Bengaluru: City of Boiled Beans


It happened last year with little fanfare that I noticed: Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, became Bengaluru.

According to the BBC, Bengaluru is closer to the town’s original name in the Kannada language, Benda Kaal Ooru (translation: City of Boiled Beans) . During the Raj, the British simplified the name to Bangalore.

From a BBC World News article:

Legend has it that a king, Vira Ballala, got lost on a hunting expedition. Tired and hungry, he was offered boiled beans by an old woman.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, he named the area after the meal she had served him.

Other Indian cities have had their names changed to better reflect their pre-colonial linguistic roots, including Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta).

The UK blog Indigo Jo Blogs has more to say about Indian name changes in a 2006 post here:

While listening to the discussion of the dreadful bombings in Bombay yesterday, I could not help noticing the BBC falling over themselves to make sure they called the city by its “real name” of Mumbai. The name was adopted in 1995 by the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government although it had always been called this by people who speak the local languages of Marathi and Gujarati; Hindi speakers called it Bambai (see this Wikipedia article). The English name has been Bombay for pretty much as long as the city has been in existence, and is not a mutilation of a native name but derives from the Portuguese Boa Baía (good bay).

Bangalore is changing to Bengaluru, the name already in common use in the vernacular (provoking one local headline, “Bengaluru changes name to Bengaluru”), Madras has become Chennai, Calcutta has become Kolkata which is closer to Bengali pronunciation, and Trivandrum has reverted to the native Thiruvananthapuram. The last, of course, is a mouthful the colonials could not be bothered to learn how to pronounce, so they mangled it and wrote it down, and it stuck.

One response to “Bengaluru: City of Boiled Beans

  1. Fascinating, Jennifer. I had heard of Bombay becoming Mumbai, but not the others. It’s interesting that the king named the town after the boiled beans he ate, rather than the woman who cooked and served them to him. They must have been some very tasty beans.

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