Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s suggestion that Delhi should have been called either Indraprastha or Hastinapur has not gone down too well with Delhiites.
On Tuesday, during a discussion in Parliament on the National Capital of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, the minister said, “Sometimes I feel, instead of Delhi, it should have been either Indraprastha or Hastinapur. Some such historical name should have been more appropriate for this city.”
Later, the minister clarified that he was not “proposing anything,” but many find the mere suggestion of renaming the capital detrimental to ‘Brand Delhi’. “It is an attempt at saffronisation. You cannot change the essence of a city by changing its name. It is a pointless suggestion,” said AGK Menon, convener, INTACH, (Delhi Chapter).
Pran Nevile, 92, author and former diplomat, is more scathing, “Changing the name will destroy brand Delhi. We are aspiring for the UNESCO world heritage city status for Delhi, and at the same time we want to change its name. Cultural revival has often been an excuse behind changing names of Indian cities,” he said. “We have been on a name-changing spree since Independence without any reason. Nowhere in the world do they change name of cities, not even in Pakistan.”
RV Smith, a well-known chronicler of Delhi, says that the city cannot be renamed Hastinapur because contemporary Delhi is not located where Hastinapur used to be.
“Hastinapur was where Meerut is today. Similarly, a small part of Delhi near Purana Qila was known as Indraprastha. Contemporary Delhi is much bigger than Indraprastha or Hastinapur,” said Smith.
“The question to ask here is whether Mahabharata is a myth or reality. If it is a reality then when did it exist. Some say it was lakhs of years ago. But the oldest human civilisation existed only 5,000 years ago. Evidence of the oldest settlement in Delhi dates to the 3rd century BC inside Purana Qila, which means just 2,300 years ago,” said Sohail Hashmi, historian and film-maker.
This is not the first time there has been a suggestion of changing Delhi’s name. In 2009, then Union sports minister MS Gill suggested Delhi should be renamed Dilli.