Well, Nov 01, 2006 has come and gone and Bangalore no longer exists ! What ? Surely no disaster has befallen the darling of technologists, pensioners, scientists and good ol' Bangaloreans ? Well, it has...sort of. The government of the state of Karnataka has decided to change its name from Bangalore to "Bengaluru" ! This is how it is referred to in one of the local languages, Kannada! Apparently it is a hare-brained scheme hatched by U R Ananthamurthy, a Kannada writer and poet, to "empower" the local people!
Now, let me get a few thoughts off my chest about this topic..
Bangalore was never Bengaluru! Its original name was "Bendakaluru" which literally means "boiled beans" ! The legend goes that Veera Ballala II, a Hoysala king, was lost and wandering in a nearby forest. In a famished state he happened upon a solitary hut, where an elderly lady fed him boiled beans. As a result when he re-established the city that existed there, he named it "Benda-kaluru" meaning "boiled beans". [An even older name (set sometime in the 9th century AD), is "Benga-val-uru" when the city and region were parts of the Ganga dynasty.]
It was when the Brits came along and decided to set up a cantonment there (the lovely weather was a definite factor along with the fact that it was a tactical location, being on seven small hills, as well as having mountain ranges nearby for cover) that "Bendakaluru" became "Bangalore".
Over the years, the Bangalore became localized into "Bengaluru" in the local language Kannada. So, this case is different from that of say, Kolkatta or Chennai - their English names were anglicizations of their local names (Calcutta and Madras), whereas it was the other way round for Bangalore.
Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city (one of possibly only two in India - the other being Bombay). It is no longer (actually never did) belong to Kannadigas! It doesn't even belong to Tamilians, Malayalis, Gujaratis, Anglo-Indians, or any other sect or community on the face of the earth. On the other hand, it belongs to everyone who resides there...every single person or group who was born there or has come in and set up residence (even for a short duration) owns a part of Bangalore and contributes to its rich culture and heritage (for eg.: did you know that Bangalore has great Jazz/Blues/carnatic/rock/theatre/bharatnatyam/million-other-things traditions?!!). To say that it has to be renamed in Kannada, is a personal affront to everyone who loves the city for its seemingly endless capacity to embrace folks from all cultures and background! An insult to all of us who where were born and raised there, who came to love this city, but are not Kannadigas !
The city manages to mix the old with the new - the British architecture and traditions with the modern technological lifestyles, with hints of Indian culture and traditions mixed in...
Bangalore has become a brand name for India as well...it has become recognizable on a global scale, and a focal point for the scientific and technology communities all over the world...I am constantly amazed at how many people, in North Carolina of all places, recognize Bangalore! To change its name is to tarnish that image - maybe by a bit, but tarnish nonetheless.
What is gained by renaming Bangalore ? How does a Kannadiga become more proud because we have decided to shun our heritage ? Does he/she feel more secure now that the city has been renamed ? What about the millions of people living there who are not of Kannada origin, but have helped bring this city to its current status ? The folks who toil day and night, who dream and build, in the process moving everyone, Kannadigas and non-Kannadigas alike, forward. Are we ashamed of our rich background which over the centuries has been a melting point of thoughts, ideas and cultures ?
How about the enormous amounts of money that is wasted in changing signs, name-plates, forms, letterheads and so on ? Wouldn't it have been better off if the government had used this money to say, alleviate the traffic problems in the city?
I do believe that anyone who has ever been in the city will always call it Bangalore...at least know I will...and I'm waiting for the day when this ridiculous attitude among politicians of pandering to the masses is done away with...
Previous posts on Bangalore/Bengaluru : 1.
[An interesting footnote : Apparently stone tools, as old as 4000 BC were found near Bangalore ! It has a rich tradition, dating back from 890 AD !]