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Key Takeaways

  • Maharashtra recently passed a resolution to rename two cities namely Aurangabad and Osamanabad to Sambhajinagar and Dharashiv respectively
  • The article explores the history of both cities.
  • Constitutional Guidelines for renaming a city are also discussed.
  • The hidden agenda of Hindutva Nationalist Parties are taking tangible form through these name changes.


Hindu Nationalist parties believe that history would take kindly to their agenda because they wish to rewrite it. In a recent wave of changes, states all over India have been involved in the frenzy of renaming streets, towns, and cities, with a motive to further their ideology.

The Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government cleared a proposal to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad as Dharashiv. This was the final act in Uddhav Thackrey’s short-lived chief minister-ship. Renaming Aurangabad and Osmanabad is a clear indication of Shiv-Sena's core Hindutva Credentials, even after having shared a seat with its “liberal” counterparts. These changes come after a series of mocking and opinion pieces on Thackeray surrendering his Hindutva ideologies at the behest of NCP and Congress.

The cities so renamed hold serious significance in the history of both, Maharashtra and the sub-continent. The article will individually discuss the histories and relevance of these cities.

Aurangabad, now Sambhajinagar

The city of Aurangabad was founded in 1610 by Malik Ambar, the Siddi general of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar. Accounts claim that originally, the city was named Khirki, under the rule of Malik Ambar though it is unsure why. However, soon after Ambar’s death in 1626, the city was renamed Fatehpur (the victorious state) by Ambar’s son, Fateh Khan.

In 1653, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb invaded the Deccan and set up his capital in the city, which he renamed after himself- Aurangabad. The arrival of Aurangzeb became a point of influx, which brought with it changes of sorts. Aurangabad was turned into a prime trade center, attracting wealth and repute. Aurangzeb maintained Aurangabad (or KhujibBunyad, as was formerly called by Aurangzeb’s admirers) as a primary military outpost, which further elevated the city to one of high strategic importance. Ever since, the city’s claim to fame has been its history as the former home of Aurangzeb.

Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the son, and successor of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fought the Battle of Wai against the Mughals, weakening his forces. He was then captured by Aurangzeb. Accounts and reasons for Sambhaji’s death oscillate from him denouncing Islam to him refusing to give Aurangzeb the reins to Maratha Land. In 1689, He was tortured, killed, and mutilated by the Imperial Army acting on Aurangzeb’s order.

In the late 1980s, Aurangabad witnessed communal riots. Shiv Sena tactically propagated polarisation and in 1988, won the Aurangabad Municipal Elections. On May 8, 1988, SenasupremoBalasaheb Thackeray announced the renaming of the city to Sambhajinagar after SambhajiMaharaj. However, after being passed as a resolution in 1995, it was simply discarded. This is because the notification was challenged in the High Court by Congress’s Mushtaq Ahmed. While the plea was dismissed by the court stating that no decision had been taken, the renaming remained pending, and the demand resurfaced ahead of every election.

Thus, red tape was widely used as an excuse by the government, for the delays in implementation, when it was in fact outright resistance.

Osmanabad, now Dharashiv

Formerly and originally known as Dharashiv the city was named so because of multiple Buddhist caves, named Dharashiv, located near the area. However, it was re-named Osmanabad after the last ruler of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Hyderabad was a part of the region until 1948, hence the name continued in memoriam of the Nizam. Some historians also believe that contrary to it being a tribute to the Nizam, Osmanabad was in fact named after Uthman, the Third Caliph Of Islam.

The Dharashiv Caves are now a protected site and are a part of the rich Buddhist circuit along the Western Ghats of which Ajanta and Ellora close (near Aurangabad) is also a part.

Process of Re-naming a City

While there are no “legal” requirements for the renaming of a city per se, some guidelines have still been laid down. The procedure differs from state to state but regulations that need to be followed are –

  • A resolution should be introduced by any Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) which proposes the details of renaming any particular city.
  • The resolution is then deliberated upon, and probable consequences of the same( if any) shall be discussed and acknowledged.
  • The final step involves voting on the validity of the resolution. If there are majority votes in favor of the resolution, the said resolution shall be declared passed. The majority here involves a simple majority.

The Hidden Agenda

The trend over the past few years has been concerning. Hindu nationalist politicians have renamed towns, cities, and streets swapping names that reflect Muslim heritage for Hindu centric ones. Having the power to make such changes damages the persecuted further because their heritage and history are being denied and replaced with one pleasing to the majority.

Maharashtra state renamed Bombay, Mumbai — a nod to the city's patron goddess Mumbadevi. Other cities followed suit, for instance: Madras became Chennai; Calcutta, Kolkata; Bangalore, Bengaluru. All the changes were welcome and celebrated because they reflected the rejection of Anglicized names that came into use during British colonial rule.

However, the agenda today is not about erasing colonial monikers. It's about erasing Muslim ones. India has a rich history, riddled with wars and reconciliations. Preservation of the country’s multifaith history is a marker of strengthened democracy, something which is being unturned now. By biased “course-correction” and reinterpretation of history through the lens of Hindutva, the leaders are refusing to acknowledge, let alone celebrate the diversity that sets India apart. However convoluted, this abuse of power is an attack on secularism.

The changes so enacted might seem insignificant but over time, the consequences may be big and worse, irreversible.


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