Last week, the Tamil Nadu government changed the spellings of more than 1,000 places in the state in an attempt to reflect in English the way they are pronounced in Tamil.
Among the places whose English spellings were changed are Coimbatore, which will now be spelt Koyampuththoor. Vellore, meanwhile has become Veeloor.
The state government said that the changes were effected to correct distortions that had primarily arisen as a result of the naming conventions instituted by the British in the colonial times.
One of the criticisms of this renaming exercise is that it has been selective. Many Sanskrit names have not been changed to Tamil even though Tamil literature provides names for those places. For example, Vedaranyam has become Vedaaranyam, even though Tamil texts refer to the the place as Thirumaraikaadu.
Some have wondered why the Tamil Nadu government has chosen to make the changes at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The biggest controversy, however, was the decision not to change the name of the state. If the intention is to bring English spellings of place names in tune with Tamil pronunciation, the name of the state should have been changed to Tamizh Naadu, with the inclusion of the retroflex “zh” in place of “l” in Tamil….