29 July 2017

Hindus and Hinduism

India was born on the banks of the river Indus. The Sanskrit name of Indus is 'Sindhu'. Sanskrit was the language of knowledge in ancient India. The language of the common people was Prakrit. It used simplified Sanskrit words (just like today's regional languages Hindi, Kannada, etc). One such simplification/modification was that the 'S' sound in Sanskrit changed to the 'H' sound in Prakrit. So 'Sindhu' became 'Hindu' in Prakrit. It meant the river Sindhu. It also meant something else: the people whose civilisation was born on the banks of the river Sindhu.

'Sindhu' became 'Indus' in Greek. From 'Indus' came the English words 'India' (the land beyond the Indus) and 'Indians' (the people of that land). Thus the words 'Hindu' and 'Indian' are synonyms. The Hindus developed a Dharma or way of life (system of beliefs and practices). It was called 'Hindu Dharma' (or 'Sanatana Dharma' - 'the ancient way of life'). When the British came to India, they coined the English word 'Hinduism' for Hindu Dharma.

This is the real meaning of the word 'Hindu'. It is nothing but the synonym of the word 'Indian' (actually 'Indian' is the synonym of 'Hindu' - since the latter word came first). It is the name of a people (which comes from a river). Over time, the Hindus/Indians developed many religions (way/system of worshipping God) - like Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Thus 'Hindu' refers to a people/nationality. It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. Also, the people are not called 'Hindus' because they have a way of life called 'Hinduism'. It is the other way around. The way of life is called 'Hinduism' because it is the way of life of the Hindus.

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