Officials say this is the first change of India's nomenclature for any official event.
A shift from "India" to "Bharat" on President Droupadi Murmu's G20 invitations to foreign leaders today triggered a huge row, with the opposition accusing the ruling BJP of rebranding the nation over political one-upmanship.
For the first time, official invites to heads of state for a dinner on September 9 in Delhi are from the "President of Bharat" instead of the traditional "President of India".
This marks a significant shift in nomenclature on the international stage as the country prepares to host US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other top world leaders.
President Droupadi Murmu's invite to G20 foreign leaders and Chief Ministers for a dinner on September 9.
Amid buzz about the country's name change and the possibility of the government sealing the move in parliament in the five-day special session from September 18, the opposition held a series of meetings. Leaders denied reports that the opposition would skip the session.
Amid surprise and criticism, BJP leaders said the term "Bharat" is also in Article 1 of the Constitution, which says: "India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States."
Opposition parties linked the government's move to the name of their front to take on the BJP in 2024 - INDIA or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. Leaders of the INDIA bloc met at Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge's home to discuss strategy.
The India versus Bharat debate heated up after the opposition alliance adopted the acronym INDIA in July.
BJP leaders welcomed the "Bharat" nomenclature.
"This should have happened earlier. This gives great satisfaction to the mind. 'Bharat' is our introduction. We are proud of it. The President has given priority to 'Bharat'. This is the biggest statement to come out of the colonial mindset," said Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned whether the government would change the country's name again if the opposition alliance rechristened itself "Bharat" from INDIA.
"Why is this happening? It is being said that this is being done because we have formed an alliance named INDIA... The country belongs to 140 crore people and not to one party. If INDIA alliance rechristens itself Bharat, will they change the name of Bharat also?" said the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief.
Mr Kejriwal said the BJP was resorting to such moves out of fear of losing power.
RJD leader Manoj Jha said: "...It has just been a few weeks since we named our alliance as INDIA and BJP has started sending invitations with 'Republic of Bharat' instead of 'Republic of India'. Article 1 of the Constitution reads 'India that is Bharat'. Neither you will be able to take India from us nor Bharat."
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it would be "foolish" to completely drop the name "India".
BJP president JP Nadda retorted that the Congress was "anti-national" and "anti-constitution".
The controversy has erupted just two days after the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological mentor, suggested that the country discard India and switch to Bharat.
"We must stop using the word India and start using Bharat. At times we use India to make those who speak English understand. This comes as the flow. However, we must stop using this...The name of the country Bharat will remain Bharat wherever you go in the world. In spoken and written one must say Bharat," said RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The Presidential invite is not a one-off. "Bharat" has also been used in a G20 booklet meant for foreign delegates titled "Bharat, The Mother Of Democracy".
"Bharat is the official name of the country. It is mentioned in the Constitution as also in the discussions of 1946-48," the booklet says.