For other uses, see Hindu (disambiguation).
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Hindu ( pronunciation (help·info)) refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism. The two common forms that represent Hinduism are Shaivism and Vaishnavism.
The Hindu religious texts like Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas etc. did not use the term 'Hindu' or an equivalent thereof, or any name at all for that matter to refer to the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula nor the religion of the inhabitants, in alignment within a larger lack of 'proper noun' nomenclature typically visible in texts of Hindu literature. Despite that, the history of the word 'Hindu' is long and its usage widespread, since the outside world had, since antiquity, used several names for the Indian people, specifically for the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula east of the river Indus viz. 'Indos' (Ἰνδός) used by the Greeks in the works of Herodotus and Megasthenes, circa 5th century B.C., and later 'Hindus' used first by the Persians and later on by Arabs to refer to the Indian people and their customs. 2nd century B.C. Chinese traveller Zhang Qian referred to India as Shen-Du. Chinese pilgrim Huen-Tsang in his 7th century Si-yu-ki, also used words like Shin-tu and Hin-tu to describe the people. Arabic explorer Ibn Battuta also, in his book "Rihla", made use of the word "Hindu" meaning the Indian subcontinent. He was of Moroccan origin and had travelled the length and breadth of the Islamic civilization which included the North Africa, Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Egypt and even parts of Indonesia. He described the Indian subcontinent as Al Hind as it is still referred to in Arabic.
With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion. The vast majority of Hindus, approximately 940 million, live in India. Other countries with large Hindu populations include Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, United States, Fiji, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada and the island of Bali in Indonesia.
4 Ethnic and cultural fabric,
5 See also,
7 Further reading,
Further information: Names of India
In Origin, Hinduš was simply the Old Persian name of the Indus River, cognate with Sanskrit Sindhu. The Persian term was loaned into Arabic as al-Hind referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus, and into Greek as Indos, whence ultimately English India.Hindustan or "land of the Indus" was the Persian name of "India", as in Greco-Roman tradition at first for northwestern India (the Indus basin) and later extended to the entire Indian subcontinent, following the spread of Islam to India via Persia, Hindustan was also adopted, from the 13th century, in India itself, and also came to be loaned into Sanskrit, e.g. found in Brihaspati Agama, where it is etymologized as a portmanteau of Hi for "Himalayas" plus indu for indu sarovar "southern ocean".
Persian Hindu (and hence in Urdu, and ultimately adopted into Hindustani in general) was used of the native, non-Muslim population ruled by the Muslim Mughal Empire. Natively, the term Hindu occurs sporadically in some 16th-18th century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas. It appears in South Indian and Kashmiri texts from at least 1323 CE, and increasingly so during British rule. It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus.
Eventually, it came to define religious adherence to "native religion" as opposed to either Islam, Christianity or Zoroastrianism. Later the definition of Hinduism was further narrowed to exclude "non-Vedic" (non-Vedantic) Indian religions (such as Jainism, Sikhism or Buddhism). This process continued well into the 20th century, with the question of whether Jainism is to be considered a denomination Hinduism put before the Supreme Court of India in 2003, and since that date legally considered a distinct religion, see legal status of Jainism as a distinct religion in India. The English term Hinduism for the "religion of the Hindus" taken as a whole arose in c. 1830.
The Indo-Aryan form of the term, 'Sindhu', is also used in Hinduism (apart from its literal meaning "river, Indus River", as an honorific; e.g. Bhakti-Rsamrta-Sindhu, Nirnaya Sindhu, Dharma Sindhu, and Sindhu Jnana.
Further information: History of Hinduism
The notion of grouping the indigenous religions of India under a single umbrella term Hindu emerges as a result of various invasions in India bringing forth non-indigenous religions such as Islam to the Indian Subcontinent Numerous Muslim invaders, such as Nader Shah, Mahmud of Ghazni, Ahmad Shāh Abdālī, Muhammad Ghori, Babur and Aurangzeb, destroyed Hindu temples and persecuted Hindus; some, such as Akbar, were more tolerant. Hinduism underwent profound changes, in large part due to the influence of the prominent teachers Ramanuja, Madhva and Chaitanya. Followers of the Bhakti Movement moved away from the abstract concept of Brahman, which the philosopher Adi Shankara consolidated a few centuries before, with emotional, passionate devotion towards what they believed as the more accessible Avatars, especially Krishna and Rama.
Indology as an academic discipline of studying Indian culture from a European perspective was established in the 18th century by Sir William Jones and 19th century, by scholars such as Max Müller and John Woodroffe. They brought Vedic, Puranic and Tantric literature and philosophy to Europe and the United States. At the same time, societies such as the Brahmo Samaj and the Theosophical Society attempted to reconcile and fuse Abrahamic and Dharmic philosophies, endeavouring to institute societal reform. This period saw the emergence of movements which, while highly innovative, were rooted in indigenous tradition. They were based on the personalities and teachings of individuals, as with Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi. Prominent Hindu philosophers, including Aurobindo and Prabhupada (founder of ISKCON), translated, reformulated and presented Hinduism's foundational texts for contemporary audiences in new iterations, attracting followers and attention in India and abroad.
Swami Vivekananda at Jaipur, ca.1885-1893.
Swami Vivekananda location unknown, ca.1888-1893
Others, such as Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Chinmoy, B.K.S. Iyengar and Swami Rama, have also been instrumental in raising the profiles of Yoga and Vedanta in the West. Today modern movements, such as ISKCON and the Swaminarayan Faith, attract a large amount of followers across the world.