November 06, 2009

Orissa or Odisha?

I have been hearing this for the last three years: Orissa is to be renamed as Odisha. That Orissa is being renamed is accurate news (it was one of the flashy agendas of Naveen Patnaik's government) but when was Orissa renamed? I have been hearing that Orissa has been renamed since 2006, without any confirmation. Even when I was preparing for my civils interview, I found conflicting evidences on whether Orissa or Odisha is the official name of the state! Most state government websites referred it to as Orissa, while a few had converted to Odisha-regime. Of course I understand how perplexing it must be for a bureaucracy to change the name of the very state they work for, but still there was no final confirmation till recently.

Now that the change has happened, people outside Orissa perceive this as a real change of name, just like Bombay became Mumbai and Madras became Chennai. The fact is, this change is NOT a change of name, just a change of spelling. Ever since I had the sense to understand that my home state's name is Orissa, I have been pronouncing it as ODISHA, not ORISSA. The name of the land is derived from the word "Udra", which was a big totemic clan of the region. When the English came to India, they could not pronounce ODISHA (odiya accent is unusually accent even among Indian languages). So they pronounced it as ORISSA. Similarly, our language is ODIYA, but it was pronounced by English administrators as ORIYA. Since the first few English documents on Odisha were written by English administrators, they continuously spelt it as Orissa. And the language was consistently spelt as Oriya.

Now this is not a problem, is it? After all "colonel" is pronounced as CORNEL, not COLONEL. In English, if "to" is pronounced as TWO, then "go" is pronounced as GO, not GUH. The problem is that we Indians (and foreigners for that matter) usually pronounce an Indian city/ state's name as it is spelt. So while Orissa was pronounced as ODISHA in Orissa, it was pronounced as ORISSA by outsiders. It is for the convenience of all -sons of the soil and outsiders -that the spelling was changed. The name was never changed!

1 comment:

partha said...

Name of Odisha was not only spelt wrongly as Orissa in English, but in Hindi it was pronounced and spelt as Udisha. So the change was done in both language.