By Tanvi Mehta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi's placard at the opening of the G20 summit on Saturday referred to India as "Bharat", raising speculation of a change of name for the South Asian nation.
India is also called Bharat, Bharata, Hindustan - its pre-colonial names - in Indian languages and these are used interchangeably by the public and officially.
While the country has traditionally stuck to using India in titles such as president or prime minister while communicating in English, President Droupadi Murmu earlier this week referred to herself as the "President of Bharat" in a dinner invitation for a reception of G20 leaders, sparking controversy.
As Modi declared the summit in New Delhi open on Saturday, he sat behind a table nameplate that read "Bharat", while the G20 logo had both names - "Bharat" written in Hindi and "India" in English.
Such placards have used "India" in the past.
Speaking in Hindi, the language spoken by a majority of the population, Modi said "Bharat welcomes the delegates as the President of the G20".
New Delhi is hosting leaders of major economies for the bloc's summit at a new, $300 million conch-shaped convention centre called Bharat Mandapam, opposite a 16th-century stone fort.
While some supporters of the name Bharat say "India" was given by British colonisers, historians say the name predates colonial rule by centuries.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), has always insisted on calling the country Bharat.
Modi's rivals say the change has been forced by the new opposition alliance formed by 28 parties in July called INDIA or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, to take on BJP in parliamentary elections next year.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta; Editing by YP Rajesh and Jacqueline Wong)