India’s Policy on Renaming States, Cities: Orissa is now Odisha

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Seal of Orissa now Odisha By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Oct. 26 – The State of Orissa is now legally to be known as  Odisha following a ruling by the Indian Union Cabinet. The regional language, previously known as Oriya, will now be called Odia.

The move follows prolonged lobbying by the BJP Party, long bent on correcting misnamed cities and states. The confusion arises partly due to the phonetic and dialect differences in pronouncing the English version and the local language version with the BJP determined to revert all names to the ones used locally. Hence Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai and Calcutta became Kolkata.

The BJP have a tendency only to look back to certain periods of history suiting their own views. Orissa, in the east of India, was adopted as state name when it entered the Indian Union in 1950. However, in the local language, the name was pronounced slightly differently, as “Udisa.” There are also some phonetic issues with certain clarity of English letters, and rather similar to Japanese pronunciations of the letters r and l with the use of English becoming awkward for some.

The BJP have based their name change on 15th century records which refers to the “land of the Oriya people as being named Udisa or Odisa.” However, in Tantric literature it is referred to as Udisantha, while the ancient poet Sarala Das mentions the land as being called “Odra Rastra.”

Gajapati Kapileswaradeva, who lived between 1435 and 1467, referred to it as “Odisa Rajya” in his carvings on the temple walls at Jagannath. The renaming of Orissa, or Udisa as “Odisha” itself is inaccurate – it still doesn’t adequately capture the actual pronunciation of the ancient name. It’s political meddling in etymology for the sake of it.

Much of the renaming of Indian cities has taken place to do away with names associated with the British Raj, with many names of streets, buildings or markets being reinvented as “pure Indian.” While one can see the sense in renaming the Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay to an ethnically acceptable Indian one, it is now officially known as the “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sastu Sangrahalaya.”

While there’s a certain splendid length to the new title, it however totally unpronounceable to anyone not Indian, and bears no relation in any event to what it actually is. So although impressive signage outside displays the new name, it still is “formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum” written in large letters underneath for the benefit of everyone else. Indeed, most native Indians still refer to it as the Prince of Wales Museum.

The museum’s website address, which is currently under construction is named despite the fact Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995.

The same is true of Calcutta and Madras. Most Indians still refer to them by these titles, and will often use both new and old names. There are other, recent silly changes. The well known city of Bangalore, the country’s IT capital, was renamed officially as Bengaluru two years ago, again to “politically correct” a mispronunciation. Yet everyone still refers to the city as Bangalore. What was the point?

Other changes in cities have included renaming Trivandrum as Thiruvananthapuram and the old French colonial outpost of Pondicherry as Puducherry. While the political and cultural reasons for doing so may be ethnically sound, the actual common sense aspect in renaming areas already well-known internationally in one form does not seem to be taken into account.

Neither Hindi or Devanagari are under threat as aspects of spoken or written Indian culture. As India moves more prominently onto an international stage, this meddling in domestic culture over names that are used and recognized globally ought to come to an end. It’s unnecessary, wasteful, increasingly politicized, and hinders potential regional development by creating global linguistic confusion.

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33 thoughts on “India’s Policy on Renaming States, Cities: Orissa is now Odisha

    Surajit Mullick says:

    I appreciate the article. But it could hurt the Odia people’s sentiment if they could read it like me.
    In the local language, 90% of the people pronounce the state’s name as “Odisa” or ‘Odisha’ but never ‘Udisa’.
    North Indian People pronounce it as ‘Udisha’,which really hurts to every Odia people. I think anybody can feel the same if his/her name will be pronounced differently than the actual one. So, the right time has come to correct it.
    Every Odia people will be happy with this decision. I am not a supporter of any political party. But I can say it was absolutely necessary.
    Kindly rephrase your item.

    Surajit Mullick
    Port Talbot
    United Kingdom

    rudra says:

    i do feel the same thing as of surijit. regarding change of name i dont think it is unnecessary as most people of the state called it o-d-i-s-h-s-a rather then orissa. so reffering to own state or identifying its language in a state’s name is not uncessary, it is relevant ,,,,,,



    Deepak Kumar Sahani says:

    This article is good but in my views
    I thanks and respect the steps were taken to change of the name. As a result it is for those who cannot provenance the name of state while reading English. It is always better to recognize name after a glance clearly .


    Sudhansu says:

    I do agree with sujit. we have to change the symble of slevery. thanks to those people who fought for it.


    Arunav says:

    It was necessary. I am from Odisha and I felt bad whenever some one use to call my states name Orissa or whenever i use to read it in books/publications.

    This was necessary, my state doesn’t need the name given by someone. We are Odia people and this change was necessary.

    There are places in world that even I can’t spell correctly and that doesn’t mean I will call that lace in my way.


    Santosh Mohapatra, Hyderabad says:

    The name of any person/state is to be pronounced the way it is been pronounced by himself/themself. So to claim that as tongue twister is to say that I am unable to pronounce it. The name change to “ODISHA” is to be taken more positively than its been done. It was a mistake done by a Britisher (the then lords of the state). For the reason that we are used to it, and to carry on with the same,is no logical. I really appreciate and proud to say that now I can legally call it as “ODISHA” – My State than to change it to some thing else, becasue some one is not able to cope up with that. Its my name and thats how I pronounce it, These words are been uttered by many great leaders/manager in the meetings, interviews when they have been asked for. Now we say its “ODISHA” thats how we pronounce it, Please make yourself corrected.

    sanju says:

    What do you (author) feel if i call you something cirrrrss Divonsirrre (not intend to). I am sure you will feel bad.

    The author (Chris Devonshire-Ellis) should understand same emotion and logical approach of people. If an organisation/ party/ state demands for right name, what is wrong with it?

    I am glad for the effort of countless individuals/ organisations (no matter which party, association, organisation, individuals) to rename the state ODISHA. I am proud to be a ODIA and for the state of ODISHA.

    Sibananda Swain, Rajnagar, ODISHA says:

    Dear author,

    Your arctile on the subject does not take into account the emotinal aspects of the people of Odisha. I can tell that – Even in India, most of the north indian population spell the erstwhile ORISSA as UDISA and ORIYA as UDIA. Is it not humiliating and unpleasing to hear mis-spelled names of my state and my people that too from my own countrymen ?

    The present name i.e. ODISHA gives a feeling of ownness and is associated with Odia Pride. The Govt. of Orissa and other Govt. and NGO really deserve all praise and people’s bestwishes for having done this most awaited name change i.e ODISHA.

    I thank you for giving an opportunity to express my views. Thanks once again.

    dk asok says:

    The name change is a welcome step and not unnecessary as though of !!

    Niranjan says:

    The Person who has written this article is a stupud. He does not know anything. The move is not by BJP, It is due to the pressure of the people of Odisha.They want to be called as per the real name.I advise him, 1st study the real scenerios and then write articles.

    Sathya says:

    Although my view may be individualistic. I don’t have anything against changing state names. But I strongly believe governments should put this energy towards doing something more productive for the states and towards the states economical progress.

    I am from Orissa and have lived for more than 20 years in Bhubaneswar which is my place of birth. I have also lived a substantial time in Bangalore. The changing of names should also take into consideration the other changes it would have to bring along like the changing of names in legal documents, hoarding boards, websites etc.

    I do agree with Surajit and others that some people call it Udisha which is not correct.

    Bhubaneswar, Bangalore, London

    Mr.Madras says:

    Unncessary Name change leads to confusion & frustration. I still refer to the city name as Madras but many people confuse me with the new name .

    Prabhat says:

    I wouldn’t like a name imposed by British who came only to rule us and exploit us.

    Bharat(India) eternally embraced many races, religions, faiths and believes and assimilated it into its main stream without losing its own uniqueness.

    We don’t fear being global nor our forefathers set forth us a jingoistic example of plundering other countries, or destroying other civilizations.

    However we like the world to know what we are and how exactly we name ourselves and pronounce it.

    I don’t care what the entire world thinks about us. but we people of Odisha would like to be know as Odia and the name of the state should be pronounced as Odisha.

    Actually we should have switched back to our local names all over our country immediately after Independence. I don’t understand why we have to lobby, demand our own names to be changed.

    Satyabrata Mishra says:

    Dear Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Any correction made can’t be termed as stupidity. The renaming should have happened much earlier. Better late than never.

    subrat says:

    Ya I am happy to now write my state how i pronounce rather the British did it. But sorry to say that it has not been knowned to all even some odiya people also.

    sangini says:

    good luck you trying to pronounce a french word in your american english/british english.But you would not try to pull of that stunt out there.As its a insult of highest order out there if you mispronounce their language.same is here too.

    Dillip Kumar Pattanaik says:

    The changing of name from “orissa” to “odisha” is the very good steps of goverment of INDIA.

    Abani says:

    I don’t think the name change is unnecessary. Its more of a correction than a change. You have talked about few aspects of ancient names associated with Odisha but your article still leaves your discussion open since the author probably has not been acquainted with the reasons whatsoever for why the name correction/change was introduced. If I were you, I would probably tried to find the answers to why this change is being done. Probably a next article from you could conclude your open discussion. But I would definitely not say it as unnecessary and its just an effort to make the pronunciation in English and Odia more close I would say…

    raja says:

    @author, who told you that people of Odisha spell it as ‘Udisha’. I bet if you find a single Odia people who spells like this. Every Odia spell it Odisha, though the previous official name was Orissa.
    Your neighbour spells your name as Mr. Chrresh (plz don’t mind), that doesn’t imply that you also spell like that. Your name is your property, so is the state/city names.

    Dr Subhankar Samal says:

    I appreciate the what happened . It could just be another political drama in India . ( I might see that changing to” BHARAT” even ). But it’s a fact that now there is a growing concern for self identity . ORISSA as such is not the true pronounciation in ODIYA people . It’s name pronounced by Britishers . With growth and development of India overall , I feel it is time to recognise the way we are not by a name or mispronounciation given by somebody else .

    Subhashree Swain says:

    Ya. i m very happy with the changes of name. After independent of India whatever Britishers had set the names of different states, we all Indian pronouns them in the same way. Moreover , Orissa ,it is the pronunciation made by English people. now we all odia people feel great when we pronounce odisha. it seems as if we realy in one family. i would like to thank our govt. for taking such a good step towards it. But. it should be known to all the odia people because until and unless they are knowing this , it is useless of changing the name. so . i request all people shoud pronounce Odisha, write odisha feel odia……….

    martin says:


    I thank the author for this well crafted article. It cites the irregularities in the new naming with respect to the history. It also underlines the political agenda behind it. As for me I myself am not a supporter of renaming well known places. It always adds to the confusion. It is just common sense to understand that. I do respect the sentiment of the locals. If they prefer it so, they should have it. I am a resident of “Thiruvananthapuram”(trivandrum) district in the state of “Keralam” meaning the land of the coconut trees. But I have rarely seen any writing in English as “Keralam”. It is mostly written as “Kerala” and pronounced or written as “keral” in hindi.
    So should i complain to all the others in the world, to change my state name to that specified in my local language MALAYALAM ? This is pointless. The effort the nation of India puts to rename a state could be put to something which is much more useful.

    martin says:

    If the problem one is having, is that Britishers named it, should n’t he be having problems with other things which they left? Clothes , the education system, the judiciary which i might add has not changed to the modern age?. So all in all this is just false patriotism.

    Rajshree says:

    I think no matter what the name of the state is but the thing is who will or which government will give the guarantee that the name changing procedure will forge unity among the people or among the classes. Or will it be possible that the changing of the state name to “Odisha” will raise its status in India at least because any where when we tell about Odisha people react by uttering oh!! that underdeveloped state. This is the main challenge that the government have to face.


    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    Thanks Guys for your valuable comments. My views are well known, and think of the cost involved in changing the name? Everything has to be changed from stationary and maps to road signs and seals…its such a waste of money. Plus any name change won’t solve any of Orissa’s problems in any way, it’s still the same place. Far better to divert time and energy into solving the real problems than this expensive, unnecessary, PC nonsense. – Chris

    Bikash says:

    I read upto the line where it is said that —–“However, in the local language, the name was pronounced slightly differently, as “Udisa.”—- “……After this line I dont want to read it more because It shows the reporter’s poor knowledge of the content…. And Mr. Reporter let me tell u , since I was born Odisha is called Odisha… I dont know if you have gathered the Data before 1986 …… Also let me suggest you something…..You also change your name from Chris to KRISHNA ….. from where the western name Chris is generated.

    Bikash says:

    Mr. Debanasire Kris Illisi, nice post..

    Ram Prasad says:

    I think it would have served everybody’s purpose if you had reported the name change and historical changes as is instead of editorialising. People want news and the history behind the same and not opinion.

    Any opinion needs to be balanced not one sided. Indians and not just Odias are emotional. You can’t wish that away. The name change is an absolute waste of time. It does not change anything but if people wish the change, so be it, it is their right. Who said democracy comes cheap?

    But it definitely begs the question. In a state which is amongst the most backward in the country, would you use resources to alleviate the problems of the poor or spend time, effort and energy in something as mundane as this. If you want to progress would you look to the future or the past?

    Rajesh Ojha says:

    Reading this article one can easily say that you have no idea about odisha culture. You are limited to your collected information. First get the proper knowledge, then go on writing.

    aze says:

    I fully agree, with the author of this article. Practical and realistic problems need our heed not such unrealistic issues connected with a whole lot of resource wastage! Thumbs up to the Author.

    Chiranjeeb says:

    Don’t just post such posts in sake of posting something…. In India we have right to pronounce or change our names which has a meaningful and hold the traditional, Literature and cultural values. Go through the history of ODISHA (ଓଡ଼ିଶା), then post it. Please don’t hurt any one or any group.

    Jay says:


    I am extremely sorry for these people:

    1. Who does not have any idea about Odisha (previously known as Kalinga, Utkal) & its history. Ancient economy of Odisha was far developed than the other states. Well connected with Burma, Java, bali, Malay peninsula, Cambodia, China etc.

    2. Who don’t care if any body calls their mother in different way because the does not have their own dignity.

    For my Odiya Friends.

    Nothing to worry about these writings of Author. We will get back our status and the things that we have lost. We have cleared one step and have to go far away. Just ignore the useless things.

    You better know:-

    One of our great poet written “Matru Bhumi matru bhasara mamata Ja hrude janami nahin, Taku jadi gyani ganare ganiba agyani rahibe kahin”

    Asita Prasanna Mohapatra says:

    I really respect the thoughts of everybody.However we can not continue the mistakes that has been carried on for a long time.Every individual,race and nation want to be recognised as their original names not by the names thoese are formed by the distortion of words.Being an odia I certainly appreciate this move.My apologies incase i hurt anybody’s sentiment.

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