What is the meaning of Bharat, India’s other official name?

“Bharat” (Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is one of the official names of India, and its roots are deeply embedded in the country’s historical and cultural fabric.

Historical & Mythological Context

“Bharat” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit texts. According to Indian mythology, the name comes from the legendary king “Bharata” who was a prominent ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas from the Mahabharata, one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. The land ruled by King Bharata was called “Bharat,” and over time, the name came to represent the entire Indian subcontinent.

The Indian national flag, known as the Tiraṅgā, features three horizontal bands in saffron, white, and green, with a navy blue 24-spoke Ashoka Chakra in the center. Adopted on 22 July 1947 by the Constituent Assembly, it officially represented India from 15 August 1947 onwards.

Contrast between “India” and “Bharat”

While “Bharat” is rooted in India’s native traditions, “India” is a name that came from external, non-Indian sources.

The above point can be made of many countries whose names in English (or other foreign languages) might differ from what they are called in their native languages. For example, Germany is called “Deutschland” in German, and Japan is “Nippon” or “Nihon” in Japanese.

Using “Bharat” emphasizes the country’s indigenous identity, while “India” reflects its global or international identity, especially in contexts where English is the primary medium.

Both names are officially recognized, and while “India” is used more broadly in international contexts due to the predominance of English, “Bharat” is cherished and frequently used domestically because of its deep cultural resonance.

Popular belief holds that the Indian subcontinent’s traditional name, Bhārata, is derived from the name Bharata. Image: Painting of Bharata, Raja Ravi Varma.


In the nutshell, “Bharat” is a name that reflects India’s ancient history, culture, and traditions. While both “India” and “Bharat” are used officially and colloquially, “Bharat” carries a more profound indigenous significance.

Questions and Answers

The name “Bharat” is deeply rooted in ancient Indian narratives, representing both a legendary king and the land he ruled. This rich history gives the name a profound significance in the cultural and national identity of present-day India. Image: The Brihadishvara Temple, a Shaivite Hindu temple, is constructed in the Chola architectural design and is situated on the southern shores of the Cauvery River in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India.

What are India’s official names?

India has several official names, based on its diverse linguistic and cultural heritage.

The names are:

  1. English: Republic of India
  2. Hindi: भारत गणराज्य (Bhārat Gaṇarājya)

The word “Bhārat” is often used to refer to the country, which is derived from the ancient Indian texts and refers to a legendary king, Bharata, who was believed to be a progenitor of the nation.

However, India has 22 officially recognized languages in the Eighth Schedule of its Constitution, and in each of these languages, there might be specific names for the country. For instance, in Bengali, it is “ভারত প্রজাতন্ত্র” (Bhārat Prajātantra), in Tamil it’s “இந்திய குடியரசு” (Indiya Kudiyarasu), and so on.

But for official and international matters, “Republic of India” and “भारत गणराज्य” (Bhārat Gaṇarājya) are the standard English and Hindi designations, respectively.

Where did the name “India” come from?

The name “India” is derived from the River Indus, which flows mainly through modern-day Pakistan. The ancient Greeks referred to the land beyond the Indus River as “Indoi,” meaning “the land of the Indus.” Over time, this evolved into “India” in English and other European languages.

It must be noted that the Latin term for India is “India,” which again points towards the Indus connection.

Where does the name Bharat come from?

The name “Bharat” comes directly from Sanskrit, an ancient and classical language of India. As mentioned earlier, it’s associated with a legendary king from India’s ancient texts.

This name has been used for millennia in various Indian texts, rituals, and daily life to refer to the region.

What is the significance of the name Bharat?

Given its ancient origins, the name “Bharat” is intertwined with the country’s cultural, religious, and historical narratives. It’s not just a name; it carries with it stories, traditions, and values that are central to Indian identity.

Who is King Bharata in Indian Mythology?

In Indian mythology, “Bharata” is a prominent figure. There are multiple characters named Bharata in ancient Indian texts, but the one most commonly associated with the name of the country is the legendary emperor Bharata, who is believed to have established a unified kingdom in ancient times.

This Bharata is often identified with the son of King Dushyanta and Queen Shakuntala. His story is told in the Mahabharata and other texts like the Abhijnanashakuntalam written by the classical playwright Kalidasa.

Over centuries, as dynasties rose and fell and the idea of a unified territory evolved, the name “Bharat” persisted in its association with the subcontinent. This cultural and historical continuity ensured that the name remained central to India’s identity. Image: Flag of India

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