Hindu Mommy

June 25, 2006

Who is a Hindu?

Filed under: Hinduism,India — hindumommy @ 7:15 pm

Very interesting article by Koenraad Elst – http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/wiah/

A simple definition of a Hindu is "he who calls himself Hindu"

He gives a definition of "Hindus" as Indian pagans

In Hindu scriptures, the word “Hindu” is not to be found.  Yet, long before Western scholars sat down to invent definitions of “Hindu”, the term already carried a definite meaning.  The normal procedure ought to be, to listen to this original version first.  It was brought into India by the Islamic invaders, and meant: “Indian Pagan”.

The term “Hindu” is the Persian equivalent of the Indo-Aryan term “Sindhu”, “river”, “the Indus”.  The equivalence is a simple application of the regular phonetic relation between the indo-Aryan and Iranian branches of the Indo-European language family: initial [s] is retained in Indo-Aryan but changed into [h] in Iranian, while aspirated voiced stops like [dh] are retained in Indo-Aryan but lose their aspiration in Iranian.  The Iranians used the word Hinduto designate the river Sindhu and the countries and populations situated around and beyond the Sindhu.  From Persian, the Greeks borrowed the river name as Indos and the people’s name as Indoi, hence English Indus, India, Indian.

Indians in Southeast-Asia were never known as “Hindu”, but the Arabs, Turks, Mongolians and other northern and western foreigners adopted the Persian name as their own word for “India” and “Indians”,

and the legal definition of "Hindus" as per the Indian constitution

India’s Constitution does not give a definition of the term Hindu, but it does define to whom the “Hindu Law” applies.  It has to do this because in spite of its pretence to secularism, the Indian Constitution allows Muslims, Christians and Parsis a separate Personal Law.  In a way, this separate treatment of different communities merely continues the communal autonomy of castes and sects accepted in pre-modern Hindu states, but it exposes the credibility deficit of Indian secularism.  At any rate, the situation is that Personal Law is divided on the basis of religion, and that one of the legal subsystems is called Hindu Law.



  1. Why are you bothered about what the Indian contitution says? You are an American.

    Comment by mutiny — June 26, 2006 @ 6:46 am | Reply

  2. @Mutiny:
    Have an American passport but since I was born and brought up in India I would say I could atleast talk about it πŸ˜‰

    Also, I was merely quoting the article by Koenraad Elst. I guess since Hinduism originated in India and the majority of the Indians are in India people use the Indian constitution as a reference point

    Comment by hindumommy — June 26, 2006 @ 8:03 am | Reply

  3. Very true. That was a bit premature from my end. Sorry. But do get yourself an OIC and then you can be Indian officially again πŸ™‚

    In my Chruch (in Kerala), we are taught that we are Christians by religion, Indians by nationality and Hindu by culture. I think it would be very hard to classify Hinduism as a religion.

    Comment by mutiny — June 27, 2006 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  4. @Mutiny:
    No offense taken πŸ™‚

    In my Chruch (in Kerala), we are taught that we are Christians by religion, Indians by nationality and Hindu by culture. I think it would be very hard to classify Hinduism as a religion

    I absolutely love that statement – Having gone to a Catholic school and having friends from all religion I agree wholeheartedly with it

    Comment by hindumommy — June 27, 2006 @ 7:23 pm | Reply

  5. Hindu Religion:.

    One cannot say there is no basis for Hindu. The basis of Hinduism is “VEDAS”. They are told by great ancient Rishis of lore.
    There is no text for Vedas, originally,they were only “Shrutis”, meaning only sounds and to be heard.
    Like the sound of waves of the sea.
    Hindus believe in Three originators namely “Brahma” Vishnu” and “Maheswar”.
    While Brahma is not generally worshipped other two Viz. Vishnu and Maheswar are worshipped in various forms.
    The essence of spirituality is interpreted variedly by great Sages depending on the social requiremnets then.
    It is incarnations of Lord Vishnu like Rama and Krishna was the uniting factor, if at all there is one?.
    The vote bank politics in India is slowly eating into vitals of Hinduism.
    There is no concept of conversion into Hinduism , while the reverse is going on a large scale, ofcourse with the help of “so called” secular policies of G O I.
    Some other religions like Sikh, Jain, buiddhism respect Hinduism and donot try conversions from Hinduism.
    While some religions are trying to wipe out Hiduism entirely.

    Comment by swaralu — July 18, 2006 @ 6:02 am | Reply

  6. Who is a Hindu?

    Very Interesting question.
    Nobody is very seriou aboout it!
    Now it is unfortunate, but true, in India, Hindu is the one who is NOT a
    5. Sikh
    8. Any other religion.

    But in Hinduism itself, it has the biggest variety of sects!
    That may be one reason for its downfall!

    Comment by swaralu — July 18, 2006 @ 6:32 am | Reply

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