Meaning of Hindu


Hindu media has no qualms about publishing misinformation bout non-Hindus, but when confronted with a rebuttal, the editors look the other way and ignore it. Thus, I was not surprised when Editor Prashant Shah published only a small portion of my response in India Tribune of Novenmber 2, 2002, to Niranjan Shah’s column "Letter from grandpa" with headline "Who is a Hindu? Who is not?" –that was published in India Tribune of September 28, 2002. Due to many centuries of subjugation and humiliation by foreigners, Hindus have lost self-respect, dignity and the will to face the truth and reality. Instead, they have become masters of deception, manipulation and hypocrisy. They cry hoarse, that foreign writers have maligned their religion and culture and distorted their history. However, they don’t have any compunction against quoting foreign historians if it suites their purpose as Niranjan Shah has done in his baseless and illogical rejoinder. Here is my reply to his rejoinder:

Shah has quoted several foreign sources to prove that ‘Hindu’ is a corrupted version of ‘Sindhu’. However, he has ignored my questions and failed to reflect on the meaning of ‘Hindu Kush’. The interpretation that the word Hindu is a corrupted version of Sindhu does not explain why the Sindhu River or the people who live in the valley of this river did not acquire the name ‘Hindu’. This river is called Sindh and the people are called Punjabis and Sindhis. No body calls the state of Sindh as Hind or Sindhis as Hindis.

I am not sure whether it was a Hindu or a European, who was the first to suggest that Persians called river Sindhu as Hindu due to difference in pronunciation. Nonetheless, this explanation has found its way in European writings. Hindus find comfort in this absurd explanation as it provides them escape from facing the reality of their humiliating past and connects them to their mythical glorious past, the Vedic period of Ram Raj.

Indian writers who have looked at the meaning of ‘Hindu’ with a critical eye don’t agree with the interpretation of foreign writers. For example:

"The political situation of our country from centuries past, say 20-25 centuries has made it very difficult to understand the nature of this nation and its religion. The western scholars, and historians, too, have failed to trace the true name of this Brahmanland, a vast continent like country, and therefore, they have contended themselves by calling it by that meaningless term ‘Hindu’. This word, which is a foreign innovation, is not made use by any of our Sanskrit writers and revered Acharyas in their works. It seems that political power was responsible for insisting upon continuous use of the word Hindu. The word Hindu is found, of course, in Persian literature. Hindu-e-falak means ‘the black of the sky’ and ‘Saturn’. In the Arabic language Hind not Hindu means nation. It is shameful and ridiculous to have read all along in history that the name Hindu was given by the Persians to the people of our country when they landed on the sacred soil of Sindhu." (R. N. Suryanarayan, Universal Religion, p 1-2, published from Mysore in 1952.)

"Some people, according to the author, say that this word Hindu is a corrupt form of Sindhu but this is wrong because Sindhu was the name of the river and not the name of the community. Moreover, it is correct that this name has been given to the original Aryan race of the region by Muslim invaders to humiliate them. In Persian, says our author, the word means slave, and according to Islam, all those who did not embrace Islam were termed as slaves." (Maharishi Shri Dayanand Sarswati Aur Unka Kaam, edited by Lala Lajpat Rai, published from Lahore in 1898, in the chapter of introduction.)

Besides, a Persian dictionary titled Lughet-e-Kishwari, published in Lucknow in 1964, gives the meaning of Hindu as ‘chore (thief), dakoo (dacoit), raahzan (waylayer), and ghulam (slave)’. Yet according to an other dictionary named Urdu-Feroze-ul-Laghat – part 1 (p 615), the meaning of the word Hindu is as under:

In Turkish: chore, raahzan and lutera (looter).

In Persian: ghulam, barda (obedient servant), sia faam (black color) and kaalaa (black).

The hypothesis that Persians had difficulty in pronouncing Sindhu is baseless and preposterous. For example, how do the Persians who are Shia Muslims pronounce words like Shia, Sunni and Shariat? In Punjabi there are many, many words of Persian origin, which start with ‘s’ and ‘sh’. For example, sardar or sirdar (leader), shaheed (martyr), shhadat (martyrdom) shair (lion), sahir (town), sar (walk) shayer (poet), shakar (sugar), sja (punishment), siahi (black ink), siah (black) and so on. The word Punjab is also derived from Persian panch and aab (five waters).

The word Hindu may be as old as the Indus Vallay Civilization. To find the meaning of ‘Hindu’ one ought to look at the term ‘Hindu Kush’ (killer of Hindus). Who were the people, who named this mountain range as Hindu Kush? Why these mountains were called the killers of Hindus? As I mentioned earlier, the Indian subcontinent was inhabited by dark complexioned people before the migration of Caucasian tribes from Caucasus. The fair skinned Caucasian tribes who lived on the Northwest of Hindu Kush Moutain range called the Indian subcontinent as the land of Hindus (land of black people). The Northwest expansion of the inhabitants of Indus Valley was prevented by of Hindu Kush Mountains. Whenever the plain dwelling Hindus attempted to cross these mountains, they met death due harsh terrain and heavy snow. That is how these mountains were given the name Hindu Kush by mountain dwelling Caucasian tribes.

Later on when the Caucasian tribes conquered Northwest India, they continued using the name Hindu for native Indians. To humiliate the natives, the Caucasians ridiculed their culture, looks and black complexion, and used derogatory expressions for them. It is astonishing that these derogatory expressions have survived through thousands of years of Indian history and are found in modern Indian languages. ‘Blackness’ is used in bad connotation in Indian languages. For example, in Punjabi there are expressions like, kaala munh (black mouth, ugly or who speaks ill), kaali Jeebh (ill-omened tounge), kaala chore (notorious thief), kaala dhandha (illegal profession), kaala dhan (black money), kaali bhaid (black sheep), kalai laikh (black deeds) and kaala chum (black skinned person). There are also expressions like bandar munhan (monkey face) and rish jeha (bear-like), which the Caucasians used to describe the features of native Indians (Hindus). In Ramyan, the two native devotees of Shri Ram Chandar are depicted as a monkey (Hanuman) and a bear (Jamawant).

The Muslim conquers used the word Hindu for all the Indians. However, Hindus, who supported the Muslim rulers in the establishment of their authority over Hindu masses, were honored with titles like Chaudhary, Malik, Dewan, Shah, Raizada, Rayees, Munshi, Mahajan and others. Nowadays, the descendents of those Hindus bear these titles with great pride as surnames.

Mr. Shah did not find the meaning of ‘Hindu’ as black because he searched the wrong sources. Moreover, even if Mr. Shah had found that ‘Hindu’ means black, he would have been hesitant to accept it, as the inferiority complex of ‘blackness’ is deeply imbedded in the psyche of Indians. Most Indians except the Dalits consider themselves as the descendents of Caucasian tribes, who ruled over India before the onslaught of Muslims. So for Hindus to accept that ‘Hindu’ means black would make them descendents of native Indians, who are black people That is why Hindus insist that ‘Hindu’ is the corrupted form of Sindhu. Indians of today are the products of thousands of years of miscegenation between Caucasian groups and native Indians. However, Indians are reluctant to admit this fact. Excluding Kashmiris, the complexion of the Indian population varies from ‘light tan’ to ‘ebony black’ and the majority is quite dark. Indians despise black skin color is in spite of the fact that Indians are considered non-white by Europeans. For instance, in Indian movies, invariably, the hero and heroine have Caucasian features and lighter skin color than most of the population. Moreover, in the matrimonial columns in Indian newspapers everyone looks for a spouse of lighter color. Why does a dark person want to marry a person of lighter color? Is it because the dark person is not comfortable with his or her color and want to improve the color of his or her progeny. The superiority of white skin is deeply imbedded in the Indian psyche because ever since the conquest of Indus Valley by Caucasians, India has been ruled by white people like Aryans, Persians, Macedonians, Scythians, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Afghanas, Mangols, Portugese, French and English. When the English left, Indians crowned Jawahar Lal Nehru, who was the fairest among the Hindu leaders. In the words of socialist leader Madhu Limaye, Nehru practiced both racism and casteism, despite his modern upbringing and outlook (Telegraph, Calcutta, November 21, 1987). In a revealing passage about his ‘making’, Nehru wrote, "Behind me lie somewhere in the sub-conscience, racial memories of hundred or whatever the numbers may be, generations of Brahmins. I cannot get rid of that past inheritance." [Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (1936)), 1980, p 596.] Being a fair skinned Brahmin he ran roughshod over other leaders. The so-called iron man Patel or president Rajindra Parsad did not dare to challenge Nehru over his policies. The reason could be that both of them belonged to lower castes and had very dark complexion. It is intriguing why Mahatma Gandhi, a Gujrati Bania with caricature personality, insisted upon making Nehru his heir apparent, while ignoring others who were equally qualified. Was it Nehru’s fair skin, which impressed Gandhi the most? Similarly, why couldn’t the Congress Party find a single person in the whole country worthy enough to be its leader? It turned to Sonia Gandhi, who like her late husband does not understand or speak Hindi very well. What qualifications distinguish her from other Congress leaders? Is it her fair skin?

In Pashto, the language of the dominant Afghan tribe of Pashtoons, Hindu is pronounced as Indu (h is silent). The Greeks called the people of Indus Valley Indos or Indus and hence, the name India. The Muslims called it Hindustan.

Shah agues that the declaration of Sikhs as Hindus in the Indian constitution and imposition of Hindu Code Bill on them has nothing to do with the force of majority. To support his argument he says, "How come Muslims got their own Bill." It is not that simple as Shah thinks. It was not a magnanimous gesture to Muslims; it was a calculated sinister plot by the follower of Kautilya Muni to tie the Muslim community to the Congress party in perpetuity, and to hoodwink the international Muslim community in believing that Hindus are liberal, tolerant and respectful towards Muslim fellow citizens.

Shah Says, " Guru Nanak built a Hindu temple in Kabul, Afghanistan, when Muslims were destroying temples in Punjab. However, it is true that in most of the contemporary literature, Sikhism is treated as a separate religion." I have dealt with this type of misinformation about Sikhism thoroughly in my response. However, the editor for some reason did not publish a major portion of my missive. Mr. Shah has a copy of that missive. He should read that and see if what he has said makes any sense! Does it make any sense that the Muslims of Afghanistan allowed Guru Nanak to build a Hindu temple in Kabul while the Muslims in Punjab were destroying Hindu temples? May be what Guru Nanak built in Kabul was not a Hindu temple but a Sikh Dharmsala!

Bharat or Bhartvarsha may be the name of a mythical kingdom in Hindu scriptures or of a small principality located in the state of Uttar Pardesh but it was never the name of the Indian subcontinent.

Whereas Hinduism is derived from the word Hindu, the names of the other three religions, Buddhism, Janism and Sikhism founded on the Indian subcontinent are derived from Indian words with noble meanings: "Budh" (enlightenment), "Jan"[victorious (over vices)] and "Sikh" (learner), respectively.

Does it make any sense for Indians who are never tired of talking about the glory of their past, their religion and their civilization to call themselves "Hindus" when this word is not found in any Hindu text. This label "Hindu" was given to the people of the Indian subcontinent by outsiders in the derogatory sense (black, slave, servant, thief, robber and waylayer), except the term "black". What right or justification do the champions of "Hindutva" have to apply this label to others, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists?

India will remain mired in religious, caste, linguistic and ethnic strifes as long as Indians don’t come to terms with their past history objectively and learn from it.

Baldev Singh, Ph.D.,

316 R Glad way

Collegeville, PA 19426