāvarta (Sanskrit: आर्यावर्त, abode of Aryans) is a name for North India, where the culture of the Indo-Aryans was based, in classical Sanskrit literature. Manu Smriti (2.22) gives the name to "the tract between the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges, from the Eastern (Bay of Bengal) to the Western Sea (Arabian Sea)".[6][7]


Bhārata was picked to be name of country India in 1950, but there is no historical evidence that the name Bhārata was used in actual life before 1950.[8]

The name Bhārata (भारत) came from king Bharata, referring mainly to two figures - Bharata Chakravartin and/or Emperor Bharata - and it has been used as a self-ascribed name by some people of the Indian subcontinent and the Republic of India.[9] The designation Bhārata appears in the official Sanskrit name of the country, Bhārata Gaṇarājya. The name is derived from the ancient Hindu Puranas, which refer to the land that comprises India as Bhāratavarṣa (Sanskrit: भारतवर्ष, lit. country of Bharata) and uses this term to distinguish it from other varṣas or continents.[10] For example, the Vayu Purana says "he who conquers the whole of Bhāratavarṣa is celebrated as a samrāt (Vayu Purana 45, 86)."[11]

The Sanskrit word bhārata is a vṛddhi derivation of Bharata, which was originally an epithet of Agni. The term is a verbal noun of the Sanskrit root bhr-, "to bear / to carry", with a literal meaning of to be maintained(of fire). The root bhr is cognate with the English verb to bear and Latin ferō. This term also means "one who is engaged in search for knowledge".

According to the Puranas, this country is known as Bharatavarsha after Bharata, the son of Rishabha. This has been mentioned in Vishnu Purana (2,1,31), Vayu Purana (33,52), Linga Purana (1,47,23), Brahmanda Purana (14,5,62), Agni Purana (107,11–12), Skanda Purana, Khanda (37,57) and Markandaya Purana (50,41), all using the designation Bharata Varsha.

Vishnu Purāna mentions:

ऋषभो मरुदेव्याश्च ऋषभात भरतो भवेत्
भरताद भारतं वर्षं, भरतात सुमतिस्त्वभूत्
Rishabha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabha,
Bharatavarsha(India) arose from Bharata and Sumati arose from Bharata.
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)
ततश्च भारतं वर्षमेतल्लोकेषुगीयते
भरताय यत: पित्रा दत्तं प्रतिष्ठिता वनम (विष्णु पुराण, २,१,३२)
This country is known as Bharatavarsha since the times the father entrusted the kingdom to the son Bharata and he himself went to the forest for ascetic practices[12]
—Vishnu Purana (2,1,32)
uttaraṃ yatsamudrasya himādreścaiva dakṣiṇam
varṣaṃ tadbhārataṃ nāma bhāratī yatra santatiḥ
उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।
"The country(varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."
- Vishnu Purana

The Srimad Bhagavat Purana mentions(Canto 5, Chapter 4) [13] - "He (Rishabha) begot a hundred sons that were exactly like him... He (Bharata) had the best qualities and it was because of him that this land by the people is called Bhârata-varsha"

The Bhāratas were also a vedic tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, notably participating in the Battle of the Ten Kings.

The realm of Bharata is known as Bharātavarṣa in the Mahabhārata(the core portion of which is itself known as Bhārata) and later texts. According to the text, the term Bharata is from the king Bharata, who was the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala and the term varsa means a division of the earth, or a continent. [1]

The term in Classical Sanskrit literature is taken to comprise the present day territories of Indian subcontinent. This corresponds to the approximate extent of the historical Mauryan Empire under Emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Emperor Ashoka (4th to 3rd centuries BC). Later, political entities unifying approximately the same region are the Mughal Empire (17th century), the Maratha Empire (18th century) and the British Raj (19th to 20th centuries).


Jambudvipa (Sanskrit: जम्बुद्वीप Jambu-dvīpa, lit. "berry island") was used in ancient scriptures for the name of India before Bhārata became the official name. The derivative Jambu Dwipa was the historical term for India in many Southeast Asian countries before the colonial introduction of the English word "India". This alternate name is still used occasionally in Thailand, Malaysia, Java and Bali to describe the Indian subcontinent.Although, it could also refer to the Asian continant as well.


According to Texts, before India was called Bhāratavarṣa, it was known as Nābhivarṣa (Sanskrit: नाभिवर्ष, lit. land of Nabhi). King Nabhi was a Chakravartin (Universal Sovereign of India) and father of Arihant Rishabha (Jainism).


Drāvida(Sanskrit: द्राविड) i.e. South India, appears in Hindu Purana the area encompassing Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and parts of Chhattisgarh as well as the union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Puducherry. This name is also used in the national anthem of India.

Hind / HindustanEdit

The name Hind (Persian: هند‎‎) is derived from the Iranian languages equivalent of Indo-Aryan Sindh, Pakistan. The Persian language -stān means "country" or "land" (cognate to Sanskrit sthāna "place, land").

The land which had originally been called Hindustān (Persian: هندوستان‎‎) lay to the east of the Indus river, comprising most of Pakistan and northwest India. Emperor Babur said, "On the East, the South, and the West it is bounded by the Great Ocean."[14] However, the term Hind is in current use. Al-Hind الهند is the term in the Arabic language (e.g. in the 11th century Tarikh Al-Hind "history of India"). It also occurs intermittently in usage within India, such as in the phrase Jai Hind(Sanskrit: जय हिन्द).

The terms Hind and Hindustān were current in Persian and Arabic from the 11th century Islamic conquests: the rulers in the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods called their Indian dominion, centred around Delhi, Hindustan.

Hindustān, as the term Hindu itself, entered the English language in the 17th century. In the 19th century, the term as used in English referred to the northern region of the subcontinent between the Indus and Brahmaputra rivers and between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas in particular, hence the term Hindustani for the Hindi-Urdu language. Hindustan was in use synonymously with India during the British Raj.

Hind (Hindi: हिन्द) remains in use in Hindi. In contemporary Persian and Urdu language, the term Hindustan has recently come to mean the Republic of India. The same is the case with Arabic, where al-Hind is the name of the Republic of India.

Today, Hindustān is no longer in use as the official name for India, although in Modern Standard Arabic as well as dialects it is the only name for India, (al-Hind الهند).


Tianzhu or Tenjiku(Chinese and Japanese: 天竺)(originally pronounced xien-t'juk) is the historical East Asian name for India that comes from the Chinese transliteration of the Persian Hindu, which itself is derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, the native name of the Indus River.[5] Tianzhu is one of several Chinese transliterations of Sindhu. Shendu(身毒) appears in Sima Qian's Shiji and Tiandu(天篤) is used in the Hou Hanshu(Book of the Later Han).[15] Yintejia(印特伽) comes from the Kuchean Indaka, another transliteration of Hindu.[5] A detailed account of Tianzhu is given in the "Xiyu Zhuan"(Record of the Western Regions) in the Hou Hanshu compiled by Fan Ye (398–445):

"The state of Tianzhu: Also, named Shendu, it lies several thousand li southeast of Yuezhi. Its customs are the same as those of Yuezhi, and it is low, damp, and very hot. It borders a large river. The inhabitants ride on elephants in warfare; they are weaker than the Yuezhi. They practise the way of Futu the Buddha and therefore it has become a custom among them not to kill or attack [others]. From west of the states Yuezhi and Gaofu, and south until the Western Sea, and east until the state of Panqi, all is the territory of Shendu. Shendu has several hundred separate towns, with a governor, and separate states which can be numbered in the tens, each with its own king. Although there are small differences among them, they all come under the general name of Shendu, and at this time all are subject to Yuezhi. Yuezhi have killed their kings and established a general in order to rule over their people. The land produces elephants, rhinoceros, tortoise shell, gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin. It communicates to the west with Da Qin the Roman Empire and so has the exotica of Da Qin."[15]

Tianzhu was also referred to as Wutianzhu (五天竺, literally "Five Indias"), because there were five geographical regions in India known to the Chinese: Central, Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern India. The monk Xuanzang also referred to India as Wu Yin or "Five Inds".[5]

The term is also used in Japan, where it is pronounced as Tenjiku(天竺). The foreign loanwords Indo(インド) and India(インディア) are also used in some cases. The current Japanese name for modern India is the foreign loanword Indo(インド).

The current Chinese word for India is Yindu(印度). Similar to Hindu and Sindhu, the term yin was used in classical Chinese much like the English Ind.


Hodu(Hebrew: הדו ) is the Biblical Hebrew name for India mentioned in the Book of Esther part of the Jewish Tanakh(Bible) and Christian Old Testament. In Esther 1:1, Ahasuerus(Xerxes) had been described as King ruling 127 provinces from Hodu(India) to Ethiopia.[16]

Some Historical DefinitionsEdit

Some historical definitions prior to 1500 are presented below.[17]

Year Name Source Definition
Between first century BCE[18] and fourth century CE[19] Bhāratavarṣa(realm of Bhārata)[20][21][22] Vishnu Purana "उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।

वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।"
i.e. "The country(varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."

c. 486 BC Hidush Naksh-i-Rustam "Says Darius the King: By the grace of Ormazd these(are) the countries which I have acquired besides Persia. I have established my power over them. They have brought tribute to me. That which has been said to them by me they have done. They have obeyed my law. Medea... Arachotia(Harauvatish), Sattagydia(Thatagush), Gandaria(Gadára), India(Hidush)...."
c.400-300 BC Hodu Book of Esther(Bible) "Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from Hodu(India) to Cush (Ethiopia) over 127 provinces"[23][24]
c. 440 BC India Herodotus "Eastward of India lies a tract which is entirely sand. Indeed, of all the inhabitants of Asia, concerning whom anything is known, the Indians dwell nearest to the east and the rising of the Sun."
c. 300 BC India/Indikē Megasthenes "India then being four-sided in plan, the side which looks to the Orient and that to the South, the Great Sea compasseth; that towards the Arctic is divided by the mountain chain of Hēmōdus from Scythia, inhabited by that tribe of Scythians who are called Sakai; and on the fourth side, turned towards the West, the Indus marks the boundary, the biggest or nearly so of all rivers after the Nile."
100 CE or later Bhāratam Vishnu Purana "उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।

वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।"
i.e. "The country(varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."

c. 140. Indoi, Indou Arrian "The boundary of the land of India towards the north is Mount Taurus. It is not still called Taurus in this land; but Taurus begins from the sea over against Pamphylia and Lycia and Cilicia; and reaches as far as the Eastern Ocean, running right across Asia. But the mountain has different names in different places; in one, Parapamisus, in another Hemodus; elsewhere it is called Imaon and perhaps has all sorts of other names; but the Macedonians who fought with Alexander called it Caucasus; another Caucasus, that is, not the Scythian; so that the story ran that Alexander came even to the far side of the Caucasus. The western part of India is bounded by the river Indus right down to the ocean, where the river runs out by two mouths, not joined together as are the five mouths of the Ister; but like those of the Nile, by which the Egyptian delta is formed; thus also the Indian delta is formed by the river Indus, not less than the Egyptian; and this in the Indian tongue is called Pattala. Towards the south this ocean bounds the land of India, and eastward the sea itself is the boundary. The southern part near Pattala and the mouths of the Indus were surveyed by Alexander and Macedonians and many Greeks; as for the eastern part, Alexander did not traverse this beyond the river Hyphasis. A few historians have described the parts which are this side of the Ganges and where are the mouths of the Ganges and the city of Palimbothra, the greatest Indian city on the Ganges.(...) The Indian rivers are greater than any others in Asia; greatest are the Ganges and the Indus, whence the land gets its name; each of these is greater than the Nile of Egypt and the Scythian Ister, even were these put together; my own idea is that even the Acesines is greater than the Ister and the Nile, where the Acesines having taken in the Hydaspes, Hydraotes, and Hyphasis, runs into the Indus, so that its breadth there becomes thirty stades. Possibly also other greater rivers run through the land of India."
c. 590. Hind Istakhri "As for the land of the Hind it is bounded on the East by the Persian Sea(i.e. the Indian Ocean), on the W. and S. by the countries of Islām and on the N. by the Chinese Empire... The length of the land of the Hind from the government of Mokrān, the country of Mansūra and Bodha and the rest of Sind, till thou comest to Kannauj and thence passest on to Tibet, is about 4 months and its breadth from the Indian Ocean to the country of Kannūj about three months."
c. 650 Five Indies Xuanzang "The circumference of 五印(Modern Chinese: Wǔ Yìn, the Five Indies) is about 90,000 li; on three sides it is bounded by a great sea; on the north it is backed by snowy mountains. It is wide at the north and narrow at the south; its figure is that of a half-moon."
c. 944. Hind, Sind Masudi "For the nonce let us confine ourselves to summary notices concerning the kings of Sind and Hind. The language of Sind is different from that of Hind. . . ."
c. 1020 Hind Al-Birūnī "Hind is surrounded on the East by Chín and Máchín, on the West by Sind and Kábul and on the South by the Sea."-
1205 Hind Hasan Nizāmī "The whole country of Hind, from Peshawar in the north, to the Indian Ocean in the south; from Sehwan(on the west bank of the Indus) to the mountains on the east dividing from China."
1298 India the Greater
India the Minor
Middle India
Marco Polo "India the Greater is that which extends from Maabar to Kesmacoran(i.e. from Coromandel to Mekran) and it contains 13 great kingdoms... India the Lesser extends from the Province of Champa to Mutfili (i.e. from Cochin-China to the Kistna Delta) and contains 8 great Kingdoms... Abash(Abyssinia) is a very great province and you must know that it constitutes the Middle India."
c. 1328. India Friar Jordanus Catalani "What shall I say? The greatness of this India is beyond description. But let this much suffice concerning India the Greater and the Less. Of India Tertia I will say this, that I have not indeed seen its many marvels, not having been there..."
1404 India Minor Ruy González de Clavijo "And this same Thursday that the said Ambassadors arrived at this great River (the Oxus) they crossed to the other side. And the same day... came in the evening to a great city which is called Tenmit(Termez) and this used to belong to India Minor, but now belongs to the empire of Samarkand, having been conquered by Tamurbec."

Republic of IndiaEdit

Official NamesEdit

The official names as set down in article 1 of the Indian constitution are:

English: India; Bharat
Sanskrit: भारत (Bhārata)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Was the Ramayana actually set in and around today's Afghanistan?". 
  2. ^ Madhav Deshpande, Sanskrit & Prakrit: Sociolinguistic Issues, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1993, p. 85.
  3. ^ Singh (1 September 2007). Longman Panorama History 7. Pearson Education India. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-81-317-1175-0. 
  4. ^ Hudson, John C., ed., Goode’s World Atlas 20th Edition Chicago, Illinois, USA:2000—Rand McNally Map Page 203 Major Languages of India—map of the ethnolinguistic groups of India
  5. ^ a b c d Cheung, Martha Pui Yiu (2014) [2006]. "Zan Ning (919–1001 CE), To Translate Means to Exchange". An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation: From Earliest Times to the Buddhist Project. Routledge. pp. 179, 181. ISBN 978-1-317-63928-2. 
  6. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 70. 
  7. ^ Michael Cook (2014), Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective, Princeton University Press, p.68: "Aryavarta [...] is defined by Manu as extending from the Himalayas in the north to the Vindhyas of Central India in the south and from the sea in th west to the sea in the east."
  8. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine (2014). "'India, that is Bharat…': One Country, Two Names". South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. 10. 
  9. ^ Article 1 of the English version of the Constitution of India: "India that is Bharat shall be a Union of States."
  10. ^ Pargiter, F. F. (1922), Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 131 
  11. ^ Pargiter, F. F. (1922), Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, pp. ff. 8 p. 40 
  12. ^ Rishabha/ Rishabdev is First Trithankar(Teacher) of Jainism. He had two sons Bharat and Bahubali.
  13. ^ Srimad Bhagavat Purana, English translation
  14. ^ P. 310 Memoirs of Zahir-ad-Din Muhammad Babur: Emperor of Hindustan By Babur (Emperor of Hindustan)
  15. ^ a b Yu, Taishan (November 2013). "China and the Ancient Mediterranean World: A Survey of Ancient Chinese Sources". Sino-Platonic Papers (242): 73, 77. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Hobson Jobson Dictionary
  18. ^ Wilson, H. H. (2006). The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition. Cambridge: Read Country Books. p. xii. ISBN 1-84664-664-2. 
  19. ^ Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-521-43878-0. 
  20. ^ A History of Civilization in Ancient India, Based on Sanskrit Literature. In Three Volumes. Volume 3. Buddhist and Pauranik Ages, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Publisher, ISBN 0-543-92939-6, ISBN 978-0-543-92939-6
  21. ^ A Text Book of Social Sciences, Dr. N.N. Kher & Jaideep Aggarwal, Pitambar Publishing, ISBN 81-209-1466-X, ISBN 978-81-209-1466-7
  22. ^ VISHŃU PURÁŃA, BOOK II, CHAP. I, The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at
  23. ^
  24. ^

External linksEdit