Hindu ( About this sound  pronunciation ) refers to any person who regards themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism. [1] [2] It has historically been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for people indigenous to South Asia. [3] [4]

The historical meaning of the term Hindu has evolved with time. Starting with the Persian and Greek references to the land of the Indus in the 1st millennium BCE through the texts of the medieval era, [5] the term Hindu implied a geographic, ethnic or cultural identifier for people living in the Indian subcontinent around or beyond the Sindhu ( Indus) river. [6] By the 16th century, the term began to refer to residents of the subcontinent who were not Turkic or Muslims. [6] [a] [b]

The historical development of Hindu self-identity within the local South Asian population, in a religious or cultural sense, is unclear. [3] [7] Competing theories state that Hindu identity developed in the British colonial era, or that it developed post-8th century CE after the Islamic invasion and medieval Hindu-Muslim wars. [7] [8] [9] A sense of Hindu identity and the term Hindu appears in some texts dated between the 13th and 18th century in Sanskrit and regional languages. [8] [10] The 14th- and 18th-century Indian poets such as Vidyapati, Kabir and Eknath used the phrase Hindu dharma (Hinduism) and contrasted it with Turaka dharma (Islam). [11] The Christian friar Sebastiao Manrique used the term 'Hindu' in religious context in 1649. [12] In the 18th century, the European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus, in contrast to Mohamedans for Mughals and Arabs following Islam. [3] [6] By the mid-19th century, colonial orientalist texts further distinguished Hindus from Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, [3] but the colonial laws continued to consider all of them to be within the scope of the term Hindu until about mid-20th century. [13] Scholars state that the custom of distinguishing between Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs is a modern phenomenon. [14] [15] Hindoo is an archaic spelling variant, whose use today may be considered derogatory. [16] [17]

At more than 1.03 billion, [18] Hindus are the world's third largest group after Christians and Muslims. The vast majority of Hindus, approximately 966 million, live in India, according to India's 2011 census. [19] After India, the next 9 countries with the largest Hindu populations are, in decreasing order: Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United States, Malaysia, United Kingdom and Myanmar. [20] These together accounted for 99% of the world's Hindu population, and the remaining nations of the world together had about 6 million Hindus in 2010. [20]


A Hindu wedding ritual in India

The word Hindu is derived from the Indo-Aryan [21] and Sanskrit [21] [5] word Sindhu, which means "a large body of water", covering "river, ocean". [22] [note 1] It was used as the name of the Indus river and also referred to its tributaries. The actual term 'hindu' first occurs, states Gavin Flood, as "a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)", [5] more specifically in the 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I. [23] The Punjab region, called Sapta Sindhava in the Vedas, is called Hapta Hindu in Zend Avesta. The 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I mentions the province of Hi[n]dush, referring to northwestern India. [23] [24] [25] The people of India were referred to as Hinduvān (Hindus) and hindavī was used as the adjective for Indian in the 8th century text Chachnama. [25] The term 'Hindu' in these ancient records is an ethno-geographical term and did not refer to a religion. [5] [26] The Arabic equivalent Al-Hind likewise referred to the country of India. [27] [23]

Hindu culture in Bali, Indonesia. The Krishna-Arjuna sculpture inspired by the Bhagavad Gita in Denpasar (top), and Hindu dancers in traditional dress.

Among the earliest known records of 'Hindu' with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by the Buddhist scholar Xuanzang. Xuanzang uses the transliterated term In-tu whose "connotation overflows in the religious" according to Arvind Sharma. [23] While Xuanzang suggested that the term refers to the country named after the moon, another Buddhist scholar I-tsing contradicted the conclusion saying that In-tu was not a common name for the country. [25]

Al-Biruni's 11th-century text Tarikh Al-Hind, and the texts of the Delhi Sultanate period use the term 'Hindu', where it includes all non-Islamic people such as Buddhists, and retains the ambiguity of being "a region or a religion". [23] The 'Hindu' community occurs as the amorphous 'Other' of the Muslim community in the court chronicles, according to Romila Thapar. [28] Wilfred Cantwell Smith notes that 'Hindu' retained its geographical reference initially: 'Indian', 'indigenous, local', virtually 'native'. Slowly, the Indian groups themselves started using the term, differentiating themselves and their "traditional ways" from those of the invaders. [29]

The text Prithviraj Raso, by Chanda Baradai, about the 1192 CE defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad Ghori, is full of references to "Hindus" and "Turks", and at one stage, says "both the religions have drawn their curved swords;" however, the date of this text is unclear and considered by most scholars to be more recent. [30] In Islamic literature, 'Abd al-Malik Isami's Persian work, Futuhu's-salatin, composed in the Deccan in 1350, uses the word 'hindi' to mean Indian in the ethno-geographical sense and the word 'hindu' to mean 'Hindu' in the sense of a follower of the Hindu religion". [30] The poet Vidyapati's poem Kirtilata contrasts the cultures of Hindus and Turks (Muslims) in a city and concludes "The Hindus and the Turks live close together; Each makes fun of the other's religion (dhamme)." [31] One of the earliest uses of word 'Hindu' in religious context in a European language (Spanish), was the publication in 1649 by Sebastiao Manrique. [12]

Other prominent mentions of 'Hindu' include the epigraphical inscriptions from Andhra Pradesh kingdoms who battled military expansion of Muslim dynasties in the 14th century, where the word 'Hindu' partly implies a religious identity in contrast to 'Turks' or Islamic religious identity. [32] The term Hindu was later used occasionally in some Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450) and some 16th- to 18th-century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata. These texts used it to contrast Hindus from Muslims who are called Yavanas (foreigners) or Mlecchas (barbarians), with the 16th-century Chaitanya Charitamrita text and the 17th-century Bhakta Mala text using the phrase "Hindu dharma". [10]

Other Languages
العربية: هندوس
অসমীয়া: হিন্দু
বাংলা: হিন্দু
भोजपुरी: हिंदू
español: Hindú
Esperanto: Hindua
euskara: Hindu
ગુજરાતી: હિંદુ
हिन्दी: हिन्दू
Bahasa Indonesia: Umat Hindu
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಹಿಂದೂ
മലയാളം: ഹിന്ദു
मराठी: हिंदू
norsk nynorsk: Hinduar
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ହିନ୍ଦୁ
سنڌي: هندو
کوردی: ھیندوو
தமிழ்: இந்து
українська: Індус
اردو: ہندو