On Friday, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Haasan claimed that the word ‘Hindu’ is not native to India and that it didn’t exist before the arrival of the Mughals. Haasan made the claim in a statement in Tamil posted on Twitter.
Haasan claimed that the word ‘Hindu’ was never used in the Shavaite and Vaishnaivite writings by ancient saints. “The 12 Alwars ( ancient Vaishnavite saints) or 63 Nayanmars (Ancient Shaivite saints) did not make a reference about the word Hindu anywhere, We were named as Hindus by Mughals or other foreign rulers who came before Mughals. The Britishers who ruled us followed and endorsed the same word” read the statement.
Explaining why the word ‘Hindu’ should not be used, the statement further read, “It is ignorant on our part to use a name given by non-native rulers when we had our own identity. The identity of ours is Indian, it could be the latest one, But that is the one which will last forever. It is not good to confine the whole broader nation into a religion set up, it will mess up the commerce, polity and spirituality. In normal terms: Living with unity will have crores of benefits – this is a famous Tamil saying which is been repeated many times for Tamils.”
Kamal Haasan’s statements on the word ‘Hindu’ is not entirely true, the word has been in usage before the arrival of the Mughals as pointed out by popular Twitter handle TrueIndology. He mentions how Swami Vidyaranya, founding Guru of the Vijayanagara empire in the 14th century, much before the Mughals, had used the word ‘Hindus’.
“One who reveres Omkara, worships cow and keeps away from Himsa is called a Hindu”, he has said.
Since ancient times India was known as the ‘land of seven rivers’ or ‘Sapta Sindhus’, finding mention in the ancient texts of Rig Veda. The word ‘Hindu’ is derived from the word ‘Sindhu’. This is because the letter ‘s’ in Sanskrit is some times changed to ‘h’ in some Prakrit languages. The same was the case with the Persians who had mentioned in the Avesta, the religious texts of the Zoroastrians, the word ‘Sapta Sindhu’ as ‘Hapta Hindu’.
The people of India were referred to as ‘Sindhus’ or ‘Hindus’ by both Indians and non-Indians. The Persians referred us as ‘Hindus’, the Greeks later dropped the harsh accent and called Indos which later came to be known as Indians. We were also known as Hindus or Shintus by the Chinese.
The word, thus, ‘Hindu’ refers to the inheritors of the ancient civilization who have inhabited the ‘land of the seven rivers’ since thousands of years. It now describes people who still follow the traditions which were born in this sacred land.
For the past few days, Kamal Haasan has been at the centre of a controversy over his comments on Godse, where he claimed that Godse was independent India’s first ‘Hindu terrorist’. Following which the BJP had filed a complaint with the EC for violating the Model Code of Conduct.