1902 Encyclopedia > India > General Description. Various Names of India

(Part 1)


Introduction. Various Names of India

India is a great empire of Asia, composed of twelve provinces under direct British administration, and about one hundred and fifty feudatory states and principalities, which equally with the British provinces acknowledge the paramount sovereignty of the British crown. The whole empire contains close on 1 1/2 million square miles, and 240 millions of inhabitants. The are, therefore, is almost equal to, and the population is just equal to, the area and population of all Europe, less Russia. The people exactly double Giibbon’s estimate of 120 millions for all the races and nations which obeyed Imperial Rome.

The Name.—The natives of India can scarcely be said to have a word of their own by which to express their common country. In Sanskrit, it would be called "Bhárata-varsha," from Bharata, a legendary monarch of the Lunar line ; but Sanskrit is no more the vernacular of India than Latin is of Europe. The name "Hindustán," which was at one time adopted by European geographers, is of Persian origin, meaning "the land of the Hindus," as Afghánistán means "the land of the Afgháns." According to native usage, however, "Hindustán" is limited either to that portion of the peninsula lying north of the Vindhyá mountains, or yet more strictly the upper basin of the Ganges where Hindi is the spoken language. The "East Indies," as opposed to the "West Indies," is an old-fashioned and inaccurate phrase, dating from the dawn of maritime discovery, and still lingering in certain parliamentary papers. "India," the abstract form of a word derived through the Greeks from the Persicized form of the Sanskrit sindhu, a "river," pre-eminently the Indus, has become familiar since the British acquired the country, and is now officially recognized in the imperial title of the sovereign.

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