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How did the word Hindu originate? Here is what you need to know about Hinduism

Hinduism is a vast and complex religion, a socio-religious body which further reflects the complexity of Indian society. It is a blend of rich geography, myriads of dialects, diverse customs and traditions, racial heterogeneity all of which shapes Hinduism as a whole.

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Indus,the river from which "Hindu' originated, Source-Pixabay
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May 01, 2017: Unlike other creeds, Hinduism does not originate in a single founder, a single book or a single point in time. It institutes many divergent beliefs, philosophies and viewpoints. However, these blatant conflict of ideas strikes only to those who are not accustomed to the “Hinduism” which claims that the oneness expresses itself in many different forms.

Hinduism is a vast and complex religion, a socio-religious body which further reflects the complexity of Indian society. It is a blend of rich geography, myriads of dialects, diverse customs and traditions, racial heterogeneity all of which shapes Hinduism as a whole.

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The Origination of word “HINDUISM”

There are many theories concerning the subject but amidst many tales, one takes us to river Indus which was a major part of ancient India and now a major river of present day Pakistan.

It is said that the Persians used to refer to the Indus river as Sindhu. Indus is a major river which flows partly in India and partly in Pakistan.However, the Persians could not pronounce the letter “S” correctly in their native tongue and mispronounced it as “H.” Thus, for the ancient Persians, the word “Sindhu” became “Hindu.” The ancient Persian Cuneiform inscriptions and the Zend Avesta refer to the word “Hindu” as a geographic name rather than a religious name.

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When the Persian King Darious 1 extended his empire up to the borders of the Indian subcontinent in 517 BC, some people of the Indian subcontinent became part of his empire and army. Thus for a prolonged period of time, the ancient Persians referred to these people as “Hindus”. The ancient Greeks and Armenians followed the same pronunciation, and thus, gradually the name stuck.

The word “India” also has a similar foreign origin. Originally, the native Indians used to address the Indian subcontinent as “Bharat”. As a matter of fact in Mahabharat, which is one of the two “Itihasa”, we find reference to the word “Bharat”. As per legend, the land ruled by the great King “Bharata” was called Bharat.

The ancient Greeks used to mispronounce the river Sindhu as Indos. When Alexander invaded India, the Macedonian army referred to the river as Indus and the land east of the river as India. The Greek writers who wrote about Alexander preferred to use the same name.

For the Arabs the land became Al-Hind. The Muslim rulers and travellers who came to India during the medieval period referred the Indian subcontinent as “Hindustan” and the people who lived there as Hindus.

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Thus, if we go by the original definition of the word Hindu, any person living in the land beyond the river Indus is a Hindu and whatever religion he or she practices is Hinduism. The word Hindu is a secular word. Hinduism denotes any religion or religions that are practised by the people living in the Indian subcontinent.

– prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

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  • Yash

    For better comprehension of the word ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’, just look towards the east of India. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan have local Gods and mythologies of their own interspersed with Buddhist icons. Many of their ‘Gods’ were also actual Kings/Generals, just like in India. BUT guess what? Compared to India, there are no religions called Thai-ism, Vietnamism, Chinuism etc. Why? Compared to these countries, India has been under subjugation of western cultures including Arabs/Persians and Europeans for more than 800 years both of whom were following the same basic Abrahamic religious values of exclusivity. The word Hindu and religion Hinduism was thrust upon us by our foreign overlords through government regulations. In a way, it’s similar to the N-word thrust upon Africans. But please remember who we really were before we were ‘Hindu’, i.e. only human beings, just like in eastern countries. Use Hindu and Hinduism as a bulwark against the supremacism of Abrahamic religions, but do not get attached to it. We are human beings and nothing else and our religious ‘doctrines’ are nothing but ancient scientific hypotheses. Hence the diversity of our philosophies and the lack of Abrahamic-type rigid ‘beliefs’ etc. Science and Hinduism are one and the same i.e. the quest for the truth through evidence and reason.

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  • Yash

    For better comprehension of the word ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’, just look towards the east of India. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan have local Gods and mythologies of their own interspersed with Buddhist icons. Many of their ‘Gods’ were also actual Kings/Generals, just like in India. BUT guess what? Compared to India, there are no religions called Thai-ism, Vietnamism, Chinuism etc. Why? Compared to these countries, India has been under subjugation of western cultures including Arabs/Persians and Europeans for more than 800 years both of whom were following the same basic Abrahamic religious values of exclusivity. The word Hindu and religion Hinduism was thrust upon us by our foreign overlords through government regulations. In a way, it’s similar to the N-word thrust upon Africans. But please remember who we really were before we were ‘Hindu’, i.e. only human beings, just like in eastern countries. Use Hindu and Hinduism as a bulwark against the supremacism of Abrahamic religions, but do not get attached to it. We are human beings and nothing else and our religious ‘doctrines’ are nothing but ancient scientific hypotheses. Hence the diversity of our philosophies and the lack of Abrahamic-type rigid ‘beliefs’ etc. Science and Hinduism are one and the same i.e. the quest for the truth through evidence and reason.

Next Story

Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Hindu
Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

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“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)