Bombay, Mumbai… Panaji, Ponnje


Check this story on Slate.com, which says Mumbai? What About Bombay? How the city got renamed. Christopher Beam explains how this Indian bustling, crowded megapolis got it’s (recent) name-change.

It says: “Almost 200 people were killed on Tuesday when seven bombs exploded on a train in Mumbai, India. When did Bombay become Mumbai?Officially, in 1995. That year, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party
Shiv Sena won elections in the state of Maharashtra and presided over
a coalition that took control of the state assembly. After the
election, the party announced that the port city had been renamed
after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi, the city’s patron deity. Federal
agencies, local businesses, and newspapers were ordered to adopt the
change….”

There was a discussion on the South Asian Journalists Association (in the US) email discussion mailing list, about this issue. Mostly critical of Slate’s views, or questioning their accuracy.

Slate.com aruges: “The name change didn’t impact all of Mumbai’s residents. Speakers of Marathi and Gujarati, the local languages, have always called the city Mumbai. “Bombay” is an anglicization of the Portuguese name “Bombaim,” which is believed to derive from the phrase “Bom Bahia,” or “Good Bay.” (Portugal held territories in western India until 1961.)”

It notes that places like Chennai also changed its name of late. Incidentally, some other articles Slate.com has includes ones on the rules of Bollywood, traveling through India, the surprising triumph of the Indian National Congress in the 2004 elections, and a 2001 report on “why India didn’t have its own War on Terror”.

Should Panaji be renamed to Ponnje (or Pon’nje) then? I’ve argued earlier that Panaji is more of a Devanagari misspelling of the old Portuguese Pangim (with a silent ending). It gets rendered as Pa-N-Jee, very similar to the name used by the Portuguese pre-1961, but for some reason gets misspelt grossly into Paa-naa-ji when rendered back into the Roman script… and misspelt back as ‘Panaji’.

Likewise, Panjim is an Anglicised version, widely used by English speakers, with the ending ‘m’ getting pronounced. Who remember Ponn’je, the word on the mouth of everyone wanting to name the city in Konkani?

PS: Just playing devil’s advocate here… I really believe that a city with badly managed garbage stinks as much (specially near the Mandovi bridge) under any name 😉 Likewise, with neatly kept gardens and the lovely trees at Campal (influenced by a trip on GoogleEarth this afternoon), is as sweet regardless of what it’s name is!

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