By Bhikhu Patel
San Jose, CA: Niranjan Shah, in his article — Followers of knowledge or Veda are known as Hindus — published in the India Tribune dated October 24, says the origin of the word Hindu to the Persians. In his earlier article — Who is Hindu? Who is not? -published in the India Tribune dated September 28, 2002, he has given the following explanation.
“In Hindu scriptures, the word Hindu is not to be found. It was brought into India by the Islamic invaders. The term Hindu is the Persian equivalent of the Vedic term Sindhu. The Iranians used the word Hindu to designate the river Sindhu and population around the Sindhu. The word Hindu was used outside India but was unknown within the country.”
In his latest article, he has described “the word Hindu used for the people who lived around the Sindhu river as is generally believed, thus it is a geographic word.”
This has been the popular theory propagating the vocal chord difficulties of the Persians in pronouncing “Sa,” mispronounced Sindhu as Hindu, which hardened up as “Ind” in Greek. The weakness of this theory is that even today, words such as Sindh, Sindhi and Sindhu are in popular use. There are names of towns in Persia itself, e.g. Susa and Shiraz. The popular example given to support mispronunciation is the Sanskrit word Soma which is mispronounced Hoama in old Persian. This may be so, however, it is generally only one syllable that is mispronounced, “So” changing to “Hoa,” and this is supported by people in Surat district who mispronounce the word Surat as Hurat. Thus Hindu should have been Hindhu, but it is not.
Edward J. Jurji in The Great Religions of Modern World, credits the origin of the word “Hindustan” to the “moving tribesmen, who were impressed by the mighty river and called their home Hindustan, land of the rivers.” He further clarifies that “the Persian word for a river, Hindu, had become, probably in post-Vedic times, the Sanskrit “Sindhu.” India as a country was an envy of the world for its fabulous riches, advanced culture and knowledge; a country that possessed Sanskrit, a language that mesmerized the Europeans, when they realized its influence over the world languages, a whole new science of Comparative Philology came into existence; a country that provided knowledge to the world, the Greeks and the Chinese came to study at Takshila and Nalanda universities; a country whose civilization has an inbuilt civilized behavior; a country, its people, its ocean, its mountain range and its Dharm, all have a common word Hindu in their names; the origin of such a word cannot be credited to the vocal chord difficulties of the Persian.
The Arab historians nor the European historians can be trusted when the Hindu interests are at stake. To the Arabs, the word Hindu meant a slave. Let us study the word Hindukush in which lay the explanation of the word “Hindu.” Hindukush is the name of a portion of the Himalayan mountain range, that arises in the northern parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As usual, the historians gave the credit for the name Hindukush to the Arabs, one of them by the name Ibn Battutah, who gave the meaning Hindu killer. The historians happened to have looked for Hindu skeletons to justify this story but found none.
This mountain range was famous for medicinal plants that bloomed in the moonlight. The Sanskrit word “Indukush” (Hindukush) means “krupan” (leaves or grass) that grows in the moonlight.
The European historians carried on with Ibn Battutah story and added on the Greek difficulties that changed the word Hindu to Ind, even though they knew there were names, e.g. Homer, Heraclitus and Herodotus among the Greeks. Therefore, the historians’ stories have no grounds to be believed.
India had many visitors, among them some Chinese, who came to study Buddhism at source. One of them was Hiuen Tsang. In his travelogue, he records that “the correct pronunciation for Tien Chu (India) is Intu” which means the moon in Chinese language. He further elaborates that “the scholars from that land have brightened the world with their delightful and shining knowledge, like the moon.”
The word Hindu did not appear in the scriptures, as distinctions among communities were not necessary. It only became necessary after the 11th century with the establishment of Islamic rule in India. As religions and communities mushroomed, the words Indu (Hindu) for the people and Industhan (Hindusthan) for their land came in vogue.
The Greeks called the sub-continent “Ind” and its people “Indoi.” Thus, the Greek “Ind” and the Chinese “Intu” are not far out from the Sanskrit word “Indu” for the moon (Chandra). As is known to most people, India was once known as Bharatvarsh, named after a legendary Chandravanshiya King Bharat, who ruled India in the past. His people were also known as Chandravanshiya (Indiya or India).
Thus, the origin of the name Hindu is indigenous with the Sanskrit root “Ind.” Not only that, “Ind” is the root word for Indostan, India, Indies (Indias), Indian (Indikoi), Hindu, Hindosthan and Hindustan.
By Bhikhu Patel