News Brief

Explained: Why Tamil Nadu Government Decided To Change Names Of Over 1,000 Places To Sound ‘Tamizh’

M R Subramani

Jun 11, 2020, 03:10 PM | Updated 03:10 PM IST

A signboard.
A signboard.
  • Among other changes, Coimbatore will now be called Koyampuththoor, Trichy will be Thiruchirapalli, and Madurai will henceforth be called Mathurai.
  • The Tamil Nadu government has notified the change in names of over 1,000 places, including cities and towns in the state based on a statement made in the state assembly two years ago.

    A gazette notification by the state government dated 1 April, which has now been brought to the attention of the public, said that the changes to names of these 1,018 places were being made based on the statement made during discussions on grants for Tamil Development and Information Department for the 2018-19 financial year.

    State Minister for Tamil Development and Information, Mafoi K Pandiarajan, had said that the anglicised names of places in Tamil Nadu will be changed to reflect their correct Tamil pronunciation.

    He said that, for example, ‘Thiruvallikkeni’ was referred to by its anglicised name ‘Triplicane’, and added that a high-level committee would be set up to look into this. A sum of Rs 5 lakh was also allocated for this purpose.

    Subsequently, the state government issued a gazette notification setting up such committees in each district headed by the collector besides an advisory committee headed by the department minister.

    After the respective district committees headed by the collectors submitted their reports, the advisory committee met and took a decision on the reports.

    According to the gazette, one of Tamil Nadu’s top cities Coimbatore will now be called as Koyampuththoor, while another city Trichy, will be known as Thiruchirapalli.

    Temple town Madurai will henceforth be called Mathurai.

    Similarly, one of the most revered Vaishnavite places of Srirangam will be known as Thiruvarangam. In this case, the Sanskritised “Sri” has been changed to “Thiru”.

    Thoothukudi, which has been in the limelight recently for the closure of Sterlite Copper Plant, will now be called Thooththukudi and Dharmapuri will be Tharumapuri.

    A feature of these new names is that their English spelling reflects almost exactly their pronunciation in Tamil.

    Other popular places whose names have been changed are:

    Vellore, which will be called Veeloor; Villupuram, to be called Vizhuppuram; and Pudukkottai, set to be known as Puthukkottai.

    What has happened with the review of the English spellings of these places is that they have now all acquired new names that get a change in the spelling.

    Departments of revenue, district administration, rural development and gram panchayat and municipal corporations have been asked to implement the changes, the gazette said.

    The new names and spellings come into effect in new official documents immediately, though the names in the old documents will be left untouched.

    The gazette notification was made public without any comment by the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS).

    However, on social media, various interpretations were made on the changes with some even saying that numerology played a part in the name change.

    Interestingly, the AIADMK government also decided to spell neighbouring Union Territory of Puducherry as Puthuchery.

    One person commented on social media that Tamil Nadu name should also be changed to Tamizh Nadu in tune with the changes made to these 1,018 places.

    Another person said that the EPS government should have begun the exercise by setting right the pronunciation of Tamil Nadu. A few even questioned the timing, particularly when the state was in the grip of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Experts also saw this move as quietly rebuffing the Union government that has been ‘encouraging the development of Hindi and Sanskrit’. In particular, the changing of names of Srirangam and Srivilliputtur (to be called Thiruvillipuththur) is seen as a signal to the Centre.

    This is also seen as a move to indicate how the AIADMK protects Tamil language and culture, particularly when the state heads for assembly elections in a year's time.

    Times of India reported that the move to change the names of Trichy, Madurai and Srirangam have been welcomed generally.

    M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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