Gurgaon near Delhi, the India headquarters for scores of multinational businesses, is henceforth to be called Gurugram in the latest place-name change imposed by the country’s politicians.
The move by the state government of Haryana triggered a storm of commentary on social media, including under the Twitter hashtag #Gurugram. Some Indian nationalists praised the announcement but many Gurgaon residents mocked it as pointless.
“Changing names of cities and towns is such a waste of time money energy. Better to improve roads, infrastructure, etc with money!” tweeted writer and blogger Madhuri Banerjee.
“Gurgaon is now Gurugram. Waiting for Telangana to become Telegram, Sonpath to become Sonogram, Andaman to Anagram & Mysore to Myogram,” added @Mocksterr.
Another critic likened the name to “a messenger app for teachers”. However, one informal snap poll on Twitter suggested supporters and opponents were evenly split.
As with many such conversions, the meaning of the name — “village of the guru” in this case — is unchanged. But Haryana opted to drop the modern Hindi rendering and revert to the full version of the name from ancient Sanskrit.
The guru in question is Dronacharya, the skilled archer revered by both sides in the great war portrayed in the Mahabharata, the Indian Sanskrit epic. Legend says his pupils gave him the village, which has developed over the past 25 years into an urban sprawl of factories, office blocks, shopping malls and residential skyscrapers. About half of the Fortune 500 corporations have their Indian headquarters there.
“Haryana is a historic land of the Bhagavad Gita,” said a spokesman for the Haryana government, which is run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party. “Gurgaon was a great centre of education . . . For a long time the people of the area have been demanding Gurgaon be renamed Gurugram.”
The opposition Congress party, however, criticised the changing of a name that was an international brand as “an exercise in pure superficiality” and suggested the government should focus on building much-needed infrastructure for the congested city.
Gurgaon is by no means the first place in India to be renamed or respelt in local languages or in English.
Several other major cities, including Calcutta (now Kolkata), Madras (Chennai), Bombay (Mumbai) and Bangalore (Bengaluru) have met the same fate, with varying degrees of acceptance from local residents and institutions. The Bombay Stock Exchange and the Madras High Court names are still going strong.
One morning last September, residents of central Delhi, once the Mughal capital, awoke to find that the BJP government had changed the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road, after the former missile engineer and Indian president. Kalam was deemed a more patriotic Muslim than Aurangzeb, an intolerant Islamist dictator of the 17th century.
As well as switching from Gurgaon to Gurugram — which at least has the advantage for foreigners of being easier to pronounce correctly — Haryana has decided to change the name of neighbouring Mewat district to Nuh, after the district capital.
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