From the dust bowls of Oklahoma to the winding rivers of East Ayrshire, India’s best-known cities have given their names to some pretty unlikely overseas locations. And while some have surprisingly intertwined histories, others are merely connected through quirks of etymological coincidence.
10. Bombay, New York
Just south of the Canadian border in New York’s Franklin County, not too far from Montreal, lies Bombay – a modest town of around 1,500 people. It got its name via an Irish seafarer called Michael Hogan, who after making his fortune with the East India Company moved to the States with his Indian princess wife in 1805. They settled on a 20,000-acre site, in which Bombay – named after Mrs Hogan’s birthplace – was later established. The hamlet of South Bombay, which bears absolutely no resemblance to Colaba, can be found five minutes down the road.
9. Agra, Oklahoma
Around 60 miles north-east of Oklahoma City, in remote Lincoln County, lies Agra, a town so small that its population doesn’t even break the 350 barrier. Its origins can be traced back to the opening of a Post Office in 1902, with general and drug stores, in addition to a clutch of houses, following soon after. Unfortunately, its name has nothing to do with India’s much, much larger Agra (population 1.7 million, and home to the Taj Mahal); rather, it’s thought to be a shortened version of the word ‘agriculture’, the driver of Oklahoma’s economy.
8. Lucknow, Ontario
Its position in Bruce County, not far from the waters of Lake Huron, makes Ontario’s Lucknow a convenient base for beach lovers, canoeists and hikers. With a population of around 1,100, the modest town, which was founded by Scottish settlers in 1858, is defined by its three streams, a scattering of shops and a sports complex. Interestingly, it is named after India’s Lucknow as a mark of respect for Field Marshal Colin Campbell, a Scottish former Commander-in-Chief of India who orchestrated the relief and subsequent evacuation of Uttar Pradesh’s state capital during 1857’s Indian Rebellion.
7. Delhi, New York
Like its Indian counterpart, New York’s Delhi – a town of just over 5,000 people about 160 miles north of the Big Apple – sits beside a major waterway, the Delaware River. Home to the State University of New York Delhi campus and famous for being the setting of Jean Craighead George’s novel My Side of the Mountain, it’s a pretty important place given its modest size. It’s one with an interesting history, too – when a man by the name of Judge Ebenezer Foote founded it in 1798, his advisors asked whether they could name it. When Foote – who was nicknamed ‘The Great Mogul’ – consented, they decided upon ‘Delhi’ in tribute to their superior.
6. Cochin, Saskatchewan
If there’s one thing that Canada and India’s Cochins have in common, it’s that they’re both nice places to while away a few days. Saskatchewan’s Cochin, which is found beside Jackfish Lake approximately 385 miles north-east of Calgary, is a favourite of beachgoers, watersports enthusiasts and campers. Kerala’s Cochin – which has been known as Kochi since 1996 – also has a watery neighbour in the form of the much larger Arabian Sea. And while not many water skiers are found here, lots of culture vultures are, with most coming to see its Portuguese-style homes, iconic Chinese fishing nets and thriving arts scene.
5. Calcutta, Ohio
It’s not clear why Ohio’s Calcutta was named after India’s former capital; after all, the two places bear very little resemblance. While the former is a modest settlement of 3,700 people beside the Pennsylvania state border, the latter – which changed its name to Kolkata in 2001 – ranks as India’s second-largest city in terms of urban area population (which currently stands at 13.2 million). The US’s Calcutta hasn’t always been known as such; when it was founded in 1810 it was referred to as West Union, while it’s also been called Foulkstown and Nineveh.
4. Madras, Oregon
Travel around 120 miles south-east from Portland, Oregon’s largest city, and you’ll eventually arrive in Madras – a town of approximately 6,000 people that recently celebrated its centenary. It’s perhaps best known for aviation – during the Second World War an air base was established here, while Madras is today home to the Erickson Aircraft Collection. Some believe the city was named after what’s perhaps the Tamil Nadu state capital’s best-known export, the eponymous Madras cotton fabric, also known as ‘Madrasi checks’. India’s Madras changed its name to Chennai in 1996.
3. Dalhousie, New Brunswick
It is, according to Tourism New Brunswick, “one of the prettiest towns in Eastern Canada”. And with rolling hills and natural beauty abound, the province’s most northerly destination isn’t too dissimilar to India’s Dalhousie, a hill station tucked away in Himachal Pradesh’s Himalayan hills. The latter gets its name from Lord Dalhousie, who during his governorship of India in the mid-19th century founded the town as a summer retreat. His father, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie, was governor general of British North America between 1820 and 1828, which explains how the Canadian version got its name a few years before.
2. Thane, Alaska
Thane may exist in Mumbai’s shadow, but with a population approaching two million it happens to be India’s 15th-largest city. It’s a world away from Alaska’s Thane, a hamlet of around two dozen houses – all positioned on the same five-mile stretch of road – not far from Juneau, the state capital. Their only shared feature is proximity to bodies of water – India’s Thane is dubbed the ‘City of Lakes’, with Masunda being the best known, while Alaska’s Thane sits beside the ever-so-slightly-chillier Gastineau Channel.
1. Patna, East Ayrshire
Despite being 6,500 miles apart, the two Patnas – one the capital of Bihar, population 1.7 million; the other a village in East Ayrshire, population 2,180 – share a common history. William Fullarton, who established Scotland’s Patna at the beginning of the 19th century, was born in India’s Patna, where his father had a role with the British East India Company. Fresh links were established in December 2012, when Nitish Kumar, Bihar’s chief minister, visited the namesake village as part of a trip to the UK.