Origin of the name India !
How did the word Hindu come into existence?

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Origin of the name India !

The Modern term "India" is simply ancient Greek, though pronounced a little differently than in English, of course. It is an early Hellenism whereby the Persian 'H' was changed to 'I.' This further lends knowledge of the ancient Greek indikos and Latin indicus, equivalent adjectives meaning "Indian, pertaining to India, having to do with India," etc. Similarly, the botanical term for Indian hemp is Cannibis indica.

Sindhu thus evolved into Old Persian 'hindu?' and was consequently borrowed from Persian into Greek as Indos. Greek thereafter formed the name of the country from this stem 'ind-' with the suffix '-ia,' a typical method of forming the names of countries in Greek. Our name for the river, 'Indus,' is the Latin form of the Greek name and isn't original. Hindu, then, simply means "Indian," "Made In India"?"A Product of Hindustan." In Urdu the word used for Bharat or India is Hindusthan. The word can be split into Hindu and Sthan meaning place ie place where the Hindus live.

Books referred to are Seven Systems of Indian Philosophy by Pandit Rajmani Tugnait, The Tragedy of Partition by H V Seshadari, India's Rebiirth by Sri Aurobindo, Chips from a Vedic Workshop by Inder Dev Khosla, History, Culture of the Indian People by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Hindu Centum by Pandit Deen B C Sharma and AIR 1995 Supreme Court 2089 in Bramchari Sidheswar Shai vs. State of West Bengal with inputs from Troy Harris and my Email Guru.

Friends can we replace Western words like Religion, God, Secularism with corresponding Indian ones like Dharma, Ishwar. For example Yagna is meant to be sacrifice. According to Sri Aurobindo, "the central idea of yajna is the giving by man, of what he possesses in his being, to the higher or divine nature and its fruit is the further enrichment of his manhood by the lavish bounty of God. The wealth thus acquired constitutes as state of spiritual riches, prosperity, felicity which is itself a power for the journey and force or battle".

Today we have allowed Muslims & Greeks / Christians to define our identity. The former gave us the name Hindu & made Bharat Hindusthan while the latter made it India. Even our national language Hindi is not national in the true sense. Quote Dr Ernest Trump from the book The Adi Granth written in 1877 "By Hindui we mean the modern idiom since the beginning of our century and as spoken as present. There is of course no essential difference between Hindui & Hindi as regards the significance of the two adjectives, hindui being derived from hindu, a Hindu and Hindi from the Arab noun hind". India's national language Hindi is of recent origin and is actually Khariboli form of Hindi. As such it did not come into use before 1800 a.d. & its effective literary development started only after 1850. Prior to 1850 when we said Hindi literature it meant Brajbhasa the most important form of Western Hindi. What I am saying is that some of our national symbols are a product of foreign influence.

Friends let me draw an analogy. The atma or soul of India ? Bharat is Sanatan Dharam. The conquest of Bharat by Islam and Christianity had left impressions or samskaras on its soul. These impressions are like dust covering a piece of glass, have led to maya, delusion, confusion and led to the degeneration of India. So if India has to discover its soul it needs to rediscover Sanatan Dharam and remove the impressions caused by past conquests. What India has been witnessing over the last twelve plus years is an attempt by the Hindu mind to break away from the past and redefine itself based on Dharma.

What existed in Bharat then & now, what unites us is a Central Idea called Sanatana Dharma,"the Eternal or Universal Dharma. Dharma means universal law, the fundamental principles behind this marvelous universe like the Law of Karma. Sanatana means perennial, referring to eternal truths that manifests in ever-new names and forms. Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world because it is based on the eternal origins of creation. But it is also the newest religion in the world because it adjusts to new names and forms to every generation and looks to living teachers not old books, as its final authority". Quoted from Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations by David Frawley.

No wonder said Sri Aurobindo on 30/5/1909 "When it is said that India shall be great, it is Sanatan Dharma that shall be great".
Long Live Sanatan Dharam
December 2002

How did the word Hindu come into existence?

According to our ex-President and scholar Dr S Radhakrishnan, the term Hindu had originally a territorial and not credal significance. It implies residence in a well-defined geographical area. As a modern term, Hindu has evolved from the Indo-Iranian root Sindhu. This Proto-Indo-Iranian word sindhus literally refers to the "Indus River" and the culture pertaining to its long expansive valley. This is where Hindu culture first developed.

Historically, however, at a very early date, Persian explorers entered the Indian subcontinent from the far Northwest. After they returned, they published chronicles. But due to the phonetics of their native Persian language, the 'S' of Sind became an aspirated 'H.' This is how the people of the Indus Valley came to be known generically as "Hindus" by the Persians. This flawed intonation inevitably stuck.

And was later re-imported when the invading Moguls conquered India. Since they always referred to the locals as "Hindus," the term was adopted by the Indians themselves as a way of distinguishing native culture from that of the foreign Muslims.

But it should be noted that still today there is a region, a people and a language called Sind.

Net net there was no word Hindu till the Muslims came to India. It was called Sanathan Dharam. Hindu is a modified version of Sindhu, was a term to indicate the region round the Sindhu river (modern day Indus) and then the whole of India. The Iranians substituted H for S making it Hindu. When the Muslims came in, there became two sets of people, one the Muslims and two the Hindus.

The 10thSikh Guru in Dasam Granth in Ugradanti Chhake Chhand Vani under the description of 'Chandi Ki Var' stated, "Let Khalsa be victorious all over the world to awaken Hindu Dharma, so all falsehood or ignorance may be removed". In another verse he has used the word 'Hinduka'. Probably it was the word used in medieval times and the word may have been a prototype of the modern word Hindoo (Hindu) as the British would say.

2. How did Hindu become Hinduism?

The word Hinduism is an incorrect nomenclature, which was coined by the British. Thereafter, it has stuck due to the ignorance of its followers. The term 'ism' refers to an ideology that is to be propagated and by any method imposed on others for e.g. Marxism, socialism, communism, imperialism and capitalism but the Hindus have no such 'ism'. Hindus follow the continuum process of evolution; for the Hindus do not have any unidirectional ideology, therefore, in Hindu Dharma there is no place for any 'ism'. Hindus are democratic in approach, for each individual is free to adopt any philosophy or way to self-realization.

3. A more fundamental question, What is Religion?

Quote Sri Aurobindo"There is no word so plastic and uncertain in its meaning as the word is religion. The word is European?. The average Christian believes that the Bible is God's book, but ordinarily he does not consider anything in God's book binding on him in practice except to believe in God and go to Church once a week, the rest is meant only for the exceptionally pious. To believe in God is to believe that he wrote a book; only one in all those ages, and to go to Church is the minimum of religion in Europe".

Extracts from an article by Nandakumar Chandran."A religion in the modern sense is generally understood in the Semitic mould as a faith distinguished by its belief in a historical prophet and a holy book. Thus the combination of Jesus and the Bible or Mohammed and the Quran establish the distinct identity of Christianity and Islam. According to these religions salvation or access to God is possible only if you accept the authority of their prophet and holy book. So each of these religions hold that theirs is the only true path and the claims of all other religions are false and invalid. At a secondary level apart from theological distinctions the adherents of these religions also distinguish themselves by their distinct cultural traits - like naming themselves after the holy men of their religions, dressing in a distinct way or observing cultural practices particular to their own religion. So it is in these factors - primarily the exclusive belief in prophet and holy book and secondarily in theological beliefs and distinct cultural practices - that the individual identity of a religion and its adherents rests. But if we look at India the concept of a prophet is totally lacking - no saint has ever claimed, "his is the only way".

4. Darsana- The Sanskrit word for philosophy is darsana,which means direct vision. The words symbolize the difference between modern Western philosophy, which mainly relies on intellectual pursuit and Indian philosophy that relies on direct vision of truths and pure Buddhi (reasoning). Darsana is divided into two categories namely Astika (believer in the Vedas) and Nastika (non-believer in the Vedas). Astika are Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Sakhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Nastika are Carvaka, Jainism and Buddhism. Others are a mixture of the ideas of these systems. Although each school of philosophy is unique some of the Nastika schools are treated as religions today namely Buddhism and Jainism.

However, certain common characteristics unite Astika and Nastika schools namely Direct experience, Acceptance of authority, Harmony amongst schools, Parallel growth and co existence of so many schools, open mindedness, support of logic and reasoning, belief of eternity, law of karma, moral and ethical teachings, acknowledgement of suffering, thoroughness, practicality and being inward looking. Have excluded Sikhism because in the words of Khushwant Singh Sikhism is a product of distilled Vedanta and Bhakti movement. To my mind Sikhs are a sect within the Sanatan Dharam fold. In the section 'Why' there is an article on why I believe so.

To my mind culture, way of life and characteristics of philosophy are three key parameters that distinguish one religion from another. As a concept religion is alien to India.

5. The Indian equivalent of Religion is Dharma. Define!

Quote Swami Rama i.e. explanation to verse 31 and 32 of chapter 2 of the Gita " Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna that one's duty is of paramount importance, for it is the means to fulfill the purpose of life. That which supports the fulfillment of one's duty is called Dharma. Dharma is not comparable to religion; it encompasses all the dimensions of life both within and without. It refers to duties done harmoniously, skillfully, selflessly and lovingly. It supports one in fulfilling the purpose of life and helps one to relate to others and to society in a harmonious way".

Quote Swami Dayanand Saraswati"That which inculcates justice and equity, which teaches truthfulness in thought, speech and deed - in a word, that which is in conformity with the Will of God, as embodied in the Vedas, even that I call Dharma. But that which is intermixed with what is partial, which sanctions injustice, which teaches untruthfulness of thought, speech or deed - in brief that which is in antagonism to the Will of God, as embodied in the Vedas, that I term Adharma".

Quote Sri Aurobindo"Religion is India is a still more plastic term and may mean anything from the heights of Yoga to strangling your fellow man and relieving him of the worldly goods he may happen to be carrying with him. It would be too long to enumerate everything that can be included in Indian religion. Briefly however, it is Dharma or living religiously, whole life being governed by religion. It means in ordinary practice living according to authority. The authority generally accepted in the Shastra. When one studies the Shastra we realize that Indian life and it have little in common, the Indian governs his life by the custom and opinion of the nearest Brahman. In practice this resolves itself into following certain customs and observances of which he neither understands the spiritual meaning nor the practicality. For e.g. to venerate the scriptures without knowing them, to keep Hindu holidays, to worship all Brahmans without knowing whether they are venerable or not. This in India is the minimum of religion glorified as Sanatan Dharam. If a man has emotional or ecstatic piety, he is a Bhakta, if he can talk fluently about the Veda, Upanishads etc he is a Jnani. If he puts on a yellow robe and does nothing he is a tyagi or sannyasin.

The average Hindu is right in his conception of religion as dharma, to live according to holy rule, but the holy rule is not a mass of fugitive customs, but to live for God in oneself and others and not for oneself only, to make the whole life a sadhana the object of which is to realize the Divine in the world by work, love and knowledge".

Quote Munisri Nyayavijayajifrom the book Jaina Darsana translated into English as Jaina Philosophy & Dharma by Shri Nagin Shah " This verse states that which saves living beings from falling into lower condition is Dharma. Again, it says that which lifts their life from the lower state to the higher one is Dharma. Dharma is the natural quality of the soul, which is experienced by all. On account of the removal of the traces of the past evil acts, the passions of attachment and aversion become mild, and consequently mental purity is attained, this purity is the real dharma. This is the luster of life. Compassion, friendliness, doing good to others, truthfulness, self-control, renunciation - all these good qualities constitute the auspicious light of the internal pure life. Life permeated with such light is called Dharmic life". Interestingly Shri Shah who translated the Gujarati version into English has used the word Religion in place of Dharma although the Sanskrit verses use the word Dharma.

Quote Swami Tattwamayanandaof the Ramakrishna Order " Dharma has two broad divisions, namely pravrtti and nivrtti dharma. Pravrtti dharma is dealt with in the sacrificial portion (karma kanda) of the Vedas and is a pursuit of life, which enables the individual to live a happy life in this world while performing actions, and caring for duties and responsibilities in his domestic, social and national life. Nivrtti dharma, dealt with in the Upanisadic portion of the Vedic literature, is a pursuit to make us understand the unity of the Spirit, which transcends the conventions of laws of social and domestic life. Pravrtti dharma is divided into two, special (visesa) dharma and ordinary (samanya) dharma. Special dharma denotes the performance of duties by people relevant to their particular position in life, whereas general dharma includes the virtues of character and good conduct such as non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, charity, cleanliness, compassion, simplicity, absence of greed etc".

Quote Sri Aurobindo on Dharma vs Democracy "It has been said that democracy is based on the rights of man; it has been replied that it should rather take its stand on the duties of man; but both rights and duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties lose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world, which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize, for in this lies the distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe".

You see Dharma encompassed every aspect of our lives. Every action was either Dharmic or adharmic. An act of killing like that of Arjun's was considered Dharmic because it was meant to destroy evil from this world. Dharma is unique to Bharat.

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