The name ‘India’ refers to the river Indus, or Sindhu. When the ancient Greeks, while exploring the world, reached the shores of the Indus, they referred to the people living there as ‘Indoi’ or the people of the Indus. Later, the Persians changed this to Hindus.
It is believed that the word ‘Indos’ referring to this part of the world was first used in English in the 9th century. This was changed to ‘India’ in modern English around the 17th century.
When the British and other Europeans came to India, the word ‘Hind’ was used to refer to the northern and north-western part of the subcontinent. From that the name ‘Hindustan’ came to be used.
India is not the only official name of our country. The name ‘Bharat’ is also recognized by our constitution. The Constitution says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states…”
Bharata means ‘devoted to light’ in Sanskrit. Bharata was a great Emperor who conquered major portions of the subcontinent, and unified them. His empire was known as ‘Bharatvarsh’ or The Land of Bharata.’
Although Bharatvarsha was a really ancient name for the sub-continent, there was another, even earlier name. Ancient texts refer to the region as Jambudvipa, which means ‘The Island of the Berry’. That’s how it was known in many south-east Asian regions, where Indian traders went. It was also known as Nabhivarsa, after King Nabhi.
Other ancient civilisations had other names for the subcontinent. In the Book of Esther, a part of the Old Testament in the Bible, it is referred to as Hodu. The Chinese and Japanese called it Tianzhu.