Ashwini Gangal
Editor's Note

Czech cars, Indian emperors, and myth-inspired auto brand names

Last week, Skoda announced a new SUV called Kushaq. A quick, whimsical dive into what the name means and entails.

Last week, in a press release that came to my inbox all the way from Mladá Boleslav, a city in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, Skoda announced the name of its new SUV: Kushaq. In Sanskrit, Kushak means king. The name begins with K and ends with Q, by design; it’s acoustically in sync with Skoda’s other SUVs – Kodiaq, Karoq and Kamiq.

In the ad film, through which the name of the new SUV is announced, Skoda makes a visible effort to position itself as a brand for India. Essentially a country montage, the film is packed with uniquely Indian elements like palm reading, the lotus, a rural classroom, kite flying, astrology, dumb charades, the daily newspaper crossword, etc.

The ad features citizens from different states of the country and is a mosaic of diversity – the Sikh turban to the Muslim tokih cap, Buddhist monks to a lungi clad family, the quintessential Bengali saree to the North Eastern face… it’s all there. It teaches us how to pronounce ‘Kushaq’, and even makes a reference to the soil of India at one point.

It reminds me of the time Volkswagen ran a campaign, several years ago, to teach Indians how to pronounce it right; the ad spelt out the brand name in a bunch of Indian languages.

Now I won’t pretend to be an automobile enthusiast but I cannot resist mythology and history, especially when it’s amalgamated with marketing. Of course, kushak or king is not exactly the stuff of myth, unlike Maruti for instance which means Hanuman, but it's a mysterious enough name, nevertheless, and has the power to transport one to another time.

It's a bit like Bajaj's scooter brand Chetak, named after the eponymous horse of Maharana Pratap, one he rode in the 16th century battle of Haldighati, between the Mewaris and the Mughals. It's history, yes, but according to folklore, the horse was blue. That bit is myth.

Kushak, by the way, is also a village in Haryana, a medieval hunting lodge built by Firoz Shah Tughlak in Delhi in the 14th century, and a Hindu name numerologically classified under the ‘mithun’ rashi and ‘arudra’ nakshatra. Kushak is also the Turkish word for girdle. But that’s a touch off topic.

Popular car brands that have been named after Greek mythological characters include Electra (Buick), Eos (Volkswagen), Phaeton (Volkswagen), Odyssey (Honda), and Apollo, among several others.

In mid-2018, Anand Mahindra used Twitter to crowdsource suggestions for car names; many of the ideas tossed around by netizens back then have roots in ancient Hindu texts, for example Shastro (Sanskrit for weapon is Shastra). Some even suggested names like Balahak and Saibya (Lord Krishna’s horses). Krishna’s chariot (or charioteer, I am not sure which) was called Daruka or Daruga, which, by the way, is the name of a Suzuki showroom in Contai, Bengal. It was also one of the names thrown at Mr. Mahindra at the time.

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