Loss of Our Religious Identity (How the Term “Hindu” has Hijacked Our Vedic and Upanishadic Region)

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Item Code: NAG066
Publisher: Dev Publishers And Distributors
Author: Suresh Chandra Ghosh
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9789381406083
Pages: 282
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 310 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


This book challenges centuries old description of us of our religion as "Hindu". Our Aryan ancestors living on both sides of the river Indus came to acquire this description at the hands of the Persian invaders and conquerors of the North-West Indian in 519 BC. By that time we were already known as the followers of the Brahmana, Arya of Bharatiya Dharma-an identity born out of our orally composed religious scriptures consisting of the four Vedas, Brahmans, Arnyaks and Upanishads by our sages. As a reaction to the Persian occupation of the North-west India, the sages now began to put our religious, scriptures into Sutras from 400 BC onwards to save our religion from oblivion. The themes of these Sutras based on our religious scriptures composed earlier as well as the later commentaries written on them by our sages do not have either any relevance or reference to the term "Hindu". In the North-West India, the "Hindu" term was obliterated by the Greek who replaced the Persians in 326 BC and soon came to be completely forgotten in the success ding centuries under the domination of the imperial powers like the Mauryas, the Guptas and the Maukharis till it came to be revived in the middle ages from 1206 onwards by the Muslim invaders and conquerors in the process of the Persianisation of their extensive empire from Kashmir to Kanyakumarika and from Bengal to Gujarat. The British who replaced the Muslim rulers fully by 1857 saw in continuing the use of the term with a religious connotation an instrument of an administrative expediency and our political leaders after independence have also accepted the term, "Hindu", along with the British legacies of ideas and institution, as a mark of our national and religious identity. And so our "Dharma" continues to be known by a term embossed on us by a pre-Islamic Persia, which has nothing to do with our religion and religious scriptures, and thereby, keep us in a perpetual state of loss of our religious identity.


About the Author


Born in 1937 at Chandernagore the author studied history at the Calcutta Presidency College, London School of Oriental and African Studies and did a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. Until recently a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Paedagogica Historica, Belgium and a former member of the various committees of the UGC and the Rehabilitation Council of India, he is the author of fifteen research monographs including two published at Leiden and Frankfurt and nineteen research papers mostly published abroad. He has travelled abroad widely as a Visiting Fellow at London, Edinburgh, Paris, North Carolina, Indiana, London (Western Ontario) and Toronto. He was a Guest Professor for one year at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat, Jena, Known for its association with Goethe, Hegel and Karl Marx. A contributor to the NCERT's Encyclopedia of Indian Education, he retired from the Chair of History at the Zakir Husain Centre for educational Studies, JNU, in August 2002.




India is a land of varied regions and places, people and religions, cultures and manners, social norms and practices. I belong to the group of people who are known as "Hindus." Why? Is it because I belong to the group of people who form the majority group among the people of the country, most of whom come from an area known as the Hindi belt and speak a language known as Hindi? The answer to my query is a firm "no". Obviously people and place corne first before the language is born and so we can safely assert that our "Hindu" name has not been derived from the vast majority among us who speak Hindi.


Most European scholars I have corne across and spoken to them on the subject believe that the term "Hindu" has been coined by the officials of the East India Company in the early nineteenth century. This is far from the truth. And on a further and deeper investigation into the subject I have found that the "Hindu" term has corne into existence nearly two and a half thousand years ago when the civilization and culture among the Aryan immigrants from the Central Europe was taking shape in the North-West part of the sub-continent which is now mostly in Pakistan since 1947.


The term has actually been coined by the Persians, the followers of Zoroaster whose religion recognizes the existence of both good and evil. The Persians came to the North- West India around 519 BC and settled down to rule this part of our sub-continent till 326 BC when they were replaced by the Greek under Alexander, the Great. The Persian conquerors bestowed the term on the conquered Indians living on the both sides of the river "Sindu" which they pronounced as "Hindu" as they had difficulty in the pronunciation of "S". They pronounced "S" as "H". With the replacement of the Persians by the Greek and the latter by the Mauryas in the succeeding centuries, the term which had earlier remained confined to the North-West, along with the Persian Satrap and Kharoshthi script, came to be gradually almost forgotten and revived only after the coming of the Muslim invaders and conquerors who ruled India for more than 650 years from 1206 to 1857 when they were finally and officially replaced by the British Crown.


The Muslim rulers introduced Persian language and literature, customs and manners, law and jurisprudence and along with these also revived the use of the term "Hindu" to refer to the conquered subjects known as Kaffers, infidels or unbelievers all over their extensive empire and called their conquered land from Kashmir to Kanya Kumarika and from Gujarat to Bengal as "Hindustan" or the land of the "Hindus". Both the East India Company and the Christian missionaries who came in the seventeenth century picked up these two terms from their contact with the Muslim rulers and used them in their home despatches, memoirs and travelogues. Thus both the terms were very much in use long before the time indicated by the European scholars about the coining of the term "Hindu" and "Hindustan".


The British only confirmed, around the time indicated by the European scholars, that is, early nineteenth century, the religious connotation which had already been in use by the Muslim rulers who had always used the term to refer to the "Hindus" as Kaffers, idolaters or infidels. And the process of confirmation began in the early 1810s, when there was a debate in parliament on the subject of sending missionaries to India for proselytisation on the eve of the passing of the Charter Act of 1813, to drive home the point by the old stalwarts of the East India Company, with their vast administrative experiences in India, like Warren Hastings, William Cowper and Lt. General]. Malcolm that the survival of the Company's territorial possessions in India depended on keeping alive the division of the Indians into two religious communities and groups, "Hindu" and "Islam", and any attempt to convert any member of these groups into Christianity would destroy this division and unite them in protest against the Company.


As a matter of fact, the appropriation of the term "Hindu" and "Hindustan" by the conquered subjects themselves began as early as the sixteenth century when both began to appear in occasional non-religious Sanskrit texts as well as in some hagiographic literature of the time. And by the time the East India Company settled down to rule we could not but think of ourselves as "Hindus" as against the past rulers, Muslims and this gave to our ancestors dominated by the Muslim rulers for more than six hundred years a kind of identity at the cost of our religion.


In the late nineteenth century in the hands of the militant nationalists like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal this identity with its religious connotation became a fierce tool to fight the British for our national independence. The moderate leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya did not also lag behind in adopting the term as an expression of our national identity and ideology in our struggles against the British for independence. And when independence came to us, it also came to us along with the British ideas and institutions as legacies of the British rule in India. Thus what began as a geographical identity given by the Persians invaders and conquerors to the people living on both sides of the river Sindu has ended as a religious identity for all of us and we have meekly surrendered ourselves to it, without raising any questions on its relevance to our religious scriptures and religion and are now known as "Hindus".


Our Aryan sages and ancestors had never looked themselves upon as "Hindus". And the "Hindu" term has never occurred in any of our religious scriptures consisting of Mantras or hymns composed and transmitted orally before and after 1500 Be which form the subject of the four Vedas, Rig, Sam, Yajur and Atharva as well as of the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The sages never described themselves as "Hindus" and were known as the Brahmanas who possessed the supreme knowledge of the Brahma or the Cosmos or the Universe obtained by Tapas or meditation through the composition of the hymns which form the subject matter of our religious scriptures. We are followers of the religion created by our sages who were known as the Brahmanas and in our description of us as "Hindus" which invariably carries a religious connotation; we have lost our religious identity as the descendants of the Brahmana sages.


The book is the result of my investigation into the subject of our religion since 2000-2001 when as a Visiting Professor at the Friedrich-Schillar Universitat, Jena, Germany, I found myself in an in depth study of our religious scriptures while delivering lectures on the development of our system of education in ancient India. Our ancient system of education, often referred to by the officials of the East India Company in the early nineteenth century as "a classical and spiritual one", has emerged out of our sacred literatures of the four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads and in the process I began to ask questions, using historical research methodology scientifically as a tool, on our religious identity as "Hindus". And after completing my lectures at FSU, Jena, subsequently published by Peter Lang at Frankfurt in 2002, as Civilisation, Education and School in Ancient and Medieval India': I resumed my investigation into the question of our religious identity as "Hindus" and the present work is the result of this investigation.


Finally, I have addressed the work to a very wider non-specialist audience interested in the subject of our religion in India and abroad and have, therefore, discarded footnotes for a smooth reading. I have generally tried to avoid the use of the term "Hindu" except where its use is unavoidable. It is needless to add here that the responsibility for any error, either of fact or of interpretation, and for the opinion expressed, in the work, rests solely with me.




We are known as "Hindus". Certainly not in the years between 1500 Be and 600 Be. These were the years when our sages were orally composing hymns through Tapas or meditation which were addressed to the understanding of the mysteries of the Brahman or the Cosmos. It was only in the years after 519 Be that the descendants of these sages and the rest of our Aryan ancestors living on the both sides of the river Sindu, came to acquire this description at the hands of the Persian occupiers and invaders of the North-West.


The use of the term was confined to the areas under Persian occupation and in our country it was not possibly known to the people outside these areas. The Persians ruled the North-West for more than two hundred years and many of the conquered subjects who participated in the Persian civil and military administration certainly knew that they were known as "Hindus" though it was extremely doubtful whether this term was in circulation among them. With the replacement of the Persians by the Greeks in the North-West in 326 Be and the latter's dislodgement by the armies of the Mauryas, it can be safely asserted that the term, "Hindu" fell into oblivion, though it lingered on after the break-up of the Maurya empire, in the invasion and occupation of the parts of he North-West by the group of foreigners like the Sakas, the Pahlavas and the Kushanas who spoke an Iranian language and occupied parts of the North-West India till the coming of the Guptas under Chandra Gupta 1 who ascended the throne of Pataliputra in AD 320 and subsequently built up the second great empire in the sub- continent after the Mauryas.


The use of the term was revived only after the coming of the Islamic invaders and the conquerors from AD 1206 onwards in the process of the Persianisation of the entire India under their rule from Kashmir to Kanyakumarika and Gujarat to Bengal. It was continued by the British who gradually replaced the Muslims as rulers of India between AD 1757 and 1857 and was accepted by our national leaders and religious pundits as the mark of an identity of a community struggling for freedom. After the British left the shores of India, the use of the term continues to remain with us along with the other legacies of the British ideas and instiutions.


Our Aryan ancestors began their sojurn in the country as Aryas. Our Aryan sages called their adopted land as Aryavarta and their religion emerging out of the hymns composed by their sages as Arya Dharma. Since most of the sages were descendants of the priestly class of the Bharata tribes, they also described Aryavarta as the land of the Bharatas and their religion as the Bharatiya Dharma or Brahmana Dharma as the priests who orally composed and transmitted the hymns addressed to the mysteries of the Cosmos, were known as Brahmanas or possessors of a mystical and supernatural power acquired from the Brahman or the Cosmos.


Our Aryan ancestors began their sojurn in the country as Aryas. Our Aryan sages called their adopted land as Aryavarta and their religion emerging out of the hymns composed by their sages as Arya Dharma. Since most of the sages were descendants of the priestly class of the Bharata tribes, they also described Aryavarta as the land of the Bharatas and their religion as the Bharatiya Dharma or Brahmana Dharma as the priests who orally composed and transmitted the hymns addressed to the mysteries of the Cosmos, were known as Brahmanas or possessors of a mystical and supernatural power acquired from the Brahman or the Cosmos.


Yet we are known today as "Hindus" or worshippers of idols and images of gods and goddesses and our land as "Hindustan" and our religion as "Hinduism". Sometimes tradition is stronger than truth and fiction is more powerful than fact and under pressure from both, we have never questioned the genesis of this term, never bothered to find out its relevance to our religious scriptures, philosophy and practices spreading over a period of more than three thousand and five hundred years from now.


The beginning of the rule of a very young and energetic religion of lslam in India in the thirteenth century almost signaled the end of the old Bharatiya or the Arya Dharma, which had been earlier dominant in the country among our ancestors for nearly two thousand and seven hundred years as the theocratic Muslim state did not allow the existence of any other religion under its jurisdiction. However, our religion managed to survive among the dwindling priestly classes through guru-shisya parampara where the father was often the guru and the son shisya not only in Muslim India under great duress but also across the Vindhyas and the Himalayas in non-Muslim kingdoms and areas where they set up Vedic schools with royal support and patronage. Sanskrit, the language of our religious scriptures, groaned and withered in the Muslim India without support from the Muslim rulers except from Akbar who included it as one of the courses in the reformed Madrasah. And so the existence of our religious scriptures also gradually began to fade away from the minds of our contemporary ancestors.


A freer and fresher wind began to blow over our religion with the coming of the British as traders. In the late eighteenth century in Bengal a group of British officials known as Orientalists rediscovered Sanskrit and our religious scriptures and our Western educated ancestors were among the first to be galvanized into action and to reform our stagnant and moribund religion based on the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Rammohan Roy was the first among them to read our newly discovered religious scriptures along with the Bible, the Quran and the Zoroastrian scriptures. After studying all these religious scriptures very carefully Rammohan Roy realized that we should better be known as the followers of the Vedas and of the Upanishads rather than as "Hindus" and set up the Brahma Samaj to propagate his ideas of religion. Swami Dayanand later also thought on the same lines and felt that as the descendants of the Aryans we should be known as Aryas and our religion as Arya Dharma. He set up the Arya Samaj to strongly propagate his views on our religion among us. Ramakrishna echoed the concluding ideas of the Rigveda which saw only one god in the different forms of gods and goddesses as in the case of the god, Agni who appears here and there in different shapes and forms. All the gods and the goddesses, though different in forms and shapes, are one and are the manifestations of the Brahman. Ramakrishna saw Brahman in the Goddess Kali and his disciple, Vivekananda saw it not only in one image but also in the images of all the gods and the goddesses. He further discovered Brahman in the souls of the poor and the down-trodden. And Aurobindo realized his Brahman by blending the Vedas and the Upanishads through "the Integral Yoga" in a "Life Divine."


Thus began a revival of our old religion often under the garb of the ideologies of the reformers but the attempt of these schools of religious reformers to restore our lost religious identity was only partially successful. They were not certainly in the majority group who think otherwise and against the backdrop of the national movement and the rise of militant nationalism, the term, "Hindu", became a mark of our national identity as the real inheritors of our country against the past conquerors and found its fulfillment in such political organizations as the "Hindu Mahasabha" set up by the Pundit Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1909, or the ''Vishwa Hindu Parishad" in 1964, which traced its emergence to the ashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha, founded by K V. Hedgewar, a very influential member of the "Hindu Mahasabha" in 1925 in the pre- independence days.


Malaviya was an orthodox Brahmin and, in all probability, as a learned person he was fairly acquainted with our sacred religious scriptures. Yet, as a member of our very influential priestly class he had never questioned the use of the term, "Hindu" to describe us and our religion. Our religious scholars and pundits had, perhaps, little time to seriously discuss the question when an intense agitation for the freedom of the country had been going on and the term "Hindu" had become a mark of our national identity and ideology. But after independence we have scarcely had, perhaps any time or interest, to indulge in such theocratic exercise, given the host of problems faced by a newly emergent nation as well as our much proclaimed secularism inherited from the British which has not, perhaps, allowed any of our universities in the country, to seriously study and research in our ancient religion.


Our religious identity as the descendants of the Aryan sages of the Bharata tribes who became Brahman by acquiring a mystic power from the Brahma, through Tapas or meditation and who composed various hymns addressed to the mysteries of the Brahma or the Universe or the Cosmos, which form the basis of our religious scriptures, before and after 1500 Be, thus gets lost in our description as "Hindus". A geographical identity given by the first Persian invaders who were mosly the followers of Zoroastrianism, nearly two thousand and a half years ago from now, to the people living on both sides of the river, Sindu, has now become our religious and cultural identity.


To put in a nutshell, our Brahmana, Arya or Bharatiya Dharma or to be more precise, our Vedic and Upanishadic Dharma, lies buried in the description of our religion as "Hindu Dharma" or "Hinduism" and our land as "Hindustan". We have lost our religious identity bestowed on us by our old sages and are now known under an imported one, "Hindus", embossed on us first by the Persians in the sixth century Be, revived by the Muslim rulers from the thirteenth century AD, continued by the British and absorbed by us after independence!











Part One 1


Our Religion and Religious Identity



The Four Vedas



The Genesis to the Brahmanas and the Upanishads



The Fifth Veda



The Persian and the Greek Invasion and Conquest



of the North-West



The Sutras and the Sutrakaras



The Result of the Investigation of Our Sages into the



Mysteries of the Universe



The Buddhism and the Jainism vis-a-vis the






The Decline of the Buddhism and the Brahmanism



A Retrospection on Our Religion in Ancient India



Part Two 99


Eclipse of Our Religious and Loss of Our Religious





The Coming of the Islam and the Rule of the



Islamic Rulers



Nature of the Islamic Rule in India



Islamic Education as an Indoctrination for the New



Converts as well as for the Children of the Muslim


Settlers in India



Persianisation of the Muslim India and Confirmation



of the Loss of Our Religious Identity


Part Three 147


Survival of Our Religion



The Priestly Classes in the Muslim India and in the



Bordering Non-Muslim Kingdoms



The Ascetics



Disciples of the Ascetics in the Sultanate Period kept


up their Gurus' Work Alive in the Succeeding centuries



Part Four 181


Revival of Our Religion



Rebirth of Sanskrit



Back to the Vedas and the Upanishads



Ascetics and their Contribution to the Saga of Revivalism



in the British India



Revivalism led to Militantism in our National Movement



and Politics



The Five Pillars of Our Religion



A Final Retrospection on our Religion









Sample Pages

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