What is the meaning of the word ‘Hindu’? When did Hinduism originate and who is the founder of this religion? I would also like to know when did we start referring to our motherland as India and not Bharat?
V P Dhananjayan, Chennai, 81 years
■ Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions dating back to somewhere around 5,000 BC. There is reference to the word ‘Hindu’ by the Aryans. The term ‘Hindu’ in Vedic records did not refer to a religion but is mentioned as the nationality of the people who lived in the region. At that time, the ancient name of Hindu religion was Sanatan Dharma, an eternal or universal tradition referring to learning the right way of living life
It is believed that the word ‘Hindu’ comes from the first letter ‘H’ of the Himalayas and the last words ‘indu’ from the Sindhu River. According to the Nadistuti Sukta, a hymn in the Rig Veda, Sindhu River, also known as the Indus River, is addressed as the mightiest of rivers. The river is also one of the longest in Asia, originating from the Manasarovar Lake and running through Ladakh all the way through the entire length of Pakistan.
There are many beliefs behind the origin of the term ‘Hindu’.It is believed that in the Zoroastrian holy book, the Avesta, the word ‘Hindu’ was used for the first time as a geographical term for people who lived beyond the Indus River. The Persians could not pronounce the letter ‘S’correctly and mispronounced it as ‘H’. Thus, for the ancient Persians, the word ‘Sindhu’ became Hindu. Even today, people from the Sindh province in Pakistan are called Sindhis or Sindhus.
Hiuen Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist monk, who travelled to India from China in the seventh century, agreed that Hinduism was widely popular in India at that time. The Indus or Sindhu Valley civilisation is named after the Indus River and the river gave its name to the country, India. It is also believed that when Alexander came to India, he referred to its people as Indu, instead of Bharat. Thereafter, the east of the Indus was referred to as India,but initially the Vedic name for the area was Bharat. ■
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