Saturday, September 4, 2010

What is Hindutva to me?

This single term has been one of the most debatable terms in India. It’s been interpreted in many different ways by different people. For some it has religious connotation, more in the sense of Supremacy of Hindu religion in India, for others it’s a Cultural Nationalism, which, I might add, is a bit of redundant phrase as Culture is anyway a part of a Nation and Nationalism, by that definition, must be inclusive of culture and customs of this land.

I don’t know who coined this term, so I also don’t know what the maker had in mind. However, the controversy and multiplicity of definitions around this term has caused me to contemplate over this.

So here’s my take.

India was called Hindustan by the Arabs, long before the advent of Islam, or even Christianity, I suspect. Buddhism was not considered to be any different from Sanatan Dharm, the real name of the religion we refer to as Hinduism.

Hindustan means a Sthan (Place) where Hindus live. So, it appears that even Arabs used Hindi/Sanskrit or any other prevalent Indian Language of the time. But then there was no term as “Hindu” then. The Dharm practiced by Indians was called Sanatan Dharm and various ways of attaining Moksh (Liberation) existed in India, which were later classified into six primary groups by literary geniuses.

Historians help us in this regard by telling us that the actual reference was to the river Sindhu, which in west is referred to later as Indus. The Arabs couldn’t pronounce Sindhu properly and therefore referred to the people here as “Hindu” people. This has been a generally accepted theory and it looks convincing to me.

Some may ask, “Why the reference to Sindhu river?” Well, geographically and archaeologically, it appears that India’s contact with Arabian world was through the Sindhu Ghaati Sabhyata (Indus River Civilization). By then River Saraswati had already gone subterranean due to a very heavy earthquake and the civilization around River Ganga might have been quite distant, geographically.

So, all in all, Hind, Hindu, Hindustan were all a reference to the land, the people, their culture, customs and traditions, which was influenced by many things like the Ecosystem, Climate, Religious Belief, Intellect etc.

Somehow this reference to Bharatvarsh stuck around over a few millennia. Reference to our spiritual practice and religious belief as Hindu Dharm instead of Sanatan Dharm comes much later. Even that new reference is extension of the reference the Dharm/Spiritual practice followed on the land of Hind.

Therefore, in my opinion, Hindutva relates to all things Indian. And in that sense, all people living on this land, irrespective of what religion they follow are Hindus. This fact and understanding in the line given by Dr. Allama Iqbal in his famous song, Saare Jahan Se Achha…. The line reads:

Hindi hain hum, watan hai…Hindostan hamara, hamara…Saare jahan se achha…Hindostan hamara…

So, simplifying the concept for the sake of lay audience, Hindutva is same as Bharatiyata or Indianness. It is a statement of our desire to show Indianness in everything we do. Not to get influenced by other cultures, especially, the current flavors of west.

Such an action is only possible by having confidence in our own culture. The confidence will come from the past, through a better understanding of past, knowing the true meaning of each and everything related to our past. Not feeling ashamed of their corruption in the middle ages because that is only a natural phenomenon. All pure things become impure and then become pure again and the cycle continues.

Let us take a step in that direction, in the direction of getting a clear understanding of who we are and exhibit Indianness – the originality, something that is part of our true identity - into our actions.

Let’s welcome the concept of Hindutva, the true secularism within it, with open arms and create a lifestyle around it.


  1. हिमालायं समारभ्य यावादिन्दुसरोवारम् तं देवानिर्मिथं देशम हिन्दुस्थानाम प्रचक्षते,the divine land bw himalayas and indian ocean is called hindusthan, this is what we should believe and propogate.
    this term hindutva i believe was coined by veer savarkar and he has wrote a small book explaining what it is !!1

  2. Okay, If I go by what you are saying (and it is probably very similar to the right wing interpretation), I have a few questions:

    1. So, who is an Indian muslim? Is he also a hindu?

    2. This might have been the scenario when it evolved ( in a bygone era) but where does is stand today?

    3. And more importantly, how do you define 'Indian culture'. People can conveniently say that reading a gita is Indian culture but reading a Quran is not. So muslims are not 'indian'. Who decides whats Indian and whats not

  3. Dear Aditya,

    Very good questions. Takes the discussion in correct direction. Now, I don't really subscribe to this right-wing, left-wing nonsense. As far as governance is concerned I just understand Nationalism and Welfare of our people. Will be writing in detail may be through another blogpost.

    However, as far as the questions are concerned, here's what I think:

    1. Yes, people from all religion, residing on the land of Hind are Hindus. Just like those living in Gujarat are Gujarati, from Assam are Assami, from Bengal are Bengali. Its only a difference of language here. India is derived from the word Hind, which was an Arabic reference to Bharatvarsha or Aryavarta. What people agree to say in English is being said in Hindi.

    2. I have said it, pure things will become impure and then pure again. This is where it stands in my mind, and this is what I will bother to promote as its meaning. If someone has corrupted it and instead of uniting people, divides India, then that definition has to phaseout. Moreover, this is a logical definition. The otherwise religious connotation is bound to be a misplaced idea as Sanatan Dharm itself has become Hindu Dharm. That is a misnomer, and all derivation from there are bound to create not only wrong impressions but also wrong actions.

    3. If you try to understand India's culture from the standpoint of Hindu as a religious connotation, you'll never understand Indian Culture. If you understand Sanatan Dharm and multiplicity of practices within it to achieve Moksha (Liberation), then you'll know that there cannot be an apathy for any form of spiritual practice. So it could be Christian or Islamic, as long as its Liberation you want to achieve, no one must object.

    Having said that, you shd also know that for many people it is not Islam that is an issue, it is Geopolitical nature of Quran which is objectionable. The concepts of Kaafir, Shahadha and Hijrath etc. are the ones that Indians take objection to. That spoils our culture, pollutes the social fibre.

    Quran is filled with some quasi-spiritual instructions and many social conduct and Geopolitical concepts. You'd know when you read it. That section needs a reform in a current day scenario. However, the rigidity and strictness of Islam doesn't leave much scope for such changes.

    Hope that more or less answers your queries.

  4. आपका ब्लोग पढा...बहुत अच्छा लिखते हैं आप...बार बार आयेंगे...पर ये वर्ड वैरिफिकेशन हटा दैं तो अच्छा रहेगा....नहीं तो फिर नहीं आयेंगे....

  5. hehehe...Mihirji, the word verification has been removed.