In a significant move aimed at preserving cultural authenticity and honouring historical connections, the Kerala Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution to rename the state as “Keralam.” This decision aims to align the English and Malayalam names of the state, emphasizing its linguistic roots and historical significance.
The state, known as “Kerala” in English, has been referred to as “Keralam” in Malayalam since ancient times. “Kerala” finds its roots in historical texts, whereas “Keralam” is regarded as a phonetic representation of the authentic Malayalam pronunciation. The resolution seeks to bridge this linguistic gap and restore the state’s traditional name.
Historical ties dating back to Emperor Ashoka’s reign in 257 BC provide context to the decision. Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edict II mentions the local ruler as “Keralaputra,” signifying the “son of Kerala” or “son of Chera,” referring to the renowned Chera dynasty. This historical reference underscores the deep-rooted historical significance of the name “Keralam.”
Furthermore, the Aikya Kerala movement of the 1920s played a pivotal role in advocating for a unified territory for all Malayalam-speaking communities. This movement sought to integrate the regions of Malabar, Kochi, and Travancore into a single entity, highlighting the shared linguistic and cultural heritage of the people.
Linguistic experts propose that the term “Keralam” may have originated from the word “Cheram.” Dr Herman Gundert, a distinguished German scholar who compiled the first Malayalam-English dictionary, noted that “keram” is the Kannada variant of “cheram.” He attributed “Keralam” to “Cheram,” symbolizing the amalgamation of diverse regions. “Cheralam” signifies a region of unification, where “cher” symbolizes joining, emphasizing the harmonious amalgamation of diverse areas.
The pronunciation disparity between “Kerala” and “Keralam” has been a topic of discussion. While “Kerala” was adopted in English for ease of pronunciation and writing, “Keralam” preserves the original phonetic representation in Malayalam. This shift to “Keralam” aligns more closely with the cultural identity and linguistic authenticity of the region’s people.
Renaming a state in India is a meticulously structured process involving multiple stages. The state government first drafts a resolution expressing the desire for a name change. Approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is then sought as the name change involves altering the Constitution. No Objection Certificates (NOCs) are collected from various central government agencies, ensuring a consensus. Subsequently, a Constitutional amendment is initiated, and the proposed bill undergoes legislative review in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A simple majority is required for the bill to pass. Once the President grants assent, the new name becomes official, and the change is implemented.
The decision to rename the state as “Keralam” is a testament to Kerala’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage, linguistic identity, and historical connections. As the region looks forward to this transition, it does so to harmonize its past and present, and proudly embrace its linguistic and historical legacy.