Isn’t it odd that the recently deceased and hyper-mourned Hindu leader Bal Thackeray had such an Anglicized last name? After all he famously led a campaign to change the city of Bombay’s name to Mumbai, arguing that the original Marathi name of the city had been Anglicized by the British. But so in fact was his last name Thackeray an Anglicism. Apparently his father Keshav Thackeray was such an admirer of British writer William Makepeace Thackeray that he changed his Marathi last name ‘Thakre’ to ‘Thackeray’. Logically then Bal Thackeray should also have changed his last name back to Thakre…I wonder if there was ever any discussion about this in the nineties when cities in India started reverting to their regional language names as a direct result of Bal Thackeray’s sustained campaign against British influence in India. The two excerpts below give you slightly more information on all this.
When did Bombay become Mumbai?
Officially, in 1995. That year, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena won elections in the state of Maharashtra and presided over a coalition that took control of the state assembly. After the election, the party announced that the port city had been renamed after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi, the city’s patron deity. Federal agencies, local businesses, and newspapers were ordered to adopt the change.
Shiv Sena’s leadership pushed for the name change for many years prior to 1995. They argued that “Bombay” was a corrupted English version of “Mumbai” and an unwanted legacy of British colonial rule. Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray once installed a marble plaque with the name on the Gateway of India, a famous sandstone arch. The national government objected to the renaming, though, fearing that Bombay would lose its identity internationally.
The push to rename Bombay was part of a larger movement to strengthen Marathi identity in the Maharashtra region. The Shiv Sena party also declared their intentions to do away with the term “Bollywood,” a conflation of “Bombay” and “Hollywood” that refers to Mumbai’s film industry. That name, though, has stuck around.
And when did Bal Thackeray’s name change from Thakre to Thackeray? According to Wikipedia it was Bal Thackeray’s father Keshav who Anglicized the family name:
Keshav Thackeray was born on 17th September, 1885 in Panvel. In his autobiography, Keshav Thackeray writes that one of his ancestors was a kiladar of the Dhodap fort during the Maratha empire. His great-grandfather Krishnaji Madhav(“Appasaheb”) resided in Pali, Raigad, while his grandfather Ramchandra “Bhikoba” Dhodapkar settled in Panvel. Keshav’s father Sitaram adopted the lastname “Panvelkar” as per the tradition, but decided to give his son the surname “Thakre”, which was apparently their traditional family name before their ancestors moved to Dhodap. An admirer of the India-born British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, Keshav later anglicized the spelling of his surname to “Thackeray”.
5 thoughts on “How Bal Thackeray got his English surname…”
Interesting! No one has raised this in India so far. Thanks, annie
Thanks! It’s an honour to have you comment on my blog for the first time–
Very interesting! High time the high if not mighty changed back their surname!
I always wondered about that oddity. Seemed paradoxical if not hypocritical. Thakre is pronounced with a hard ‘th’ as in Marathi (which he was), and not the soft ‘th’ as in ‘thug’ (which he was too). And there’s another paradox – the guy was a cartoonist for the Free Press Journal before becoming a militant hindutva.
Yes, he was a cartoonist. Always interesting to get people’s histories…thanks for commenting.