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Saturday December 3rd 2016
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What’s in a train name?

Indian Railway
The Indian Railway is the reflection of the diversity of India. Even the train names provide a peak into the history, cultural, and yes, politics of this vast land. PHOTO: Ashwin Rao/IRFCA

Have you ever wondered about the names of the trains you travel? Most might be aware of  the significance of Parasuram, Malabar and Sabari. There are two “Travancore Trains” – Trivandrum-Shornur Venad Express and Trivandrum-Ernakulam Vanchinad Express, both names being the erstwhile names of Travancore. People who had  their schooling before 1950 would remember, their “national anthems” swore allegiance and sang glories to Vanchinad! Those from Malabar should be content since they equalized with Ernad (Nagercoil-Mangalore Ernad Express), once a state, now a taluk in Malappuram (and more importantly, home to the current junior Railway Minister).

Oceans are vast, so are all journeys of trains with an ocean in them. Kanyakumari-Jammu Tawi Himsagar Express connects Himalayas with the Indian Ocean and gets the record for the longest journey (in time and distance) in India. Trivandrum-Gorakhpur Raptisagar Express connects the Arabian Sea to Rapti river at Gorakhpur, in eastern UP, just a few miles from Nepal. The third sagar, Ernakulam-Ajmer Marusagar Express somehow doesn’t have the poetry in its name like the other two sagars. Or maybe it’s just me.

Netravathi is a river flowing by Mangalore, then why is Mumbai-Trivandrum train called Netravathi Express? Well, it used to run from Mumbai to Mangalore, until someone extended it to Trivandrum. The name stuck though. The name didn’t stick with Bangalore-Nagercoil Island Express, which once ran from Bangalore to Cochin Harbour Terminal in Willingdon Island. It was later officially renamed to Nagercoil Express 🙁

Contrary to what most people believe, Trivandrum-Indore Ahilyanagari Express is not named after the mythological character Ahilya in Ramayana, but after Rani Ahilya, under whose reign, Indore glowed in glory (Oh! It might have been a tongue twister if Gwalior Glowed in Glory. OK. Poor Joke).

Garib Raths (Trivandrum-Bangalore and Trivandrum Mumbai) are probably one of the most wonderfully thought out names. Truly a poor man’s chariot – though it takes more than the entire fare of this journey, to reach the city by auto from Kochuveli!. Jan Shatabdis (like Trivandrum-Kozhikode) are named as a common man’s Shatabdi (the original which runs upto 150 kmph). Maybe, the common man doesn’t need to travel so fast! Shatabdi, which means 100th  in Sanskrit, was introduced on the 100th birth centenary of Jawaharlal Nehru. And politicians know to have a cake and eat it too. Nagercoil-Shalimar (Kolkotta) Gurudev Express was named after Rabindranath Tagore (called Gurudev in much of north India) or social reformer Sree Narayana Guru (called Gurudevan in Kerala), depending on which politician claimed credit for it. Tagore won finally. Simple arithmetic – Bengal has more voters than Kerala!

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