Origin of word Hindu


There are many versions and opinions on the origins of the word Hindu. We have given some well known versions here-

–  In his book –An Introduction to Hinduism- Mr. Gavin D Flood says, The actual term ‘hindu’ first occurs as “a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)”, more specifically in the 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I. The Punjab region, called Sapta Sindhu in the Vedas, is called Hapta Hindu in Zend Avesta. The 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I mentions the province of Hi[n]dush, referring to northwestern India. The people of India were referred to as Hinduvān (Hindus) and hindavī was used as the adjective for Indian in the 8th century text Chachnama. The term ‘Hindu’ in these ancient records is an ethno-geographical term and did not refer to a religion. The Arabic equivalent Al-Hind likewise referred to the country of India.

– Among the earliest known records of ‘Hindu’ with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by the Buddhist scholar Xuanzang. Xuanzang uses the transliterated term In-tu whose “connotation overflows in the religious” according to Arvind Sharma. While Xuanzang suggested that the term refers to the country named after the moon, another Buddhist scholar I-tsing contradicted the conclusion saying that In-tu was not a common name for the country.

– Iranian Scholar Al-Biruni‘s 11th-century text Tarikh Al-Hind, and the texts of the Delhi Sultanate period use the term ‘Hindu’, where it includes all non-Islamic people such as Buddhists, and retains the ambiguity of being “a region or a religion”.

– According to Historian  Romila Thapar the ‘Hindu’ community occurs as the amorphous ‘Other’ of the Muslim community in the court chronicles. Thapar states that the word Hindu is found as heptahindu in Avesta – equivalent to Rigvedic  sapta sindhu, while hndstn (pronounced Hindustan) is found in a Sasanian inscription from the 3rd century CE, both of which refer to parts of northwestern South Asia. The Arabic term al-Hind referred to the people who live across the River Indus. This Arabic term was itself taken from the pre-Islamic Persian term Hindū, which refers to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustan emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the “land of Hindus”.

– The term Hindu was later used occasionally in some Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450) and some 16th- to 18th-century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata. These texts used it to distinguish Hindus from Muslims who are called Yavanas (foreigners) or Mlecchas (barbarians), with the 16th-century Chaitanya Charitamrita text and the 17th-century Bhakta Mala text using the phrase “Hindu dharma”.  It was only towards the end of the 18th century that European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus.

–  Later, when the Muslim invaders arrived from such places as Afghanistan and Persia, they called the Sindhu River the Hindu River. Thereafter, the name “Hindu” was used to describe the inhabitants from that tract of land in the northwestern provinces of India where the Sindhu River is located, and the region itself was called “Hindustan.” Because the Sanskrit sound of “S” converts to “H” in the Parsee language, the Muslims pronounced the Sindhu as “hindu,” even though at the time the people of the area did not use the name “hindu” themselves. This word was used by the Muslim foreigners to identify the people and the religion of those who lived in that area.

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

– Wikipedia : – The word Hindu is derived from the Indo-Aryan and Sanskrit word Sindhu, which means “a large body of water”, covering “river, ocean”. It was used as the name of the Indus River and also referred to its tributaries.

Hindutva By Veer Vinayak D Sawarkar

What is a Hindu?      Although it would be hazardous at the present state of oriental research to state definitely the period when the foremost band of the intrepid Aryans made it their home and lighted their first sacrificial fire on the banks of the Sindhu, the Indus, yet certain it is that long before the ancient Egyptians, and Babylonians had built their magnificent civilization, the holy waters of the Indus were daily witnessing the lucid and curling columns of the scented sacrificial smokes and the valleys resounding with the chants of Vedic hymns- the spiritual fervour that animated their souls.  The adventurous valour that propelled their intrepid enterprizes, the sublime heights to which their thoughts rose-all these had marked them out as a people destined to lay the foundation of a great and enduring civilization.  By the time they had definitely cut themselves aloof from their cognate and neighbouring people especially the Persians, the Aryans, had spread out to the farthest of the seven rivers, Sapta Sindhus, and not only had they developed a sense of nationality but had already succeeded in giving it ‘a local habitation and a name!’  Out of their gratitude to the genial and perennial network of waterways that run through the land like a system of nerve-threads and wove them into a Being, they very naturally took to themselves the name of Sapta Sindhus an epithet that was applied to the whole of Vedic India in the oldest records of the world, the Rigveda itself.  Aryans or the cultivators as they essentially were, we can well understand the divine love and homage they bore to these seven rivers presided over by the River, ‘the Sindhu’. which to them were but a visible symbol of the common nationality and culture.

The Indians in their forward march had to meet many a river as genial and as fertilizing as these but never could they forget the attachment they felt and the homage they paid to the Sapta Sindhus which had welded them into a nation and furnished the name which enabled their forefathers to voice forth their sense of national and cultural unity.  Down to this day a Sindhu- a Hindu-wherever he may happen to be, will gratefully remember and symbolically invoke the presence of these rivers that they may refresh and purify his soul.

Not only had these people been known to themselves as ‘Sindhus’ but we have definite records to show that they were known to their surrounding nations- at any rate to one of them- by that very name, ‘Sapta Sindhu’.  The letter ‘s’ in Sanskrit is at times changed into h in some of the Prakrit languages, both Indian and non-Indian.  For example, the word Sapta has become Hapta not only in Indian Prakrits but also in the European languages too: we have Hapta i.e., week, in India and ‘Heptarchy’ in Europe, Kesari in Sanskrit becomes Harhvati in Persian and Asuri becomes Ahur.  And then we actually find that the Vedic name of our nation Sapta Sindhu had been mentioned as Hapta Hindu in the Avesta by the ancient Persian people.  Thus in the very dawn of history we find ourselves belonging to the nation of the Sindhus or Hindus and this fact was well known to our learned men even in the Puranic period.  In expounding the doctrine that many of the Mlechha tongues had been but the mere offshoots of the Sanskrit language the Bhavishya Puran clearly cites this fact and says –

Thus knowing for certain that the Persians used to designate the Vedic Aryans as Hindus and knowing also the fact that we generally call a foreign and unknown people by the term by which they are known to those through whom we come to know them, we can safely conclude that most of the remoter nations   that flourished then must have applied the same epithet ‘Hindu’ to our land and people as the ancient Persians did.  Not only that but even in the very region of the Sapta Sindhus the thinly scattered native tribes too, must have been knowing the Aryans as Hindus in the local dialects in accordance with the same linguistic law.  Further on, as the Vedic Sanskrit began to give birth to the Indian Prakrits which became the spoken tongues of the majority of the decendants of these very Sindhus as well as the assimilated and the crossborn castes, these too might have called themselves as Hindus without any influence for the foreign people.  For the Sanskrit S changes into H as often in Indian Prakrits as in the non-Indian ones.  Therefore, so far as definite records are concerned, it is indisputably clear that the first and almost the cradle name chosen by the patriarchs of our race to designate our nation and our people, is Sapta Sindhu or Hapta Hindu and that almost all nations of the then known world seemed to have known us by this very epithet, Sindhus or Hindus.

===== + =====