Hind, Hindi, Hindu, Hindutva

As children in the 1940s, we used to sing, 'Hindi hai hum chalis karod'. The 400 million population of the 1940s thought of themselves as Hindi, belonging to Hind. Subhash Chandra Bose in Germany established a radio station and his slogan was Jai Hind. This is the slogan prime ministers shout from the Red Fort on Independence Day.

Bharat is another entity altogether. That is post-Partition and is in the Constitution perhaps to assuage some feeling that India should have a link with the glorious days of the Indo-Aryans. But Bharatvarsha was never all of India; at best it was Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. You could stretch it to include UP and Bihar but Bengal (Gaud) was never part of it, to say nothing about Dakshin, all the land south of the Vindhyas.

Even so, choosing Bharat was a display of a worry about the idea of calling the newly independent country Hindustan or even Hind. There was a claim that the word Hindu and Hinduism were Persian in origin and hence, by implication, Muslim and alien. This was an anachronism since the Persian language which formed the word Hind was Indo-Iranian, a branch of the Indo-European from which one arc came to India composing the Vedas. Hind is just Sindh and Hindu Sindhu. Calling India Hind rather than Bharat would have been quite alright. Hindus were just the people who lived in the land of the Indus. Savarkar's essay on Hindutva is very defensive about the word Hindu and Hindutva. His concern is about denying any alien origins of the word Hindu. He was looking for an overarching identity for all Indians (pre-Partition) and chose Hindu rather than Hindi. This was sad for a simple reason. The word Hindu was given a religious connotation by the British Census investigators. Nineteenth century British were enamoured of classification and measurement and definitions. Traditionally sceptical of such things, they embraced science, as they understood it, with unwise enthusiasm. They had to have categories for classifying their subjects. Hinduism became the label for the religion of the majority. Any self-respecting traditionalist would have spat at the word since Brahmanism is the better word or if you like, sanatan dharma.

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