Rajpath Renamed 'Kartavya Path': Delhi's Tryst With Name Changes Continues Under PM Modi

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) approved a proposal to rename the 'Rajpath' as 'Kartavya Path' ahead of the inauguration of the revamped Central Vista Avenue by PM Narendra Modi on September 8.

Delhi's historic Rajpath was renamed 'Kartavya Path' ahead of Centra Vista Avenue inauguration

Ahead of the inauguration of the Central Vista Avenue on September 8, the Indian government has decided to change the name of Delhi's iconic 'Rajpath' to 'Kartvya Path', meaning the 'path of duty.' Amid mixed reactions to the renaming, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) approved a proposal to rename the street on Wednesday.

The decision was taken during a special meeting of the NDMC convened to decide on the proposal presided over by Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi. Lekhi, who is also a member of the NDMC, said the proposal was approved during the meeting. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who is also part of the NDMC was not present at the meeting.

What's in a name?

Renaming of cities as an official exercise was first undertaken after 1947 when there was a concerted push to rename Anglicised and English colonial names of cities. The changing of foreign names with native words, restoring old Indian names of cities, and using names of Indian freedom fighters and rulers or other personalities relevant to Indian history was seen as a way to reclaim India from the colonial shadows of the British, who had ruled over the nation for over 200 years. But the name-change saga in India did not stop with the British. 

In the last few years, the country has seen an increasing amount of name changes under the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre. Be it names of cities, villages, islands, streets or even fruits, the Modi government's push for renaming has given many important and historic cities like Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh a new name. The latest on the list is the renaming of the historic 'Rajpath' in the capital Delhi to 'Kartavya Path'. 

Rajpath to Kartavyapath

Once known as 'Kingsway' during the British rule, Rajpath refers to the ceremonial boulevard in Lutyens Delhi that runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan on Raisina Hill through Vijay Chowk and India Gate, National War Memorial to National Stadium, Delhi.

The move came ahead of the inauguration of the revamped Central Vista Avenue, part of the Modi government's pet Central Vista project to give a makeover to the Raisina Hills area which constitutes the country's main administrative block in the capital.

The renaming of Rajpath also comes in the wake of proposals to rename 40 villages and localities in Delhi which have foreign or 'Mughal' sounding names. However, this is not the first instance of renaming in the national capital. Since 2014 when the Modi government came to power, several streets as well as other important addresses in Delhi got new names. 

Here are five of the significant name changes in Delhi since 2014:

1. Aurangzeb Road (2015)

The elite street, named after Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, was changed in 2015 to APJ Abdul Kalam Road after the death of the latter in 2015. The change took place following a letter by a BBJP lawmaker to PM Modi requesting the change.

2. Race Course Road (2016)

Nearly 36 years after its construction, the Race Course Road which is home to some of the most powerful personalities in India was renamed in September 2016 by the NDMC. The street is now known as Lok Kalyan Marg. The decision represented a common ground between suggestions given by Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi.

3. Dalhousi Road (2017)

After first proposing to rename Dalhousie Road in 2014, the NDMC implemented the change in 2017. The name of the street was changed to Darah Sikoh Road as a tribute to Dara Sikoh, the son of Mughal ruler Shah Jahan. 

4. Teen Murti Chowk (2018)

The roundabout around the historic war memorial in Central Delhi, which was formerly known as Teen Murti Chowk, was renamed Teen Murti Haifa Chowk in 2018 to mark 100 years of the historic Battle of Haifa in Israel. By defeating Ottoman Empire forces as well as their German allies, Indian soldiers fighting under the British Army had played an important role in the decisive victory of Israel at the time. The move by the Centre was intended as a symbolic tribute to the friendship between India and Israel and also a sign of growing camaraderie between the two nations under PM Modi.

5. Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium (2019)

In 2019, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) renamed Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket Stadium as Arun Jaitley stadium after former DDCA president Arun Jaitley as a tribute to the former Union Minister's contribution to cricket in India. A stand inside the stadium was named after Indian skipper and former national captain Virat Kohli.

The politics of name change

The government has given the ostensible reason for the name changes as a way to discard the colonial hangover and restore pride in Indian heritage and pride. In his Independence Day address this year on August 15, PM Modi had said that a majority of the names were changed to do away with "symbols" relating to the "Colonial mindset".

The Modi government has nevertheless faced criticism over selective name changing and favoring Hindi or Hindu names over names of Mughal or Islamic origin. In Delhi itself, there are proposals to change the names of nearly 40 villages, neighbourhoods, and locations with Mughal-sounding names. Delhi BJP President Adesh Gupta recently said that these names "associated with the Mughals", former rulers of Delhi, "symbolise slave mentality". 

Outside the capital, renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj, for instance, was decried by many across India as an attempt to wipe out the Mughal history and heritage of certain states where the former rulers had been powerful. There are also proposals to change the name of Gujarat's Ahmedabad to Karnavati and Telangana's Hyderabad to 'Bhagyanagar'


(With inputs from PTI)