The Meaning of ‘Hindu’ & Why It is Important

Recently a Twitter conversation with friends,

I had earlier written about digging deeper into the meaning of the words you use. The case with ‘Hindu’ highlights the importance of that activity!

While researching a bit for this blog post I found this,

“To my query under RTI about the meaning and definition of the word Hindu in the light of the Indian Constitution and the law, the Home Ministry in its reply on July 31 said the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) doesn’t have information regarding it,” said Chandrashekhar Gaur, a resident of Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh. Source.

Basically the government has NO definition of the word ‘Hindu’!

If you dig a bit deeper into the root of the word ‘Hindu’ you will find that for a very long time it had absolutely no religious context. It was always used for the region near the Sindhu river.

When the word Hindu is used as a religious identity then it has and will lead to so much of communal conflict. Already a communal conflict that has been strongly seeded in via political forces – the British & then the Pakistan separation.
The vedic religion that it supposedly connotes is known as Sanatan Dharma. It is important for us to look a bit deeper into this matter. I find these words of Iskcon’s Srila Prabhupada eloquent,

Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, succinctly explains to Janmanjaya and Taradevi in a letter from which he wrote from Los Angeles on July 9th, 1970. He explains the inbound connection between ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Krishna Consciousness’: “Regarding your questions: ‘Hindu’ means the culture of the Indians. India happens to be situated on the other side of the Indus River which is now in Pakistan which is spelled Indus–in Sanskrit it is called Sindhu. The Sindhu was misspelled by the Europeans as Indus, and from Indus the word ‘Indian’ has come. Similarly, the Arabians used to pronounce ‘Sindhus’ as ‘Hindus’. This [thus] ‘Sindhu’ is spoken as ‘Hindu’. It is neither a Sanskrit word nor is it found in the Vedic literatures. (This part is a whole different topic: But the culture of the Indians or the ‘Hindus’ is Vedic and beginning with the four varnas and four ashramas. So these varnas and four ashramas are meant for really civilized human race. Therefore, the conclusion is actually when a human being is civilized in the true sense of the term he follows the system of varna and ashrama and then he can be called a ‘Hindu’. Our Krishna Consciousness Movement is preaching these four varnas and four ashramas, so naturally it has got some relationship with the ‘Hindus’.) So ‘Hindu’ can be understood from the cultural point of view, not religious point of view. Culture is never religion. Religion is a faith, and culture is educational or advancement of knowledge.” (source)

The last sentence ‘Religion is faith, and culture is educational or advancement of knowledge’ is crucial to understand why we need to be clear about the meaning of the word ‘Hindu’.

A lot of amazing wisdom and knowledge and intelligent way of life is part of the ethnic Indian culture. Branding this as religion and removing it from work, schools and other avenues of life in the name of Secularism will make everything sterile.

When we remove our culture from a school or office place (because it was mis-named as religion) – then we are replacing it with another culture specifically a western way of life (specifically USA/UK). Because only from there have we learnt a way of working sans ethnic culture. Otherwise any other country you look at – Japanese, Chinese, Russian, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece – nowhere do you find people working sans their ethnic culture.


Hindu Culture
The Hindu Culture

2 Replies to “The Meaning of ‘Hindu’ & Why It is Important”

  1. Hamna Hisam Siddiqui says: Reply

    This is the first time that I’ve come across such an interesting take on this subject. 🙂 ’twas definitely a good read.

    1. Hey Hamna,
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      Glad this is of interest. More people need to take a little deeper look into some of these simple things. Would add a better perspective to many things.

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