This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)
The renaming of the cities in India started in 1947 following the end of the British imperial period. Several changes were controversial, and not all proposed changes were implemented. Each had to be approved by the Central Government in New Delhi.
The renaming of states and territories in India has also taken place, but until the 2010s with actual substantial name changes in both local language and in English such as the old British state name of Travancore-Cochin to Kerala (1956). The most notable exceptions are Indian English spelling-changes of Orissa to Odisha (2011) and the union territory of Pondicherry (which includes the city of Pondicherry) to Puducherry (2006).
Causes for renaming
Need for standardization of spelling
India has various local languages. Even (Romanised) English spellings in long and wide use often vary depending upon which government department or agency uses them. To the point, a few examples are Quilandy versus Koyilandy (Malayalam: കൊയിലാണ്ടി), Canannore versus Kannur (Malayalam: കണ്ണൂർ), and Rangiya versus Rangia (Assamese: ৰঙিয়া). Different departments of the government may have used official spellings in use at the time, while locations associated with Indian railways mostly maintained British-era spellings. The confusion inherent in such variations has often resulted in serious consequences like people having two "different" addresses (theoretically designating the same place) in their official records leading to legal disputes, or one house having residents of different house addresses due to differing place names. Many people argue that such confusion can lead to indeterminate and/or unintended consequences.
Renaming in local languages
In the post-colonial era, several Indian states' names were changed. Some of these changes coincided with the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, a major reform of the boundaries of India's states and territories that organized them along linguistic lines. At this time, for example, Travancore-Cochin was renamed Kerala (Malayalam: കേരളം). Later state name changes include the reorganization of Madhya Bharat into Madhya Pradesh (Hindi: मध्य प्रदेश) in 1959; and the renaming of the Madras State to Tamil Nadu (Tamil: தமிழ்நாடு) in 1969, of the Mysore State to Karnataka (Kannada: ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ) in 1973, and of Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड) in 2007.
Name changes have varied with respect to the levels of language at which they have been applied, and also accepted. Some of these local name changes were changes made in all languages: the immediate local name, and also all India's other languages. An example of this is the renaming of predominantly Hindi-speaking Uttaranchal (Hindi: उत्तराञ्चल) to a new local Hindi name (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड Uttarakhand). Other changes were only changes in some of the indigenous languages. For example, the renaming of the Madras Presidency to Madras State in 1947 and then Tamil Nadu in 1969 required non-Tamil speakers to change from an approximation of the British name (Tamil: மதராஸ் மாகாணம் Madras Presidency, then Madras State Tamil: மதராஸ் மாநிலம்) to a native Tamil name (Tamil: தமிழ்நாடு Tamil Nadu, 'Tamil country').
In general, changes to the local names of cities in the indigenous languages are less common. However, a change in English may sometimes also be a reflection of changes in other Indian languages other than the specific local one. For example, the change of Madras (Tamil: மதராஸ்) to Chennai (Tamil: சென்னை) was reflected in many of India's languages, and incidentally in English, while the Tamil endonym had always been Chennai and remained unaffected by the change.
Renaming in English
Change in official English spelling
The renaming of cities is often specifically from English to Indian English in connection with that dialect's internal reforms. In other words, the city itself is not actually renamed in the local language, and the local name (or endonym) in the indigenous languages of India does not change, but the official spelling in Indian English is amended. An example is the change from English Calcutta to English Kolkata – the local Bengali name (কলকাতা Kôlkata) did not change. Such changes in English spelling may be in order to better reflect a more accurate phonetic transliteration of the local name, or may be for other reasons. In the early years after Indian independence, many name changes were affected in northern India for English spellings of Hindi place names that had simply been Romanized inconsistently by the British administration – such as the British spelling Jubbulpore, renamed Jabalpur (जबलपुर) among the first changes in 1947. These changes did not generate significant controversy. More recent and high-profile changes – including renaming such major cities as Calcutta to Kolkata – have generated greater controversy. Since independence, such changes have typically been enacted officially by legislation at local or national Indian government level, and may or may not then be adopted by the Indian media, particularly the influential Indian press. In the case of smaller towns and districts which were less notable outside and inside India, and where a well known English name (or exonym) could not be said to exist, older spellings used under British India may not have had any specific legislation other than changes in practice on the romanization of indigenous Indian language names.
Realignment of the official Indian English name to an alternative local name
Aside from changes to the official English spellings of local names there have also been renaming proposals to realign the official name, hence the English name with an alternative local name. Ethnically sensitive examples include the proposals by the Bharatiya Janata Party (1990, 2001) to rename Ahmedabad (Hindi: अहमदाबाद) to Karnavati and Allahabad (Hindi: इलाहाबाद) to Prayagraj (Hindi: प्रयागराज), the latter ultimately being officially adopted in 2018. Similarly, the cities of Aurangabad (Marathi: औरंगाबाद) and Osmanabad (Marathi: उस्मानाबाद) had been renamed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar (Marathi: छत्रपती संभाजी नगर) and Dharashiv (Marathi: धाराशिव), by then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackerey, in 2020. These proposals are changes from the Islamic name to a Hindu native name. These can be represented as a change from Urdu language to Hindi language, but since the two languages are variants of Hindustani the proposal is effectively a cultural and ethno-religious proposal rather than a linguistic one.
Adoption of renamed names
Effects of renaming
Indian culture features a centuries long integration of ethnic and religious groups, however, occurrences such as the renaming of Indian cities and places bring the underlying tensions among these groups to the surface. This is most easily demonstrated through opposing interests and interpretations of history between the nation’s Muslim and Hindu populations. Immediate post-colonialism saw a rejection of British influence, yet the recent rise of the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been associated with the growing trend of Hindu nationalism in politics, and consequently, the rising fear in Muslims of their past being rewritten. Significant occurrences prompting this frustration include the renaming of the city of Allahabad (tracing back to Mughal rule) to Prayagraj (originating from Sanskrit) and the city of Faizabad to Ayodhya (a holy city of Hinduism). Upon the adoption of the name Prayagraj, a BJP official stated, "Today, the BJP government has rectified the mistake made by Akbar."  Within a nation dominated by a Hindu majority, politics and religion have been intertwined, effectively silencing Muslim voices with every removal of Muslim-sounding places. Beginning with cities, the practice of renaming has extended to towns, airports, and even train stations.
Along with India’s changing image, its history is gradually being rewritten with names reflecting Hindu heritage rather than Muslim ones. Indian author Pushpa Sundar writes, “The objective behind the renaming, whether done earlier or being done now, is to erase the prevailing memory of the good done along with the bad by the other, while simultaneously super-imposing history as interpreted by the current rulers as the flawless truth.” She prompts readers to consider the morality behind rewriting history as the values and attitudes of generations change, eroding the cultural authenticity as we do. The implementation of Hinduism in politics served as a catalyst for further cultural and psychological struggles as Muslim Indians expressed greater insecurity in their heritage and identity as citizens of India. With the addition of Hindu pride stirring hatred towards minorities, these developments evidently contradict India’s claim of being a secular, multifaith nation. Furthermore, in defense of Muslim contribution and cultural heritage, she writes, “If some Muslim rulers were cruel and unjust should Hindus retaliate by practicing reverse religious bigotry, forgetting the contribution made by other Muslim rulers and citizens to enrich their art, architecture and learning?” This raises the question of whether silencing the bad is worth losing the good done as well.
Given India’s vast size and population, numerous efforts to decolonize and standardize India’s city names have been observed. One prominent example to spark controversy is India’s first modern city in which British power was once consolidated–the city that was previously known as Calcutta (British pronunciation) has been referred to as Kolkata (local Bengali pronunciation) since 2001. Unsurprisingly, the renaming epidemic was not limited to just city names, being further reflected in the postcolonial adoption of prominent Bengali figures as street names, parks, and significant landmarks. Notably, streets originally dedicated to notable colonial rulers such as Wellesley Street and Cornwallis Street are now proudly displayed as Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and Bidhan Sarani, commemorating an Indian independence activist and the first post-independence Chief Minister of West Bengal. Gradual replacement of British claim in street and place names marked the reclaiming of symbolic ownership of the urban land. However, as glorious as this escape from British hold sounds, these changes were received with varying degrees of discontent given that the decisions lie in the hands of the greater social and political powers.
In other instances, such as Madras (the capital of Tamil Nadu) being rebranded as Chennai in 1996, the transition was regarded with less contention, in part due to the vague origins of the name Madras. Historically recognized as a significant administrative, military, and economic center, the name was believed to originate from Madrasapattinam, a fishing village north of Fort St. George built by the British. Other theories include Portuguese influence (Madre de Deus, meaning Mother of God) or Sanskrit derivations (Madhu-ras, meaning honey). Despite the ambiguity, the shift to Chennai was driven more by the name Madras serving as a reminder of the remnants of colonial rule, rather than its literal linguistic associations. Similarly, Chennai was likely derived from Chennaipattanam, another town near Fort St. George. Other sources form connections to Dravidian languages, particularly the Telugu word “chennu”, meaning beautiful. Nevertheless, unlike the aftermath following Calcutta’s renaming, residents of Chennai stated little preference in city names and were more concerned with tangible evidence of post-colonial reform. For others such as heritage activists, however, this seemingly trivial action is seen as a restoration of identity.
- Travancore-Cochin → Kerala (Malayalam: കേരളം) (1st November, 1956).
- Madhya Bharat → Madhya Pradesh (Hindi: मध्य प्रदेश) (1st November, 1959)
- Madras State → Tamil Nadu (Tamil: தமிழ்நாடு) (14th January, 1969)
- Mysore State → Karnataka (Kannada: ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ) (1st November, 1973)
- Uttaranchal → Uttarakhand (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड) (1st January, 2007)
- Orissa → Odisha (Odia: ଓଡ଼ିଶା) (4th November, 2011)
- North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) → Arunachal Pradesh (20th January 1972)
Notable city names that were officially changed by legislation after independence include:
- Jabalpur (Hindi: जबलपुर), from Jubbulpore, respelled in 1947
- Jajmau (Hindi: जाजमऊ), from Jajesmow, respelled in 1948
- Kanpur (Hindi: कानपुर), from Cawnpore, respelled in 1948
- Vadodara (Gujarati: વડોદરા), from Baroda, respelled in 1974
- Thiruvananthapuram (Malayalam: തിരുവനന്തപുരം), from Trivandrum, renamed in 1991
- Mumbai (Marathi: मुंबई), from Bombay, renamed in 1995
- Kochi (Malayalam: കൊച്ചി), from Cochin, respelled in 1996
- Chennai (Tamil: சென்னை), from Madras, renamed in 1996
- Kolkata (Bengali: কলকাতা), from Calcutta, respelled in 2001
- Medininagar (Hindi: मेदिनीनगर), from Daltonganj, renamed in 2004
- Kadapa (Telugu: కడప), from Cuddapah, respelled in 2005
- Puducherry (Tamil: புதுச்சேரி), from Pondicherry, renamed in 2006
- Bengaluru (Kannada: ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು), from Bangalore, respelled in 2007
- Belagavi (Kannada: ಬೆಳಗಾವಿ), from Belgaum in 2007
- Tumakuru (Kannada: ತುಮಕುರು), from Tumkur in 2007
- Hubballi (Kannada: ಹುಬ್ಬಳ್ಳಿ), from Hubli in 2007
- Shivamogga (Kannada: ಶಿವಮೊಗ್ಗಾ), from Shimoga in 2007
- Hosapete (Kannada: ಹೊಸಪೇಟೆ), from Hospet in 2007
- Mysuru (Kannada: ಮೈಸೂರು), from Mysore in 2007
- Kalaburagi (Kannada: ಕಲಬುರಗಿ), from Gulbarga in 2007
- Chikkamagaluru (Kannada: ಚಿಕ್ಕಮಗಳೂರು), from Chikmagalur in 2007
- Vijayapura (Kannada: ವಿಜಯಪುರ), from Bijapur in 2007
- Ballari (Kannada: ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ), from Bellary in 2007
- Mangaluru (Kannada: ಮಂಗಳೂರು), from Mangalore in 2007
- Rajahmahendravaram (Telugu: రాజమహేంద్రవరం), from Rajahmundry in 2015
- Gurugram (Hindi: गुरुग्राम) from Gurgaon in 2016
- Prayagraj (Hindi: प्रयागराज), from Allahabad, renamed in 2018
- Atal Nagar (Hindi: अटल नगर), from New Raipur, renamed in 2018
- Narmadapuram (Hindi: नर्मदापुरम), from Hoshangabad, renamed in 2021
- Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (Marathi: छत्रपती संभाजीनगर), from Aurangabad, renamed in 2023
- Dharashiv (Marathi: धाराशिव), from Osmanabad, renamed in 2023
For others, by state order, see list of renamed Indian cities and states.
- Alappuzha (Malayalam: ആലപ്പുഴ), from Alleppey
- Baranagar (Bengali: বরানগর), from Barahanagore
- Guwahati (Assamese: গুৱাহাটী), from Gauhati
- Indore (Hindi: इंदौर), from Indhur
- Kanchipuram (Tamil: காஞ்சிபுரம்), from Kāñci-pura And Conjevaram
- Kannur (Malayalam: കണ്ണൂർ), from Cannanore
- Kollam (Malayalam: കൊല്ലം), from Quilon
- Koyilandy (Malayalam: കൊയിലാണ്ടി), from Quilandi
- Kozhikode (Malayalam: കോഴിക്കോട്), from Calicut
- Kumbakonam (Tamil: கும்பகோணம்), from ancient name Kudanthai
- Mayiladuthurai (Tamil: மயிலாடுதுறை), from Mayavaram ancient name Mayuram
- Narmada (Gujarati: નર્મદા), from Nerbudda
- Nagaon (Assamese: নগাওঁ), from Nowgong
- Nashik (Marathi: नाशिक), from Gulshanabad (Mughal Era)
- Palakkad (Malayalam: പാലക്കാട്) from Palghat
- Panaji (Konkani: पणजी) from Panjim
- Pune (Marathi: पुणे), from Poona
- Ramanathapuram (Tamil: ராமநாதபுரம்), from Ramnad
- Sagar (Hindi: सागर), from Saugor
- Shimla (Hindi: शिमला), from Simla
- Thalassery (Malayalam: തലശ്ശേരി), from Tellicherry
- Thanjavur (Tamil: தஞ்சாவூர்), from British name Tanjore
- Thane (Marathi: ठाणे), from British name Tannah
- Thoothukudi (Tamil: தூத்துக்குடி), from Tuticorin and its short form Tuty
- Thrissur (Malayalam: തൃശൂർ), from Trichur
- Tindivanam (Tamil: திண்டிவனம்), from Tinthirivanam
- Tiruchirapalli (Tamil: திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி), from Trichinopoly and its short form Trichy
- Tirunelveli (Tamil: திருநெல்வேலி), from Tinnevelly
- Tiruvallikeni (Tamil: திருவல்லிக்கேணி), from Triplicane
- Udhagamandalam (Tamil: உதகமண்டலம்), from Ootacamund and its short form Ooty
- Viluppuram (Tamil: விழுப்புரம்), from Vizhupparaiyar And Vizhimaa Nagaram
- Varanasi (Hindi: वाराणसी), from Banaras
- Vatakara (Malayalam: വടകര), from Badagara
- Virudhachalam (Tamil: விருத்தாச்சலம்), from Vriddhachalam ancient name Thirumudhukundram
- Vijayawada (Telugu: విజయవాడ), from Bejawada, anciently Vijayavatika in Mahabharata and Rajendrachola pura during Chola dynasty
- Visakhapatnam (Telugu: విశాఖపట్నం), from Waltair, and before that Vizagapatam and its short form Vizag
Town names that derive from ancient names:
- Mandi (Hindi: मंडी), derived from Mandav Nagar
- Nellore (Telugu: నెల్లూరు), in ancient times Simhapuri
Several other changes have been proposed for states and towns.
States and union territories
- Hyderabad to Bhagyanagaram
- Karimnagar to Yelagandula
- Nizamabad to Induru
- Mahbubnagar to Palamooru
- Ahmednagar to Ahilyanagar
- Pune to Rajmata Jijau Nagar (Amidst the surge of Marathification in Maharashtra after the renaming of Aurangabad and Osmanabad, a NCP MLC, Amol Mitkari has demanded this name change, and although it is highly unlikely to materialize, there has been a 'growing' movement to rename Pune's sister city, Pimpri-Chinchwad as Jijau Nagar)
- List of renamed places in India
- List of renamed places in Pakistan
- List of renamed places in South Africa
- India and the World Bank: The Politics of Aid and Influence - Page 126 Jason A. Kirk - 2011 "Orissa (Note: This state was officially renamed Odisha in March 2011)"
- Aggarwal, Rajesh (25 October 2014). "Merging NPR and UID ???". igovernment.in. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
- The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to the 1990s. - Page 134 Christophe Jaffrelot 1999 - "The new state included Madhya Bharat, the Bhopal region, the former Vindhya Pradesh, Mahakoshal and Chhattisgarh (the last two regions forming the Hindi-speaking parts in the former Madhya Pradesh; see map, pp. xxii-xxiii)."
- Mira Kamdar Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming ... 2007 Author's introduction Page xi "India's information-technology capital's new name, should it be adopted, will mean "town of boiled beans." The name changes are not without controversy among Indians. In several instances, the name change represents a struggle between a cosmopolitan elite and a local, regional-language populace over defining the city in ways that go far beyond a simple change of name."
- Steven I. Wilkinson Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India 2006 Page 23 "The BJP proposed in 1990 and 2001 that Ahmedabad be renamed "Karnavati." Hindu, June 1 1, 2001. Similar proposals have been made to restore Allahabad to "Prayag", as it had been known as before the Mughal era.
- Cosmopolitanism - Page 73 Carol A. Breckenridge, Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha - 2002 "In one sense, the decision to officialise the name Mumbai is part of a widespread Indian pattern of replacing names associated with colonial rule with names associated with local, national, and regional heroes. It is an indigenizing toponymic."
- Reserve Bank of India's instructions for banks & banking operations Reserve Bank of India 2001 Page 713 "The new name "Mumbai" should be reflected in both English and Hindi and the change in name is to be brought about in all official communications, name plates, sign boards, office seals, rubber stamps, etc."
- Perveez Mody The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi Page 59 - 2008 "Throughout this book, I refer to India's commercial capital as Bombay rather than Mumbai. ... I am well aware of the name-change effected by an Act of the Indian Parliament in 1997 that made the city officially 'Mumbai'. ... It is the same convention I adopt when referring to Calcutta rather than Kolkata."
- Pingali Sailaja Indian English Page 16 2009 "Bombay is now called Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai and Calcutta is Kolkata, in an attempt to de-anglicise them. In this work, the earlier names are retained since these names were used during the period that we mostly cover."
- Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History - Page 3 Krishna Dutta - 2003 "nationalist stance, like Bombay, which changed its name to Mumbai, or Madras, which has become the unrecognisable Chennai, Calcutta has preferred a comparatively minor name change, which frankly is a bit of a multicultural mishmash."
- Abishek, Kumar (17 October 2018). "From now on, Allahabad to be Prayagraj". India Today.
- Sundar, Puspha (18 August 2022). "The Renaming Epidemic: Can and Should One Re-Write the Past?". The Wire.
- "David Rumsey: Geographical Searching with MapRank Search (beta)". Rumsey.mapranksearch.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Beam, Christopher (12 July 2006). "How Bombay became Mumbai. - Slate Magazine". Slate.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Staff (21 August 2007). "Bangalore now Bengaluru". Oneindia.com. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- "Deccan Herald: Centre clears change in names of Karna cities, Belgaum now Belagavi". Deccanchronicle.com. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- "Karnataka cities get new names". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- Temples and legends of Himachal Pradesh - Page 38 Pranab Chandra Roy Choudhury - 1981 "Mandi takes the name from Mandavya. The name of the place was first Mandav Nagar and then corrupted into Mandi."
- Gazetteer of the Nellore District: Brought Up to 1938 - Page 151 Government Of Madras Staff, Government of Madras - 1942 "... of the Ramayana (2000 — 1500 BC) was a dense jungle, while the town of Nellore, which came into existence only several centuries later, was known as Simhapuri (Lion's town), from the supposed existence of lions in the adjacent forests."
- "Kerala to become 'Keralam'? | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. 14 July 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
- "West Bengal renaming: Centre says hasn't approved name change; Mamata Banerjee writes to PM Modi | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
- Vibha Sharma; Shahira Naim (17 October 2018). "Allahabad is now Prayagraj, Yogi's Cabinet renames historic city". The Tribune.
- "As Gujarat sets to rename Ahmedabad to Karnavati, Shiv Sena demands name change of Osmanabad and Aurangabad". Hindustan Times. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
- Latief, Samiya (23 October 2018). "10 Indian cities that changed their names". Times of India.
- "Tharoor votes for 'Ananthapuri'". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
- "Now, Indore to become Indur, Bhopal Bhojpal". The Times of India. 18 December 2006. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
- "BJP to rename Hyderabad, Karimnagar if it forms govt in Telangana: UP CM Yogi Adityanath". Indianexpress.com. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- ANI (20 August 2019). "BJP lawmaker demands change of Nizamabad's name to 'Indur'". Business Standard India. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
- "District History". Government of Telangana website.
- "Lucknow name change: BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta demands to rename Uttar Pradesh capital". Zee Business. 8 February 2023. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
- "Ahmednagar will now be Ahilyanagar: Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde". The Times of India. 1 June 2023. ISSN 0971-8257. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
- "Rename Pune as Jijau Nagar, says NCP MLC Amol Mitkari; Hindu Mahasabha objects". The Indian Express. 13 January 2023. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
- Desk, P. M. B. (19 June 2023). "Jijau Nagar demand becomes louder…". punemirror.com. Retrieved 23 September 2023.