Bangalore getting new name
Oct. 29, 2006
Like other cities in India, dumps English moniker
NEW DELHI - Bangalore, India's high-tech capital, is getting a new name. The
Indian state of Karnataka is likely to announce Nov. 1 that its state capital
will become Bengaluru, the city's name in Kannada, the local language.
The change, which won't be official until the state Cabinet gives its approval -
possibly this week - and a few other formalities, follows several others.
Two forces are behind this trend. One is political gain: Politicians promoting
the change appeal to regional pride among the non-English-speaking masses. The
other is an effort to protect regional cultures and languages being eroded by
more people moving within India and globalization. "It's part of a general trend
in post-independence India," says Tejaswini Niranjana, director of the Center
for the Study of Culture and Society in Bangalore, referring to the former
colony's independence from Britain in 1947. "It's just taken a long time getting
India has 22 official languages. Hindi, the native language of about 40 percent
of the population - about 400 million people - is the most widely spoken. But it
is mostly spoken in northern India. By comparison, 4 percent of Indians consider
Kannada their first language.
Increasingly, English is seen as a language of upward mobility. This is
particularly true in Bangalore, which in the 1990s grew into India's Silicon
Valley. The city is home to the operations of more than 1,000 high-tech
companies including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems. The city also is
where Indian giants Infosys Technologies and Wipro are headquartered.
U.R. Ananthamurthy, a noted writer in the Kannada language, suggested to
Karnataka's political leaders nearly a year ago that they change the official
name of the state capital to mark the 50th anniversary of the state's founding
on Nov. 1.
"I am really worried about globalization," he said in an interview. "People who
come here do not relate to the culture of the place. That is neither good for
them nor the natives.
An influx of newcomers from around India and abroad, drawn by the city's
flourishing outsourcing industry, is changing the makeup of the city. Only a
third of Bangalore's 6.5 million residents are native Kannada speakers.
"I know there will be two Bangalores," says Ananthamurthy, a retired professor
of English. "One is Bangalore and one is Bengaluru. I don't mind the two
existing side-by-side, but I want them to know each other."
The experience of other cities suggests that, in daily life, both names will
co-exist. After the name change from Bombay to the local Marathi language name
of Mumbai, the Times of India, the country's largest newspaper, began publishing
a "Mumbai edition." The edition's feature section is still called the Bombay
The University of Mumbai adopted the new name, but the Bombay High Court and
Bombay Stock Exchange remain unchanged. Internationally, the new name has only
gradually seeped into the public consciousness.