On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s placard at the beginning of the G20 conference referred to India as “Bharat,” prompting rumors about a name change for the South Asian country.
In Indian languages, India is also known as Bharat, Bharata, and Hindustan, all of which are used interchangeably by the public and officials.
While the country has traditionally used India in titles such as president or prime minister when communicating in English, President Droupadi Murmu referred to herself as the “President of Bharat” in a dinner invitation for a G20 leaders’ reception earlier this week, sparking controversy.
On Saturday, as Modi opened the G20 summit in New Delhi, he sat behind a table nameplate that read “Bharat,” but the G20 emblem included both names – “Bharat” in Hindi and “India” in English.
Previously, such banners used the word “India.”
“Bharat welcomes the delegates as the President of the G20,” Modi remarked in Hindi, the language spoken by the bulk of the population.
The leaders of the world’s biggest economies are meeting in New Delhi at the Bharat Mandapam, a new $300 million conch-shaped convention center opposite a 16th-century stone fort.
While some advocates of the name Bharat argue that the name “India” was given by British colonists, historians argue that the name predates colonial authority by centuries.
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ideological progenitor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has always insisted on calling the country Bharat.
The new opposition alliance formed by 28 parties in July named INDIA, or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, to take on the BJP in parliamentary elections next year, say Modi’s opponents.
A request for response from the Prime Minister’s Office was not returned.