Bangalore getting new name
USA Today
Oct. 29, 2006

 Like other cities in India, dumps English moniker

Ken Moritsugu

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 here."

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 Times.

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.