India vs. Hindustan vs. Bharat: What's in the name?

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Difference between India, Hindustan and Bharat

The South Asian subcontinent has been addressed by a plethora of names at different times throughout the History. There was a time when the subcontinent as a whole, was referred to as ‘Hindustan –The Golden Sparrow’. This was one of the eminent names of South Asia before it was partitioned into different countries. During the British reign over the subcontinent, the name ‘India’ was used invariably all over the world to refer to South Asia. However, after independence from British rule, the subcontinent was gradually partitioned into different countries, the largest amongst which is ‘India’ or ‘Bharat’.


Meaning of the Terms

India is derived from the word ‘Indus’. Indus refers to the Hindus and is in turn derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’. Sindhu is a river in the country more commonly known as the Indus River. The ‘Indus people’ was the term used by the Europeans to address the People of South Asia which gave rise to the name ‘India’. Hindustan on the other hand, is a fully qualified Persian word which is composed of two independent words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Sthan’ (meaning the place or land). Thus the whole term Hindustan means ‘The Land of Hindus’.

Present Use of the Terms

The word ‘India’ today only refers to the ‘Republic of India’ or ‘Bharat’ which achieved independence from the ‘British Raj’ on August 15th, 1947. It is the 7th largest country in the world and largest in the subcontinent of South Asia. The Republic of India is amongst the very few secular nations in the world. Historically ‘Hindustan’ was used to refer to the northern land of India which holds great significance in the Hindu mythology – mainly the Punjab and Indo-Gangetic Plains. However nowadays, the term is mostly being used synonymously to ‘India’ to refer to the whole of the country.


Since India is a secular country, the synonymous usage of the term Hindustan to mean India is condemned by the non Hindu citizens of the country especially the Muslim sects. However the people of the neighboring Islamic state ‘Pakistan’ willingly accept the name of Hindustan to mean India. As per the Constitution of India, only ‘Bharat’ is the only other recognized name for the ‘Republic of India’ which holds equal status as that of the label ‘India’. Hindustan is not an officially recognized synonym for the country.


  • India and Hindustan were the two eminent names of the South Asian subcontinent before and during the ‘British Raj’ in the region.
  • India is derived from the phrase ‘People of Indus River’ whereas Hindustan is a Persian word meaning ‘Land of Hindus’.
  • India refers to the ‘Republic of India’, the 7th largest country in the world.
  • The historical usage of the term ‘Hindustan’ was confined to refer to the northern region of India which holds a great significance in the Hindu Mythology.
  • Nowadays, the term Hindustan is commonly used as a synonym to India to refer to the whole of the country.
  • Bharat is an official label for India, while Hindustani is not. 


comments 8 Comments

  • VJ Shah . 3+ yrs. ago

Etymology has mistakes here... The original name is Sindhu - the river 'S' in Sanskrit is replaced by 'H' in many Persian words.. So Sindhu becomes 'Hindhu' and then 'Hindu' - the name of the country (related to the name of the river). Arabic and many languages do use the same - 'hind' means the anicent India... 'Hind' had no connection to religion. Neither the word 'Hindu'. Moghuls used the word 'Hindusthan' or 'Hindustan' ...Again no conenction to the religion 'Hindu'. In fact the word Hindu was used ina religious sense in a British document in 1830. Since then it becane established. Indian mythology or puranas do not have the word 'HINDU'.

  • Bhikhu Patel . 3+ yrs. ago

The river Sindhu was called Sinthos and Sindus by the Greeks and Romans respectively. The Chinese and the Japanese pronounced the names connected with the river as Shito, Shitu and Shituho. Thomas Jefferys, Royal Geographer to Her Majesty, in 1761, prepared A Map of Indostan and shown in the book the Horizon History of the World in 1776, in which the river has been described as The Indus or the Sindi River, and the mouth of the river was described as Gulf of Sindi. The Encyclopaedia Brittannica states that the name Indus became familiar only after the British connection.

The Persians themselves have place names such as Susa and Shiraz and some others. There is not much of a justification, in my opinion, when the whole world has expressed the name of the river with some accuracy, to continue with the vocal chord difficulties of the Persians.

  • Bhikhu Patel . 3+ yrs. ago

The Golden Sparrow or The Jewel in the Crown referred to the country which provided knowledge to the humanity and wealth to the invaders.

Edward Jurji in his book The Great Religions of Modern world points out the wild joy expressed by the 'moving tribesmen' - Hindustan - when they saw the vast expanse of the water.

Yet another historian tried to connect the first and the last syllables of two names - 'Hi' of the Himalayas in the north and 'ndu' of the Bindu Sarovar in the south - the area between the two was called Hindustan.

Whether, the name Hindustan came about as a result of the vocal chord difficulties of the Persians. the tribal word for 'huge expanse of water' or joining the two syllables, they all seem to have equal opportunities.

All the names of India, whether in Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Greek, Chinese or Persian, have origin in Sanskrit. The Chinese and the Greeks visited India in the past to study at Taks-shila and Nalanda.

The Chinese traveler, Huen Tsang, writes that India was called 'Tien Chu', pronounced 'Intu', which meant the moon in Chinese language. The Greeks called the sub-continent 'Ind' and the people 'Indoi' and the Romans called 'Indus' or 'Indoos'. Since, there has been mushrooming of words with the root 'Ind', e.g. Indostan, India, Indies, Indias, and Indikoi.

Most people would know that one of the present names of India is Bharat, which was the name of one of the most famous Chandravanshiya kings. The other names of Chandra are Som and Indu. The Chinese traveller, after stating the meaning of Intu (moon), further elaborates, that 'the scholars from that land have brightened the world with their delightful and shining knowledge like the moon. The Greeks and the Romans were wise people too,and adopted the similar name for India.

The other name, Indu-kush, which meant 'krupan' or plant that flourishes in the moon-light,has been given to the mountain ranges, presently called Hindu-kush. Thus, the word Hindu itself is Indu with a softer 'I'.

  • surendra jayant . 3+ yrs. ago

Great land India the land of BUDDHA , RAM and nanak , hey buddha we are need of you again as all around is voilence voilence ............

  • Bhikhu Patel . 3+ yrs. ago

Your sarcasm is justified in the light of corruption, thuggery and violence that is going on in India. I hope your efforts would be for the change in the coming days. Please, let us have your input to the above subject and not let anger cloud your intellect.

  • AMAN KUMAR . 3+ yrs. ago

thnxx........... bhiku patel for ur kind information

  • AMAN KUMAR . 3+ yrs. ago

but i thik bharat had lost his post

  • Bhikhubhai P. . 3+ yrs. ago

need to explain yourself with more details.

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