Hindus And Hindutva: Deliberate Confusion By the Uninformed!

Hinduism is a cultural entity; it is not a religion. It encompasses in its fold a whole philosophy of living spiritual, intellectual, material, social, political, and military life. It is much bigger than the word “Religion”, which simply implies following certain rituals and temporal procedures.

By Col Rajinder Singh

Opinion

John-Keay

In simple and straight terms, Hindutva should mean “of Hindus”. I believe it so. But some ill- informed Congressmen like Salman Khurshid, P Chidambaram and Rahul Gandhi are deliberately linking it to terrorism and extremism. In fact, according to Wikileaks, Rahul Gandhi had told the US ambassador to India during a 2009 Lunch meeting that “Radicalised Hindu groups” posed a bigger threat to India than Muslim terrorists. Salman Khurshid has in his book “Sunrise Over Ayodhya” equated Hindutva with Boko Haram terrorists of Nigeria.

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If similar remarks were made on Islam or any other religion, there would have been riots in India. But nothing of this sort happens in India. Compare this with Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” or Taslima Nasrin’s “Lajja”! Muslims of India had reacted violently. But in India a renowned painter like MF Hussain could paint Hindu Gods in a derogatory manner and no riots took place, while the Islamic world had erupted on the publication of the Danish Cartoons. This shows the depth and tolerance of Hindus. In fact, Hinduism is the mother of peaceful co-existence when one examines its basic philosophy of “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” — meaning “the World is One Family”.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana of the Supreme Court of India, a few years ago, had evaluated and observed Hinduism thus: “… Religion incorporates the particular belief(s) that a group of people subscribe to. Hinduism, as a religion, incorporates all forms of belief without mandating the selection or elimination of any one single belief… It is a religion that has no single founder, no single scripture and no single set of teachings. It has been described as Sanatan Dharma, namely, eternal faith, as it is the collective wisdom and inspiration of the centuries that Hinduism seeks to preach and propagate.”

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana of the Supreme Court of India, a few years ago, had evaluated and observed Hinduism thus: “…It has been described as Sanatan Dharma, namely, eternal faith, as it is the collective wisdom and inspiration of the centuries that Hinduism seeks to preach and propagate”

In fact, one would like to quote Guru Teg Bahadur, Ninth guru of Sikhs, who had told tyrant emperor Aurangzeb: जे प्रभु चाहे ते हिंदू न जन्मे, तुर्क जन्म दे निस दिन में”, it means if God had so desired, then he would not have allowed Hindus to be born and every day Turks (Muslims) would have been born. In other words, all religions have the right to exist alongside. This explains the basic philosophy of “Sanatan Dharma”— the temporal philosophy of Hinduism. Let me explain this in the following paragraphs. By the way, let me emphasise that the “Guru-Concept” is unique only in Sanatan/ Hindu philosophy.

Is Hinduism really a religion? To all its detractors and also its followers, it would be instructive to know that the word “Hindu” does not find any mention in any of the ancient texts of this so-called religion. The original texts of ‘Vedas’, ‘Epics’ (like Ramayana and Mahabharata), the Holy Book ‘Gita’, the ‘Upanishads’, the ‘Puranas’ or even the ‘Brahmanas’ do not mention the word ‘Hindu’ even once.

According to famous Indologist and renowned historian John Keay, the word “Hindu” first appeared in the written form in 518 BC (Refer to pp 10 of “India: A History” by John Keay). It was on a tablet by King Darius-I of ancient Persia (modern Iran — a derivation from the word Aryan). According to the tablet, the diktat on it had said that King Darius-I ruled up to and beyond River ‘Hindu’ (Sindhu).

The word “Hindu” does not find any mention in any of the ancient texts of this so-called religion. The original texts of ‘Vedas’, ‘Epics’ (like Ramayana and Mahabharata), the Holy Book ‘Gita’, the ‘Upanishads’, the ‘Puranas’ or even the ‘Brahmanas’ do not mention the word ‘Hindu’ even once

John Keay goes on to explain that the word ‘Hindu’ was, in fact, a corruption of the Sanskrit word, ‘Sindhu’. It is believed that the ancient Persians pronounced ‘S’ with the apostrophe ‘H’. Thus River ‘Sindhu’ became River ‘Hindu’.

This has also been authenticated by the renowned Indian archaeologist and former Surveyor General of India, Rajesh Kochhar, in his book, “A Vedic History Of India”. In the book, a number of such examples have been given, such as ‘Asura’ in Sanskrit as ‘Ahura’ in ancient Persian (Avaistic Zenda) or Dasyu in Sanskrit as ‘Dahyu’.

Actually Rajesh Kochhar goes on to say that Ancient Persians belonged to the same branch of the Aryans who migrated from India, maybe around the end of last Ice Age around 8000 BC. In this context, one should read, “Return Of The Aryans” by Bhagwan Singh Gidwani, who traces the movement of this ancient Indian community from India to Hungary in Europe and back to India. They were something like the NRIs of today.

(By the way, please note the Aryans were not a race as it is thought to be; the term simply referred to a lingual fraternity! — More on this sometimes later.)

Therefore, the ancient Persians called people living east of the RIver ‘Hindu’ (Sindhu) as a ‘Hindu’. Please note, it had a geographical connotation and it had a foreign origin.

John Keay in his other book, ‘Into India’, says the word Hindu was used for describing the “Geographical and Cultural Identity” of a person as and at par with ‘Indian’ today or as a ‘Briton’ or an ‘American’ would mean to us now-a-days. People in the olden days followed a number of Temporal Sects with separate identities such as ‘Shaivism’, ‘Vaishnavism’, ‘Buddhism’ or ‘Jainism’. They were all called Hindus till as late as the 18th/ 19th Century.

John Keay goes on to explain that the word ‘Hindu’ was, in fact, a corruption of the Sanskrit word, ‘Sindhu’. It is believed that the ancient Persians pronounced ‘S’ with the apostrophe ‘H’. Thus River ‘Sindhu’ became River ‘Hindu’

Further, it may be noted, when the ancient Persians interacted with the Greeks, the word ‘Hind’ lost its ‘H’ and became “Indie”, “Indic’ or “India”. “Alexander the Great” (Sikander-e-Azam) called it the land of India. But the Persians and the Arabs kept on calling it ‘Hindustan’ (the Land of Hindus).

It was never a religious identity. It was purely a geographical and cultural description of the people living here. People followed Vaishnav (Vedic) and Shaivite (Naga) practices. The Vedic people called this land as “Aryavrat” and Shaivites called it “Bharatvarsh”. (Shaivites were the followers of Lord Shiva and belonged to a race called Naga – who were scattered from Afghanistan in the west to Assam in the east to Maharashtra in the south. Their philosophy was Live Today i.e. Eat (also meat), Drink and Be Merry – as opposed to the Vaishnavs, who were not only ‘pure vegetarians’ but also worried about the future.

Renowned Indian archaeologist and former Surveyor General of India Rajesh Kochhar goes on to say that Ancient Persians belonged to the same branch of the Aryans who migrated from India, maybe around the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BC

The Buddhists and Jains who came later were in reality an off-shoot of the synthesis of Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Synthesis only led to new temporal procedures without changing the geographical or the cultural identity of the people of this land. So, the foreigners, particularly the Arabs and Persians, continued to refer to them as “HIindus” only.

I am digressing here slightly to press home the point: Please note Sir Iqbal Mohammed’s famous poem “Hindustan Hamara”. He was a man of history and he knew his origin. This is why he exhorts our people, “… Mazhab Nahin Sikhata Aapas Mein Bair Rakhna; ‘Hindi’ Hain Hum, Watan Hai Hindustan Hamara…” (Religion Does Not Teach Us To Have Animosity Towards Each Other; We Are ‘Hindi’ And Our Nation Is ‘Hindustan’). I would like to draw your attention to the word “Hindi” meaning “We Are All Hindus”! Unfortunately, religious bigots got the better of him, as they do even today of the most sensible people in various religions in India.

How did the word “Hindu” acquire religious connotations? After the word came into existence around 6th Century BC as a Geographical & Cultural Identity of the People Living East of the River “Sindhu” (Hindu or Indus), it continued to carry the same meaning for another 1,000 years. Around 530 AD, a Hun Prince, Gopalditya, was crowned as king of Kashmir. He was the son of Mihirkula – a tyrant Hun king of Kashmir. Gopalditya was a learned man and a good administrator. One day, while going around his capital with his minister, he saw people following weird temporal practices. Some were worshipping idols. Some were advocating eating meat and drinking intoxicants, while some others preached totally against it. He noticed, despite all these differences and opposing views, people lived in peace and harmony. He was impressed with such neighbourly co-existence. He asked his minister about the weird ways of the people. The minister said, “They are ‘Hindus’ and they do not follow one temporal practice. They tolerate opposite views and dissidence. It is their way of living.” Gopalditya then said, “Oh, great! Then I will also become a Hindu.” This then is how the word ‘Hindu’ began to acquire religious connotations. It must be said that it was then a confluence of various temporal practices – particularly ‘Shaivism’ and ‘Vaisnavism’ – of widely and diametrically opposite thoughts. Nevertheless, the word continued to carry its earlier Persian identity of ‘Cultural Nationhood’ – right up to the 18th Century.

Therefore, ‘Hindu’ must not be seen as a religion – because there are no uniform temporal practices amongst Hindus, from region to region; caste to caste; class to class; sects to sects; language to language. Its apparent dissimilarities make it a great treatise on living life in a colourful manner. It advocates unity in diversity in a true sense. Unfortunately, in spite of all this, it continues to be the favourite whipping boy of pseudo-intellectuals and half-read educationists. But it moves on. And it keeps growing. Its protection is its “non-defence” by its followers. The rising trend to defend it would make it weak and rigid. It has survived thousands of years of onslaught and each time it has emerged stronger.

In his book “Return Of The Aryans”, Bhagwan Singh Gidwani traces the movement of this ancient Indian community from India to Hungary in Europe and back to India. They were something like the NRIs of today

We must know that ‘Hinduism’ as a temporal and spiritual philosophy, as it is known today, was never founded by any one saint/ messiah or a prophet as almost all other known religions and sects have been. It evolved on its own. It does not belong to any one sect, or a set of sects. The multitude of its gods is a testimony to its emphasis on collective wisdom. This very fact makes it flexible and secular. It continues to grow and evolve. Hinduism is a cultural entity; it is not a religion. It encompasses in its fold a whole philosophy of living spiritual, intellectual, material, social, political and military life. It is much bigger than the word “Religion”, which simply implies following certain rituals and temporal procedures. It is, in fact, emancipation of the word “Dharma”, which includes in itself parameters of Social, Political, Economic and spiritual conduct of a man. It defines social, familial, and national responsibilities and duties.

The word “Hindu”, in fact, is the lost elder brother of the current terminology of “Indian”, which came later and substituted it. The word “Indian” too was given by foreigners – more particularly by the Greeks. From the Greeks it travelled further west and got popular amongst the Europeans. As the British ruled India for almost 200 years, the terms ‘Indian or India’ got stuck and ‘Hindu’ lost its shine. But amongst the Arabs and Persians it is still known as ‘Hindustan’ – or the land of Hindus.

Please note I am only trying to clear certain misconceptions about this most secular and flexible treatise on human conduct and behaviour with malice towards none. Hinduism not only shows the way as to how to lead a human life but also accepts new ways with the passage of time. We must understand:

  • It encourages Criticism and Dissidence.
  • It does not claim its philosophy as ‘ultimate and final’.
  • It does not encourage hatred for your rivals and enemies.
  • Its much-maligned caste-system was a social division of work to achieve ‘specialisation’ in family work – it is the same thing as you see in various professions of today. An engineer’s son goes for engineering. A doctor’s son goes for medicine. A politician’s son gets into politics. A ‘fauji’s son generally, till date, chose the ‘defence services’ career. In fact, these are the modern castes of India. No upper caste boy (starving of hunger) would mind marrying the grand-daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram, a respected Dalit leader of the Congress party. Where is the caste system? Only in the pages of the Constitution that keeps it alive through the bogey of reservation. Had the provision of reservation not been there, the old caste system would have disappeared a long time ago. But it has been kept alive by vote bank politicians.
  • ‘Social divisions in Hinduism’ were to promote and improve quality of work through hereditary professions. It is a different matter that it became a victim of the monopoly of a particular class.
  • The much criticised idol worship is actually a sign of the inability of others to be definitive about their Gods. Idols are representation of Gods of your preference. It is a symbol that gives you freedom to choose your God. ‘Others’ do not provide this freedom to their followers. They do not know the shape of their God. It is a law of nature that shapeless things do not exist. If a thing does not exist, why do you worship it?

 In any case, what is there in the mosque at Mecca? What are the statues of Virgin Mary or Lord Jesus or the Cross doing in churches? How about the Statue of Liberty and Freedom? What is it doing in the most advanced city – New York – near the capital of the world? It is a symbol – a symbol of supremacy of the human spirit – isn’t it? Symbols are reminders of the faith to the faithful. Why are we criticising Hindu symbols, when other belief systems also believe in symbols? The multiplicity of gods/goddesses speaks volumes about the democracy, freedom and liberty of spiritual thought in the Hindu cultural and social way of life. It does not bind you to the fallacy of absolutism like others.

-An ex-NDA and Wellington Staff College graduate, Col Rajinder Singh is a renowned author and security analyst. He has authored four books, two individually and two in collaboration. His best-selling books are Kashmir – A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda