What is Hindutva?

Meaning of the Word Hindutva – by Vinayak Ambekar

The word Hindutva has very special affinity  in the minds of crores of Hindus. We will try to understand the term Hindutva as explained by various persons and sources to understand it better-

Swatantrya Veer Sawarkar :  In the pre independence period there was very less awareness about the word Hindutva.  In those days great hindu leader Swatantryaveer Sawarkar first wrote extensively on Hindutva. In his famous book “Hindutva”  under the caption “ Who Is a Hindu?” he  explained  that Hindutva is an inclusive term of everything Indic. The three essentials of Hindutva in Savarkar’s definition were the common nation (rashtra), common race (Vansh ), and common culture or civilization (sanskriti). Savarkar used the words “Hindu” and “Sindhu” interchangeably. Those terms were at the foundation of his Hindutva, as geographic, cultural and ethnic concepts, and “religion did not figure in his ensemble”.  His elaboration of Hindutva included all Indian religions, i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Savarkar restricted “Hindu nationality” to “Indian religions” in the sense that they shared a common culture and fondness for the land of their origin.

Sawarkar ji further explained that Hindutva is a bond of common blood. The Hindus are united not only by the bonds of the love they bear to a common motherland but also by the bonds of a common blood. They are not only a Nation but also a race ( jati ). The word jati derived from the root Jan to produce, means a brotherhood, a race determined by a common origin,-possessing a common blood. All Hindus claim to have in their veins the blood of the mighty race incorporated with and descended from. After all there is throughout this world so far as man is concerned but a single race— the human race kept alive by one common blood, the human blood.

Sawarkar ji further explains the word Hindu can give full expression to this racial unity of our people. He said this common blood includes that of Aryans and  Anaryans, Ayars and Nayars, Daxinatyas and Uttarbhartiyas, Gauds and  Saraswatas,  Jains and Jangamas, Vanaras or Naras, Namashudras or Panchamas only the names differ but we are  all Hindus and own a common blood. He further explains that the same ancient blood that coursed through the veins of Ram and Krishna, Buddha and Mahavir, Nanak and Chaitanya, Basava and Madhava, of Rohidas and Tiruvelluvar courses throughout Hindudom from vein to vein, pulsates from heart to heart. Sawarkar ji said this is the basis of Hindutva. He said some of us are monists, some pantheists; some theists and some atheists. But monotheists or atheists-we are all Hindus and own a common blood. We are not only a nation but a born brotherhood. Nothing else counts, it is after all a question of heart.

Hindutva as defined in various literary source –

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) :-  Hindutva is “originally: the state or quality of being Hindu; ‘Hinduness’. In later use: an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life; Hindu nationalism;” Its etymology, according to the OED, is: “modern Sanskrit hindutva (Hindu qualities, Hindu identity from hindu + classical Sanskrit -tva, suffix forming abstract nouns.)”  The relevant meaning of hindu is stated as deriving from “Persian language hindu, Urdu hindū, … originally from Sanskrit sindhu, or river, specially, the Indus, hence the region of the Indus, i.e. Sindh; gradually extended by Persians, Greeks, and Arabs, to northern India as a whole.”

– Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions :-  Hindutva is a concept of “Indian cultural, national, and religious identity”. The term “conflates a geographically based religious, cultural, and national identity: a true ‘Indian’ is one who partakes of this ‘Hindu-ness’. Some Indians insist, however, that Hindutva is primarily a cultural term to refer to the traditional and indigenous heritage of the Indian nation-state, and they compare the relationship between Hindutva and India to that of Zionism and Israel.” This view, as summarized by Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, holds that “even those who are not religiously Hindu but whose religions originated in India — Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others — share in this historical, cultural, and national essence. Those whose religions were imported to India, meaning primarily the country’s Muslim and Christian communities, may fall within the boundaries of Hindutva only if they subsume themselves into the majority culture”.

Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics and International Relations :-  “Hindutva, translated as ‘Hinduness,’ refers to the ideology of Hindu nationalists, stressing the common culture of the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. … Modern politicians have attempted to play down the racial and anti-Muslim aspects of Hindutva, stressing the inclusiveness of the Indian identity; but the term has Fascist undertones.”  According to The Dictionary of Human Geography, “Hindutva encapsulates the cultural justification of Hindu nationalism, a “Hinduness” allegedly shared by all Hindus.”  According to A Political and Economic Dictionary of South Asia, “One of the main purposes behind the concept of Hindutva was to construct a collective identity to support the cause of ‘Hindu-unity’ (Hindu Sanghatan) and to avoid too narrow a definition of Hinduism, which had the consequence of excluding Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains from the Hindu community. Later, Hindu-nationalist ideologues transformed the concept into a strategy to include non-Hindus, in order to widen their social base, and for political mobilization.”

–  Encyclopedia Britannica has published an article on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a Hindu and Indian nationalist, “Hindutva (“Hinduness”) … sought to define Indian culture as a manifestation of Hindu values; this concept grew to become a major tenent of Hindu nationalist ideology.”  According to the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Hindutva as defined in the classic statement of its ideology, is the “culture of the Hindu race” where Hinduism is but an element and “Hindu dharma is a religion practiced by Hindus as well as Sikhs and Buddhists”. The article further states, “proponents of Hindutva have sought to promote the identification of national identity with the religious and broader cultural heritage of Hindus. Measures taken to achieve this end have included attempts to ‘reclaim’ individuals judged to have taken up ‘alien’ religions, the pursuit of social, cultural and philanthropic activities designed to strengthen awareness of Hindu belonging, and direct political action through various organizations, including recognized political parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Hindutva as defined by various Courts of India

Various courts in our Country mainly the Hon. Supreme Court has explained the term Hindutva in it’s various decisions. Some of the decisions are as under :-

– The definition and the use of Hindutva and its relationship with Hinduism has been a part of several court cases in India. In 1966, the Chief Justice Gajendragadkar wrote for the Supreme Court of India in Yagnapurushdasji (AIR 1966 SC 1127), that “Hinduism is impossible to define”. The court adopted Radhakrishnan’s submission that Hinduism is complex and “the theist and atheist, the skeptic and agnostic, may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life”.  The Court judged that Hinduism historically has had an “inclusive nature” and it may “broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more”.

The 1966 decision has influenced how the term Hindutva has been understood in later cases, in particular the seven decisions of the Supreme Court in the 1990s that are now called the “Hindutva judgments”.   According to Ram Jethmalani – an Indian lawyer and the president of its Supreme Court Bar Association, the Supreme Court of India in 1995 ruled that “Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism … it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption … that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion … It may well be that these words are used in a speech to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant.”  According to Jethmalani, the Supreme Court has properly explained the “true meaning” of the term, and “Hindutva is not hostility to any organised religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another”. According to him, it is unfortunate that “the communal propaganda machinery relentlessly disseminates “Hindutva” as a communal word, something that has also become embedded in the minds and language of opinion leaders, including politicians, media, civil society and the intelligentsia”. The Indian lawyer Abdul Noorani disagrees, and states that the Supreme Court in its 1995 ruling gave “Hindutva a benign meaning, calling Hindutva the same as Indianization, etc.” and these were unnecessary digressions from the facts of the case, and in doing so, the court may have brought down the wall separating religion and politics”.

From all the information given herein above we are giving the highlights of term Hindutva

–  Hindutva is a social, cultural, political and economic force to protect Hindus all over the world from foreign influences and domestic anti Hindu forces. Hindutva is a force working for betterment of all Hindus all over the world.

–  Hindutva is a bond of common blood, common land and common culture. Hindutva as a broad term encompassing everything that is indigenously Indian from within the geographical border of ancient India.

–  Hindutva is classic statement of ideology of Hinduism.  Hindutva is a political, social, cultural, economic and geographical ideology that finds the origin of it in Hinduism.

–  As rightly said by Sawarkar ji Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Hindutva is a way of life or a state of mind and should  not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism. Hindutva is not hostility to any organized religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another

–   Hinduism historically has had an inclusive nature and it may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more. Hindutva accordingly is inclusive of many rational thoughts.

–  The word Hindutva is a subtle source of life and inspiration.

–  Failure to distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutva has created too much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this common treasure of our Hindu civilization.  Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism or Sanatan dharma. Hindutva embrases all the departments of thought and activity of the whole being of our Hindu race ( including all casts -sub casts and all sects-sub sects ) .