Question about city names that are being renamed

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 18 20:30:31 UTC 2011

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Hi, all:

I've been asked by a colleague in another (non-South Asian) area of the
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
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,
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


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at

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