“Bharat” (Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is one of the official names of India, and its roots are deeply embedded in the country’s historical and cultural fabric.
Historical & Mythological Context
“Bharat” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit texts. According to Indian mythology, the name comes from the legendary king “Bharata” who was a prominent ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas from the Mahabharata, one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The land ruled by King Bharata was called “Bharat,” and over time, the name came to represent the entire Indian subcontinent.
The Indian national flag, known as the Tiraṅgā, features three horizontal bands in saffron, white, and green, with a navy blue 24-spoke Ashoka Chakra in the center. Adopted on 22 July 1947 by the Constituent Assembly, it officially represented India from 15 August 1947 onwards.
Contrast between “India” and “Bharat”
While “Bharat” is rooted in India’s native traditions, “India” is a name that came from external, non-Indian sources.
The above point can be made of many countries whose names in English (or other foreign languages) might differ from what they are called in their native languages. For example, Germany is called “Deutschland” in German, and Japan is “Nippon” or “Nihon” in Japanese.
Using “Bharat” emphasizes the country’s indigenous identity, while “India” reflects its global or international identity, especially in contexts where English is the primary medium.
Both names are officially recognized, and while “India” is used more broadly in international contexts due to the predominance of English, “Bharat” is cherished and frequently used domestically because of its deep cultural resonance.
Popular belief holds that the Indian subcontinent’s traditional name, Bhārata, is derived from the name Bharata. Image: Painting of Bharata, Raja Ravi Varma.
In the nutshell, “Bharat” is a name that reflects India’s ancient history, culture, and traditions. While both “India” and “Bharat” are used officially and colloquially, “Bharat” carries a more profound indigenous significance.