Query from Hal Schiffman

Dipak Bhattacharya dbhattacharya200498 at YAHOO.COM
Sat May 21 11:23:03 UTC 2011

The old
name of an area in present Kolkata (Calcutta) is found as Kálikātā,
pronounced kalkattā in northern India, in the Ā-īn-i Akbarī and the contemporary Chaṇḍīmangal  of Mukundaram.
Bipradas Pipilai’s Manasāmaṅgal makes mention the famous temple of Kālī at
Kālīghāṭ in south Calcutta. The present name Kolkata is a direct descendant of
the above mentioned Kálikātā, and Calcutta - an anglicized form of kalkattā.
The region meant by the name was the western part of present Central Calcutta.
The northern and southern parts had different names.
are many opinions on the origin of the name, the most prominent ones being 1.kali-gada‘heaps
of lime’ (S.K.Chatterji) referring to the trade in that community on the bank
of the Ganga in the late medieval period; 2. Calicut which grew a temporary
relation with this city. 3. Kālīghāṭ.
The most
authentic literature on the subject includes
1.      Kolikata
śaharer itivṛtta(A history of Calcutta) in two volumes, Binay Ghosh with extensive information
on Bengali and English sources, Kolkata 2004 (5th ed.) and 1997(3rd ed.)
2.      Kolikata
darpaṇ(A mirror
of Calcutta) in two vol.s, Radharamaṇ Mitra Vol.1 1997(4th reprint)
Vol.2 2004. Vol.2 pages 167 – 249 are devoted to the history of the name.
3.      There
are other works too. The nineteenth century speculations, mostly British, are
dated and may be ignored.
history of the name of Bombay is less debated. There is a universal belief,
I cannot specify the sources, that the name Bombay is an anglicized form of
Mumbai supposed to be derived from Mumba Bai, the presiding deity of the region
(mother-goddess taken for ‘Virgin Mary’ by the early European settlers). Even before
the name was officially changed, all local people called it Mumbai while those
coming from outside uttered the name as Bombaï. Literature is amply available.
While‘Madras’ is supposed to have originated among the British from the abundance
of Madrasas in the region,‘Chennai’, like Mumbai, is supposed to have derived
its name from the presiding deity of the region. But this is based on oral
information from knowledgeable sources. I can refer to the persons but not to literature,
nor to any authority. 

From: Elena Bashir <ebashir at UCHICAGO.EDU>
To: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
Sent: Friday, 20 May 2011 7:59 PM
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Query from Hal Schiffman

I am posting this query on behalf of Hal Schiffman.  Please send responses directly to him:  haroldfs at GMAIL.COM

"I've been asked by a colleague in another (non-South Asian) area of
    the world
what is the history of colonial city naming in India, and whether it
    is possible to
reconstruct what the "original" names for Bombay/Mumbai,
    Madras/Chennai, and

Two questions in particular I have is whether (1) Bombay was ever
    called Mumbai by
speakers of other languages of India, other than Marathi, and (2)
    when exactly did the
call for renaming Bombay as Mumbai began?  I'd be interested to know
    how recently
this phenomenon is. 

I know that in the case of Madras/Chennai, I never heard of
    "Chennai" when I first went
to Tamilnadu (then called Madras State) in 1965 and only later was
    there a push to rename the

I keep in mind an incident from when I was involved in SEASSI and
    went to Hanoi to
recruit teachers of Vietnamese.  We noticed that when speaking
    Vietnamese, people
referred to Saigon as Saigon, but when speaking English, they called
    it Ho Chi Minh City.
So I'm wondering whether this practice is all current in referring
    to Indian city names.

Hal Schiffman



E. Bashir, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Urdu
Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations
The University of Chicago, Foster 212
1130 E. 59th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone:  773-702-8632
Fax:    773-834-3254 

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