Vir Sanghvi writes about Marathi chauvinism in his recent column in HT. Now, I don’t always share his opinions, but this article looks interesting to me. Here’s an excerpt:
[W]hether we like it or not, Bombay is not an ancient Indian city in the sense that, say, Delhi is. It is a colonial creation. There is no record of any city on the site of Bombay before the Europeans got here.
That explains the name. It is generally believed (though there are other theories) that the word ‘Bombay’ comes from a Portuguese phrase which means beautiful bay. This was later anglicised — when the city passed to the British — to Bombay. So Bombay is not a Maharashtrian name. In fact, it is not even an Indian name. And that’s because the city did not exist before colonisation.
So where did ‘Mumbai’ come from? The general view is that it is a corruption of ‘Bombay’. Indians have a tradition of corrupting city names when we use them in different Indian languages.
There are no references here, but the proposition confirms what I knew about the origins of the names.
One can think of many such corruptions of city names in India. Like (as Sanghvi mentions in this article) Ahmedabad, is commonly and informally spoken of as Amdavad by Gujaratis. But no one claims that Amdavad is the proper term, and everyone refers to it as Ahmedabad in writing. Bangalore is probably another such dialectical modification of the original name: Bengaluru.
Burma is another example that comes to mind. John Wells (a professor of Phonetics) wrote about this in his blog: (link)
As we all know, the ruling junta in Burma would prefer that we call their country Myanmar. In Burmese, this name Myanmar is essentially just a variant of the name Burma. It is transliterated as Myan-ma or Mran-ma, and in the local language pronounced something like [ma(n) ma], as against [ba ma] for the traditional name.According to Wikipedia: Within the Burmese language, Myanma is the written, literary name of the country, while Bama … (from which “Burma” derives) is the oral, colloquial name. In spoken Burmese, the distinction is less clear than the English transliteration suggests.
Coming back to the Indian context, it looks like politicians are, once again, using this “purification” campaign to incite junta and thus earn political dividends. It looks like the Marathi manoos is falling for that, and the politicians are winning in their unstoppable zest of attaining and exploiting power, once again.