17 July 2007

Hindu = Indian

I said in one of my previous posts that 'Hindu' and 'Indian' are synonyms. Let me explain. First we must understand the significance of the river Sindhu (Indus).

Look at the physical map of India. We see that the territory of India is naturally defined. It is a diamond-shaped land, bounded on four sides by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Himalayas - and the Indus in the northwest. Now most of the other ancient civilisations of the world (Greek, Roman, Persian, etc) were to our west [The only exception was China, which is to our north]. Thus the Indus was what separated us from the rest of the ancient world, and the river became the geographical reference for India.

Now the Persian form of 'Sindhu' was 'Hindu'. And the Greek form of 'Hindu' was 'Indus'. Thus the people who lived in the land beyond the Sindhu were the 'Hindu' (in Persian) or the 'Indoi' (in Greek). And the land was 'Hindustan' (in Persian) or 'India' (in Greek).

Thus we see that the two words are synonyms. What about the word 'Hinduism'? This is a recent term, coined by British scholars in the 18th century to describe the practices and beliefs of the Hindus. It is normal to believe that we are 'Hindus' because we follow a religion called Hinduism. The truth is actually the other way around - the religion is called 'Hinduism' because it is practised by Hindus! (Our own name for our way of life is 'Sanatana Dharma')


Anonymous said...

I am not clear about what was the term by which we described ourselves (was it Hindu, or some other term?)

Anonymous said...


This is why I said my comments were not appreciated - can you pl. deign to provide answer to this Q, left humbly by yours truly on your esteemed blog Ji?

A fellow Swayamsevak
PS: Just giving you a hard time - pl. answer the Q though when you find some time.

Btw, were you aware that the uncle of Muhammad (prophet of Islam) composed an arabic poem in devotion to Shiva? It is in the Turkish museum at Ankara. Did you also know that there are arab Hindus in Yemen? WHile the complete destruction of arabia's Jewish and Christian communities by Muhammad's hordes is well documented, I suspect that among the myriad "pagans" that the Hadith records being butchered, some were Hindus!

Indian said...

As far as I know, we were using names like 'Hindu', 'Arya' and 'Bharatiya' to describe ourselves.

Btw, can you please use an alias - so that I know it's you, and not some other "anonymous"? :-)