Hinduism was known as
Dharma (eternal religion) in very ancient days. Some religious conceptions
of Hindus such as truth, non-violence, mercy, forgiveness, and control
over sensual pleasures have
eternal importance. These principles were formulated much earlier than the
advent of other major religions.
Hinduism is the basis of all religions, for it embraces
universal spiritual truths which underlie all doctrines. The increase of
valid knowledge called science is hammering every faith, dogma or belief
and making a thorough assessment of the utility of everything. Hinduism
need not fear from the onslaughts of scientific temper because its
essential principles have rational basis and eternal effect.
Some people and some
organizations like Arya Samaj use the words Arya Dharma for explaining
Hinduism and want the Hindus to be called Aryas. On some wrong notions
and misconceived facts some scholars have concluded that original home
of the Aryas was outside South Asia such as the Arctic region, the great
table-land of Central Asia, the Mediterranean Coast etc. These
daydreamers, having poor knowledge of Indian culture, have given to the
word ‘Arya’ a racial connotation. Actually ‘Arya’ means ‘noble’. Any
virtuous person can call himself an Arya. At the most this word can be
connected with the superiority complex. As an educated person considers
himself superior to an uneducated person and often abuses him by using
adjectives like stupid, foolish, savage, barbarous etc., so an Arya
differentiated himself with an Anarya i.e. the man who was not noble.
Therefore, if we call Hinduism as Arya Dharma it only means the religion
of noble society. In the same way Aryavarta being the name of ancient
India meant the land of noble people.
The name Hindu was given
by the Persians. The Sindhu
River, now mainly in Pakistan, had the earliest
civilization. Watered by five great tributaries- the Jhelam, Chinab,
Ravi, Beas and Satlaj- this river witnessed a high culture over two
thousand years before Christ. In Sanskrit language the word ‘Sindhu’
means ‘Sea’ also. Now it is almost proved that this high culture spread
down the lower course of Sindhu (Indus) river and touched the waters of
Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari. On the other side of the river Sindhu lived
the ancient Persians. It was by the name of this river the Persians
called the inhabitants. But they found difficulty in pronouncing an
initial ‘S’ and instead used the sound of the letter ‘H’ for it. Thus
the word Hindu spread and passed to Greece, where the whole of India
became known by the name of the western river. With the Muslim invasion
the Persian name returned in the form ‘Hindustan’ and those of its
inhabitants who followed the old religion became known as Hindus.
Some people in India want
to use the word ‘Hindu’ in geographical sense and espouse the cause of
cultural nationalism. Some political parties and their supporters
exploit the sentiment of Hindus for political gains. When they are
criticized for misusing the name of Hinduism or Hindutva, they say the
word ‘Hindu’ means an inhabitant of India and is a synonym of the word
‘Bhartiya’ or ‘Indian’. As it has been explained above, those who used
the word ‘Hindu’ in geographical sense stopped doing so after Muslim
invasion. They called Hindus only to those who followed the old
religion. In common parlance across the world a Hindu is known for his
attachment to a particular religion. Now there seems to be no necessity
to use the word ‘Hindu’ in its oldest or geographical sense mainly for
two reasons. Firstly the article one of the constitution of India says
that India that is Bharat shall be the union of states. The word
‘Bharat’ is an abridgement of ‘Bharatvarsha’. It is generally believed
that Bharatvarsha means the Land of the sons of Bharat, a legendary
emperor. But this belief is unfounded. Actually ‘Bharatavarsha’
is the combination of three words- Bha (splendour) + rat (occupied with)
+ varsha (vast tract of land) and stands for ‘the vast tract of land
occupied with splendour).
The word India is also derived from Arabic word
‘Indiah’ which means ‘thought’. A country that exported
thought got the name ‘India’ when the word reached Greece. Thus both
these names enshrined in our constitution fill our hearts with glory.
And there is no necessity to add more names for the country. Secondly if
we start using the word ‘Hindu’ in geographical sense, what name should
we give to our religion? What name do we propose for the Hindus who have
settled in other countries?
India has been the
birthplace of many sages, many saints and many seers.
The views expressed by these holy men cover all aspects of life.
Sometimes their views are complementary to each other but sometimes they
appear to be paradoxical in nature. There has been freedom of expression
although sometimes efforts were made to contain it. We cannot depend on
any one sage or any one book to understand Hinduism.
There is diversity of views; there is diversity of thought; there is
diversity of ways. Yet like the course of a river there is continuity in
it. We can certainly sort out common features and know vividly what
Hinduism is a way of life
that offers opportunities for moral, material, mental and spiritual
betterment of an individual or society through Purushartha or four
supreme goals viz.
(Righteousness and piety)
or earning of wealth)
Kam (Love and fulfilment of desires)
Hindus are not tied to thoughts or rituals
of any one book; they are not bound by the perceptions of any one
prophet. They may believe or may not believe in the existence of God.
There is not one method of worship. There is not one set of customs,
rituals and rites. The values cherished by Hindus, their conception of
the world and vision of truth and outlook on life go beyond the scope of
religion as conceived in the West. Hinduism, in essence, fulfils
material, mental, intellectual and spiritual needs of an individual.