4. Origin of the word Hindu

People who accept the Vedas as their supreme divine scriptures are globally known as Hindus. Some persons assert that the word Hindu does not appear in any of Hindu religious scriptures, and, that this adjective as a collective identity for people living on the east of the Sindhu river in India was first imposed by the eighth-century Arab Muslim invaders. Some writers suggest that the word Hindu is Persian pronunciation of Sindhu as according to them Persians pronounce S as H which Muslim Arab invaders are supposed to have picked up for people living on the east of the river Sindhu.  All above assertions are incorrect.  The word Hindu has no Persian or Islamic roots.

In fact as may be seen below the word Hindu does appear in the Holy Rigveda and in many Sanskrit texts composed before Islamic invasion of India commenced.

The people living on the east of river Sindhu in the Indian subcontinent were first collectively called by Zoroastrian people (ancient Iranians or parsee people) as Hindus which continues till date. This collective identity travelled to the west (Iran, Arabia, Greece, Europe etc.) along the spice trade routes. Arabs call all persons living in India as al hindi and, India as al Hind.

In Vedas the word Sapta Sindhu and the word Sindhu occur. In the Vendidad chapter 1 word hapta hindu occurs. It reads: “I, who am Ahura Mazda, created, as the fifteenth country, hapta hindu which extends from the east of the Hindu river (Sindhu)………………”. Ahura Mazda is the mighty God in Avesta. Avesta is collection of Zoroastrian religious texts. Its language is called Avestan language which has similarities with Sanskrit language, both being of the Indo-Iranian family. The Avestan Gatha ‘Shatir’, 163rd  Verse mentions the visit of Veda Vyas to Gustashp’s Court and in the presence of Zoroashtra, Veda Vyas  is stated to have introduced himself as ‘man marde am Hind jijad.’ (I am man born in ‘Hind.’). Avesta developed from oral traditions founded by Prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra) sometime during 1500 BC to 1000 BC. In Avestan vocabulary the word Hindu had demographic and geographical identity of people living on the east side of river Sindhu and later it acquired religious dimension also.

The word Hindu occurs in Rig Veda as the second part of the word VIBHINDU in RV (VIII.2.41) by risi Medhatithi , in RV (I.103.3) by risi Kutsa Angiras and in RV (I.116.20) by risi kakshivan. There may be more richas containing the word Hindu. In RV (VIII.2.41), Vibhindu, a King of Kashi has been praised for gifting 48000 cows to risi Medhatithi. Brihaddevata (6.42) informs that Vibhindu was a king of Kashi. The word vibhindu has been used by three Rig Veda risies implying that the word Hindu was there in vocabulary of Rig Vedic people though not in sense of a collective, demographic or geographical identity for a group of people.

 शिक्षा विभिन्दो अस्मै चत्वार्ययुता ददत् । अष्टा परः सहस्रा ॥ RV(8.2.41)
śikṣā vibhindo asmai catvāry ayutā dadat | aṣṭā paraḥ sahasrā ||

“Liberal Vibhindu, you have given to me four times ten thousand, and afterwards eight thousand.”

स जा॒तूभ॑र्मा श्र॒द्दधा॑न॒ ओज॒: पुरो॑ विभि॒न्दन्न॑चर॒द्वि दासी॑: । वि॒द्वान्व॑ज्रि॒न्दस्य॑वे हे॒तिम॒स्यार्यं॒ सहो॑ वर्धया द्यु॒म्नमि॑न्द्र ॥ RV (1.103.3)

 sa jātūbharmā śraddadhāna ojaḥ puro vibhindann acarad vi dāsīḥ | vidvān vajrin dasyave hetim asyāryaṃ saho vardhayā dyumnam indra ||

 परि॑विष्टं जाहु॒षं वि॒श्वत॑: सीं सु॒गेभि॒र्नक्त॑मूहथू॒ रजो॑भिः । वि॒भि॒न्दुना॑ नासत्या॒ रथे॑न॒ वि पर्व॑ताँ अजर॒यू अ॑यातम् ॥ RV (1.116.20)

pariviṣṭaṃ jāhuṣaṃ viśvataḥ sīṃ sugebhir naktam ūhathū rajobhiḥ | vibhindunā nāsatyā rathena vi parvatām̐ ajarayū ayātam ||

In Rig Veda, the Saraswati River has been praised in 71 richas such as RV (2.41.16), etc. which dried up or went underground by 2000 BC. The solar eclipse mentioned in RV (5.40.5-9) took place on 26th July 3928 BC. So Rig Veda must be older than 4000 BC. There is no mention of cotton in the Rigveda but cotton seeds kept in earthen pot were  found near Mehrangarh which have been carbon dated to 5000 BC, therefore, Rigveda should be older than 5000 BC.  No definite time frame can be assigned to origin or antiquity of Vedas. That is why Vedas are called eternal, sanatan and religion followed by we Hindus as Sanatan dharma, also generally called Hinduism or Hindu religion.

The Hebrew Bible which is over 300 BC old used word HODU for India which is Judaic form of Hindu. In present day Israel word HODU is still used for India. The Greek term INDOI is soft form of Hindu where H has been dropped and it is in use in Greek from the sixth century BC onwards.

The Ashoka’s inscriptions on stone (third century BC) use word like Hida in Prakrit over 70 times for Hindus and Hida lok for regions Hindus populated. Inscriptions of Persian Kings, Darius and others use word Hidu for Hindus (520-485 BC).

 Brihaspataya Agam (composed during the first century AD to fifth century AD) uses word Hindusthan. It reads: “starting from Himalayas and extending up to the Indian Ocean is the nation build by Gods, Hindusthan.”

हिमालयं समारभ्य यावत् इंदु सरेावरम् | तं देवनिर्मितं देशं हिंदुस्थानं प्रचक्षते ||

Meru Tantra of Shaiva agam (fourth to sixth century AD) uses word Hindu and states

हीनं दूष्यत्येव हिन्दुरित्युच्चते प्रिये

 Heenam ch dusyatyev hindurityuchchte priye (O my dear! one who renounced ignorance and inferiority is called a Hindu)

Shabad Kalpdrum also uses the word Hindu and gives a definition of a Hindu as under

हीनं दूषयति इति हिन्दू

Heenam dusyati eti hindu (one who gives up ignorance and inferiority complex is a Hindu)

The above quoted literature composed before seventh century AD show use of the word Hindu in demographic, geographic and community sense was prevalent much before arrival of Muslim invaders in the Indian sub-continent.

Chinese travellers Fa-hiean (fifth century AD) and Huen-tsang (seventh century AD) used word YINTU for people living here which Chinese still use.

Some writers suggest that the word Hindu is Persian pronunciation of Sindhu as according to such writers Persians pronounce S as H which Muslim Arab invaders of eighth century AD picked up for people living on the east of river Sindhu. This interpretation is incorrect as there is S in Persian which is pronounced as s in Persian language. In fact an Arabic alphabet (ح) is pronounced as haa. Arabs even before birth of Islam through spice trade routes were aware of India as hind and its people as al-hindi. Above facts show that the adjective Hindu was not imposed on us by Muslim invaders of the eighth century AD as it was already in use in India. Thus the word Hindu has no Persian or Islamic origin.

 Sair-ul-okul a collection of pre-Islmic poetries of Arabia reportedly available in the Turkish library Makhtab -e- Sultania in Istambul is reported to contain a poetry composed by Omar-bin-Hassam, an uncle of prophet Muhammad sahib (PBUH) which is in praise of Lord Shiva and uses word HIND for India and Hindus for residents of Hind. There is said to be another poem in Sair-ul-Okul by Labi-bin-e Akhtab bin-e Turfa who is dated 2300 years before Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) i.e. 1700 B.C. This poem also uses ‘Hind’ for India and ‘Hindu’ for Indians. The poem also mentions the four Vedas Sama, Yajur, Rig and Athar. This poem is quoted on columns in the Laxmi Narayan Mandir in New Delhi, popularly known as Birla Mandir.

 Some Hindus like to call themselves SANATANIES and not Hindus believing vicious propaganda of mischievous anti-Hindu forces that the word Hindu does not appear in our religious scriptures and that it was imposed on we Hindus by Muslim invaders of eighth century AD which, as shown above, are incorrect. So in reality Hindus and Sanatanies are one people. Educated ones have been addressed in Vedas as Arya so words Arya and Hindus stand for one people.

The word Hindu has been used at least six times in the 1950 Constitution of India though without defining it, Article 25(2) (b), Article 290A and entry 63 in the Union List.

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