Municipal corporation of Aurangabad city in India passed a resolution last year that the name of the city may be changed to 'Sambhajinagar'. This reminded me of a similar incident that had happened in my home town Pune. A famous sports club nearby my house, called Deccan Gymkhana, has been in existence in the western part of my city for almost a century. This club is well known for the coaching activities and organized games in sports like Cricket, Tennis and Basket ball. This club regularly arranges sports tournaments at International and National levels for these sports. Because the club is old and renowned, the adjacent housing colony is also called Deccan Gymkhana colony and the entire part of the city in known now as Deccan Gymkhana or even as just Deccan. Some 7 or 8 years ago, some local politician in Pune, had a brain wave that he should change this anglicized name to some other name with local flavour. What could be better choice than to name it after some famous figure from history? He decided to name the area as 'Sambhajinagar' or Town of 'Sambhaji', and used his influence with the local authorities to change the name of the area. Within few days, administrative machinery moved at fast face and the same local politician put up a sign board declaring that this area shall be known as 'Sambhajinagar' instead of 'Deccan Gymkhana'.
What happened subsequently is very interesting. The common people staying in this area simply refused to accept the change and the new name never came into use. I very much doubt whether any cab driver today, would understand, if I ask him to take me to 'Sambhajinagar.' He can certainly follow my instructions to take him to 'Deccan' instead. I do not know, what exactly the municipal records say now about the area, but I have failed to hear so far, any person referring to this area as 'sambhajinagar' in any conversation anytime and anywhere. Now technically, if Aurangabad city becomes 'Sambhajinagar', and someone wants to say anything about Sambhajinagar, a difficulty should arise as to which Sambhajinagar he is referring to, the Sambahajinagar city or Sambhajinagar area within Pune city, Ha Ha!
I have never been able to find an honest answer to this question that, why the street or place names are changed? In Mumbai's fort area, there is a huge square, which always reminds me of London's famous Trafalgar Square. Several busy streets converge here. From thousands of offices located in old glorious buildings, built more than a century ago, on the side roads and bye lanes around this square, many of the Mumbai's businesses are run. This square was known as 'Flora Fountain; a name that originated from a fountain built in the square. In 1960's this name was changed to “Hutatma Chowk” or “ Martyr's square”. But even after 50 years of this renaming, if I ask inquire with anyone, who has an office here, about his office address. The reply in almost hundred percent cases would be that “it is near Flora fountain.”
A segment of an another major north-south arterial road in Mumbai was always known as Cadell Road. This was renamed as Veer Savarkar Marg(Road). Another segment of the same thoroughfare was called as Pedder Road. This has been renamed as Dr. G. Deshmukh Marg (Road). In spite of the changed names, people invariably refer to these roads with their old defunct names. When a new International air terminal was built on Mumbai's old Santa Cruz airport, it had no name and for few years was called as Sahar airport because nearest village was called Sahar. This terminal was named as “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Airport” honouring a seventeenth century Maratha King, who had fought and won against the vastly superior forces of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb of Delhi in north India. I can appreciate the thinking or feeling behind this naming. But when Mumbai's famous landmark railway station, which was always known as “Victoria Terminus” or simply VT was renamed again after same freedom fighter king, it was difficult even to comprehend, exact motives behind this move.
Some of the people consider such foreign sounding names as signs of slavery and want to get rid of these. But the fact remains that whether we call the city as 'Aurangabad' or 'Sambhajinagar', part of its history, which tells us that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, spent last decade of his life in the vicinity of this city in a disappointed state of mind, because in spite of his vast imperial power, he could not defeat the Marathas', does not change and remains so. This part of the history would always associate or link the emperor with this very city, whether one likes it or not. Besides, even if the name of this city is changed to remove this emperor from our memories, he would be still remembered, as a major road in New Delhi still remains named after him.
When a city grows or developed, new roads, new squares are designed and built, sometimes new flyovers are added over existing roads. If these are named after respected famous people to honour them, the thinking or feelings behind this action are understandable. However, when a land feature is widely known with a particular name, which might be of a Mughal or British heritage: to change its name just to remove signs of a bitter past, appears to me a very irrational and illogical decision. Such kind of renaming only creates confusion in the minds of city dwellers and commuters, nothing else!
In this respect, I kind of appreciate, what city state of Singapore has done. In the past, this place was a British colony. The streets and squares had earlier either British or local Malay names. Now, majority of people living in Singapore are of Chinese origin, yet I have not found any old street named after the new leaders of this nation. Singaporeans believe that the old names of the streets and places are actually city heritage and they want to preserve it.
Coming back to Aurangabad city, even after it is named as 'Sambhajinagar,' one of the places within the city, that almost all tourists to the city are going to visit, is 'Bivi Ka Maqabara', a tomb built by emperor Aurangzeb again, for his dear wife. This association of the emperor with the city just can not be changed. Then why object to the name of the city? The logic behind this demand for name change is difficult to understand, no doubt.
Alexander, on his world winning campaign, went on naming at least one city from each and every country he won, as Alexandria. Only one city from Egypt remains stuck with this name. All other cities have either gone back to their earlier names or some new adopted names. The only thing that is created by renaming is chaos and confusion in the minds of visitors and city dwellers. Perhaps one of those, who enthusiastically participate in this renaming activities may be able to explain the rationality and logic behind this renaming endeavour.