Who is a Hindu? The historical definition – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad ElstThe Hindus never described themselves as “Hindus”, until Muslim invaders came and designated them by this Persian term. … All Indians who were not Parsis, Jews, Christians or Muslims, were automatically Hindus. So, the original definition of Hindu is: an Indian Pagan. … It does not matter if you do not like the name-tag: if you fit the definition, you fall within the Hindu category. The Hindus have not chosen to be called Hindus: others have conceived the term and its definition, and Hindus simply found themselves carrying this label and gradually accepted it.” – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Indus River ValleyHistorical definition of “Hindu”

In Hindu scriptures, the word “Hindu” is not to be found. Yet, long before Western scholars sat down to invent definitions of “Hindu”, the term already carried a definite meaning. The normal procedure ought to be, to listen to this original version first. It was brought into India by the Islamic invaders, and meant: “Indian Pagan”.

The term “Hindu” is the Persian equivalent of the Indo-Aryan term “Sindhu”, “river”, “the Indus”. The equivalence is a simple application of the regular phonetic relation between the indo-Aryan and Iranian branches of the Indo-European language family: initial [s] is retained in Indo-Aryan but changed into [h] in Iranian, while aspirated voiced stops like [dh] are retained in Indo-Aryan but lose their aspiration in Iranian. The Iranians used the word Hindu to designate the river Sindhu and the countries and populations situated around and beyond the Sindhu. From Persian, the Greeks borrowed the river name as Indos and the people’s name as Indoi, hence English Indus, India, Indian.

Indians in Southeast-Asia were never known as “Hindu”, but the Arabs, Turks, Mongolians and other northern and western foreigners adopted the Persian name as their own word for “India” and “Indians”, e.g. Arabic Hind, Turkish Hindistan. Xuan Zang (Huen Tsang, 7th century AD), who had entered India through Persian-speaking Central Asia, notes in so many words that the name Xin-du (regular Chinese rendering of Persian Hindu)[1] or, as he corrects it, Yin-du, is used outside India but is unknown within the country, because the natives call it Aryadesh or Brahmarashtra.[2] As Sita Ram Goel comments: “It may thus be said that the word ‘Hindu’ had acquired a national connotation, since the days of the Avesta, although in the eyes of only the foreigners.”[3] In the next paras, we summarize his findings about the prehistory of the current term Hindu.

When Buddhism was implanted in Central Asia, and Buddhist temples were built for worship of Buddha-statues, the Mazdeans described the enthusiasts of this Indian religion as but-parast, “Buddha-worshippers”, as opposed to the Mazdean âtish-parast or “fire-worshippers”. The term but-parast came to mean more generally “idol-worshipper”, for by the time of the Muslim invasions, but had become the generic term for “idol”, hence but-khana, “idol-temple”, and but-shikan, “idol-breaker”. They made no distinction between the different sects based in India, and by the time the persianized Arabs and Turks invaded India, the word but-parast was randomly applied to all Indian unbelievers. Seeing that the Brahmins had fire-ceremonies just like the Mazdeans, the Muslims occasionally included the Indian Pagans in the category âtish-parast as well, again without bothering about distinctions between different sects.

The Muslim invaders called the Pagans of India sometimes “Kafirs”, unbelievers in general, i.e. the same religious designation which was used for the polytheists of Arabia; but often they called them “Hindus”, inhabitants of Hindustan, i.e. an ethnic-geographical designation. Thereby, they gave a fixed religious content to this geographical term: a Hindu is any Indian who is not a Jew, Christian, Muslim or Zoroastrian. In other words: any Indian “Pagan”, i.e. one who is not a believer in the Abrahamic religions nor an Iranian Pagan, is a Hindu. In its definition as “Indian Paganism”, Hinduism includes the whole range from animal worship to Upanishadic monist philosophy, and from Shaktic blood sacrifice to Jain extreme non-violence.

The term Hindu was used for all Indians who were unbelievers or idol-worshippers, including Buddhists, Jains, “animists” and later the Sikhs, but in contradistinction to Indian Christians (ahl-i Nasâra or Isâî), Jews (ahl-î-Yahûd or banû Isrâîl), Mazdeans (ahl-i Majûs or âtish-parast) and of course Muslims themselves. This way, at least by the time of Albiruni (early 11th century), the word Hindu had a distinct religio-geographical meaning: a Hindu is an Indian who is not a Muslim, Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian.[4]

Vinayak Damodar SavarkarAn unambiguous criterion

The Hindus never described themselves as “Hindus”, until Muslim invaders came and designated them by this Persian term.[5] It does not follow that those whom we would call Hindus in retrospect had no sense of pan-Hindu cultural unity, as some might hastily conclude; merely that the term Hindu was not yet in use. Similarly, the Hindus called these newcomers Turks, but this does not exclude recognition of their religious specificity as Muslims. On the contrary, even Timur, who made it absolutely clear in his memoirs that he came to India to wage a religious war against the Unbelievers, and who freed the Muslim captives from a conquered city before putting the Hindu remainder to the sword, referred to his own forces as “the Turks”, an ethnic designation, rather than “the Muslims”.[6] One should not confuse the term with the concept: the absence of the term Hindu does not prove the non-existence of a concept later enunciated as “Hindu Dharma”.

On the other hand, to those who insist that there was no Hindu identity before, the genesis of the label Hindu should suggest an analogy with the secularist narrative of the genesis of Indian nationhood: Indians didn’t exist, but Indian nationhood was forged in the crucible of the common struggle against the British.[7] Likewise, if Hinduism had been non-existent before, then nothing would have been as effective in creating a common sense of Hindu-ness as being targeted together by the same enemy, British or Muslim. As Veer Savarkar wrote: “The [Islamic] enemies hated us as Hindus and the whole family of peoples and races, sects and creeds that flourished from Attock to Cuttack was suddenly individualised into a single Being.”[8] This is not historical in its details, but it is nonetheless in agreement with a widespread view of how nations are created: by a common experience, such as the deeply involving experience of war against a common enemy.

So, a Hindu was by definition not a member of the Abrahamic religions, nor of Persian quasi-monotheist Paganism (Mazdeism, better known as Zoroastrianism). But a Buddhist, a Jain, a tribal, they were all included in the semantic domain of the term Hindu. Though the early Muslim writers in India had noticed a superficial difference between Brahmins and Buddhists, calling the latter “clean-shaven Brahmins”, they did not see an opposition between “Hindus and Buddhists” or between “Hindus and tribals”, nor did later Muslim rulers see an opposition between “Hindus and Sikhs”. On the contrary, Albiruni lists Buddhists among the idolatrous Hindu sects: he describes how the idols of Vishnu, Surya, Shiva, the “eight mothers” and the Buddha are worshipped by the Bhagavatas c.q. the Magians, the Sadhus, the Brahmins and the Shramans.[9]

All Indians who were not Parsis, Jews, Christians or Muslims, were automatically Hindus. So, the original definition of Hindu is: an Indian Pagan. Since the earliest use of the term Hindu in India, a clear definition has been given with it, and of every community it can easily be decided whether it fits that definition or not. It does not matter if you do not like the name-tag: if you fit the definition, you fall within the Hindu category. The Hindus have not chosen to be called Hindus: others have conceived the term and its definition, and Hindus simply found themselves carrying this label and gradually accepted it.

Like in the census category manipulations of E.A. Gait, this definition implies a “test” by which we can decide whether someone is a Hindu, regardless of whether he uses or accepts that label himself. The difference is that here, the test was not made up ad hoc to prove a point. It is an authentic definition, generated by the real-life encounter of the Muslim invaders with their Other: the native Indian Pagans.

Christian calendar is Pagan!What is Paganism?

The term Pagan is generally used for people not belonging to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But better than mere convention, there could be a definition of the term Pagan. And this definition is readily suggested by the basic meaning of the word. Like its Germanic equivalent Heathen, the Latin word Paganus literally means: rural. Christianity started as a strictly urban movement, and only after it had taken power in the Roman Empire in 313 AD did it start to conquer the countryside.[10]

The association of Christian with urban, Pagan with rural, is more than just a historical accident. It is perfectly logical that Paganism originated in natural surroundings, long before man lived in cities, and that Christianity spread in cities, where a large population was concentrated. The reason is that Paganism is based on immediate reality, on mankind’s experience of the life cycles, the powers of nature, the celestial phenomena: anyone living anywhere can be struck with wonder by these realities. By contrast, Christianity is something which has never been discovered by anyone: you must have heard about it from someone, from preachers who went to the market-place where they could find a large audience.

Belief systems based on “Divine Revelation” spread first in the population centres, where a message can be communicated. In the European countryside, Pagan beliefs and practices (though not the most sophisticated ones, which had disappeared along with the Pagan elites, often the first to be converted) continued, sometimes in Christian disguise, until in the last two centuries they were rendered outdated, not by Christianity but by modernity.

To an extent, the same relation has existed between Buddhism and Hinduism: proselytizing Buddhism was an urban phenomenon, largely because it was dependent on patronage from merchants, princes and ordinary alms-givers, and on concentrations of people for the recruitment of new monks. Buddhism is a bit of a borderline case. It is a “natural religion” in that any individual could sit down under a tree and discover the process of meditation for himself. This way, Paganism as the “natural religion” or “cosmic spirituality” stretches from nature-oriented rituals to the heights of meditation, excluding only the exclusive revelations of prophetic monotheism.

On the other hand, the experience of Enlightenment is a much rarer one than the experience of the life cycle or the year cycle, and to that extent, Buddhism had to be preached and propagated. For this missionary trait, and for its basic non-interest in a pantheon (neither to worship it nor to reject it), Buddhism is often treated as separate from Paganism; Christian authors nowadays hesitate to call it Pagan.[11]

Paganism can thus be defined as the whole spectrum of “cosmic” religion (or “universism”) as opposed to the “revealed” religions, whose message is not intrinsic to the world order. Prophetic monotheism desacralizes the cosmos by concentrating the sacred exclusively in an extra-cosmic deity: “Do not worship the sun and the moon, but worship Allah who created them.”[12] Paganism sees the sacred in manifestations of cosmic order, cosmic power, cosmic beauty. If religion is defined as a matter of belief in a divine revelation, then one would have to say that Hindu culture exists, but not Hindu religion. Indeed, perceptive Indologists like Frits Staal have remarked that unlike Christianity and Islam, Hinduism is by no means a “religion” in the sense of “belief system”.[13]

The point has also been made by many Hindu Revivalists and will be repeated several times in these pages, but for now we will quote a formulation by someone who was a Hindu revivalist in the most constructive sense all while remaining aloof from polemics: the late Ekkirala Krishnamacharya, physician, educationist and Kulapati (rector) of the Theosophy-related World Teacher Trust in Visakhapatnam. To a question about the “ancient religion of India”, he replied:

“There was no religion in this land, nor was any religion necessary for the Indians. The ancient Indians had a code of law for man to follow. This was framed in accordance with various truths working in nature. The law of the existence of nature and its creation was observed in all its detail and the law for man to follow was copied in accordance with it. This was called Dharma. The term means that which bears and protects. It is that which bears and protects when we follow [it]. Man is honoured when he honours it. He receives protection when he protects it. It was made into a constitution called Bharata Dharma. It was the path of life commonly accepted throughout the land. Any attempt for religion is naturally limited and narrowed when compared with this.”[14]

So, Dharma is defined here as nothing but living in accordance with the laws of nature. We can accept this as a general definition even before discussing what precisely those laws could be.

Yet, the general term Pagan should not be taken to indicate a single “natural religion”: within the range of Pagan traditions, there are important differences too, e.g. from vegetarianism to cannibalism. The difference lies in the crude or subtle perception of what precisely constitutes the laws of nature, the cosmic order (what the Vedas call Rita). At a very primitive level, one could say that “survival of the fittest” or “big fish eat small fish” is the law of nature to be followed: this yields Paganism in its caricature form.[15] At a more civilized level, say that of Greek philosophy, an appropriately more refined understanding of the laws of nature and of the concomitant human ethic is developed. The distinction which Hinduism claims is that through yoga, it has refined human sensitivity and made man receptive to subtler cosmic laws, such as the ultimate oneness of all sentient beings, hence the need for dayâ or karunâ, compassion.

Ram SwarupPagans and Hindus

As a concept, Paganism is a cornucopia with very divergent phenomena. When we survey the “neo-Pagan” scene in the modern West, we find a wide range of trends: from carnival-like impersonations of druids and witches to high-brow efforts at certified historical authenticity, and stretching across the political spectrum from neo-Nazis and ethnic revivalists to feminists, ecologists and hippie anarchists, all around a core mass of apolitical seeker types.[16] The great insights of Vedanta philosophy, or of “Pagan” Greek philosophy, are by no means a common heritage of all Pagan traditions.

Yet, one could say that all of them have a common inspiration, and some Hindu thinkers have developed the position that Hinduism should reach out to other Pagan cultures and movements. Ram Swarup calls on the people who lost their Pagan heritage because of the take-over by Christianity or Islam to “make a pilgrimage through time” to rediscover their ancient Gods.[17] Unlike most Hindu nationalists whose horizon is limited by India’s borders, he also shows some awareness about movements in the West actually exploring a revival of pre-Christian spirituality.[18] In the last couple of years, the VHP has tried to open lines of communication with organized neo-Paganism, but it is too early to report on any firm results.

It would seem that for real cooperation, the waters between Western neo-Paganism and Hinduism are still pretty deep. Many neo-Pagans reject elements of Christianity which happen to be held dear by serious Hindus, such as sobriety and self-restraint in matters of sexual morality, and are often quite unfamiliar with the Hindu ascetic and meditative traditions. Racist neo-Pagans would not be very interested in meeting dark immigrant Hindus anyway, and Left-leaning neo-Pagans are put off by newspaper reports about obscurantist practices and non-feminist conditions in Hindu society. But Hindu-Pagan rapprochement certainly has potential and may well flourish in the not too distant future.

Sri AurobindoPolytheism and monotheism

Ram Swarup’s book The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods is the closest you can get to an apology of polytheism, though it finds a place for monotheism as well. In some Western “neo-Pagan” writings, we find an explicit rejection of monotheism in favour of polytheism.[19] With that, neo-Pagan authors accept the Christian view that while Christianity is monotheistic, Paganism is polytheistic; they accept the terms of the debate in which Christianity claims superiority.

By contrast, Hindu philosophers who know their tradition don’t fall for this “mono-poly” dichotomy: “In this deeper approach, the distinction is not between a True One God and the False Many Gods; it is between a true way of worship and a false way of worship. Wherever there is sincerity, truth and self-giving in worship, that worship goes to the true altar by whatever name we may designate it and in whatever way we may conceive it. But if it is not desireless, if it has ego, falsehood, conceit and deceit in it, then it is unavailing though it may be offered to the most True God, theologically speaking.”[20]

It is not either “one” or “many”, it is both: “like monotheism, polytheism too has its spiritual motive. If monotheism represents man’s intuition for unity, polytheism represents his urge for differentiation. Spiritual life is one but it is vast and rich in expression. (…) only some form of polytheism can do justice to this variety and richness. (…) A pure monotheistic God, unrelieved by polytheistic elements, tends to become lifeless and abstract.”[21] Ram Swarup argues that this is implicitly admitted by monotheist religions, which reintroduce diversity in their one God by giving one-hundred different names to Allah, by letting Him “emanate” into creation through the stages of the “Tree of Life” in the Jewish Kabbalah, or by perceiving a Trinity in Him, or by surrounding Him with a Virgin Mother and a heavenly host of angels and saints.

Yet: “monotheism is not altogether without a spiritual motive. The Spirit is a unity. It also worships nothing less than the Supreme. Monotheism expresses, though inadequately, this intuition of man for the Supreme.”[22] Some of the monotheist criticism of polytheism is also well taken: “Similarly, purely polytheistic Gods without any principle of unity amongst them lose their inner coherence. They fall apart and serve no spiritual purpose.”[23]

But according to Ram Swarup, Hinduism has long outgrown the childhood diseases of polytheism with which lesser pantheons are afflicted: “The Vedic approach is probably the best. It gives unity without sacrificing diversity. In fact, it gives a deeper unity and a deeper diversity beyond the power of ordinary monotheism and polytheism. It is one with the yogic or the mystic approach.”[24]

Likewise, Sri Aurobindo had already written: “Indian polytheism is not the popular polytheism of ancient Europe; for here the worshipper of many Gods still knows that all his divinities are forms, names, personalities and powers of the One; his gods proceed from the one Purusha, his goddesses are energies of the one divine Force.” He adds a brief defence of “idolatry”: “Indian image-worship is not the idolatry of a barbaric or undeveloped mind, for even the most ignorant know that the image is a symbol and support and can throw it away when its use is over.”[25] Devotees of non-Hindu Gods would probably say the same thing for their own tradition. At any rate, in the event of a worldwide Pagan revival, Hinduism can claim a natural leadership role.

Allat the chief Goddess of Mecca.Paganism in danger, Hinduism to the rescue

Along with other Hindu Revivalists, Shrikant Talageri puts Hinduism in a worldwide continuum of Paganism: “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide Sanâtanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of Hindutva should therefore be a universal ideology”, and Hindu Revivalists should “spearhead a worldwide revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of spiritualism, and of all the world religions and cultures which existed all over the world before the advent of imperialist ideologies like Christianity, Islam, Fascism, Marxism etc.”[26] Somewhat like Moscow for the world Communist movement, India should become the world centre of Pagan revival,

To put this Pagan solidarity into practice, the editors of the NRI paper Young India suggest creating two, three, many Ayodhyas: “Some 600 years ago there was a grand pagan temple at the foot of a sacred hill in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It was demolished, the high priest banished (some say, murdered), and the place built up as a cathedral. We appeal to the Pope to return the spot to the Pagans of Lithuania who are the original and lawful historic owners of the sacred site. We further appeal to the Pope not to condone the desecration any longer. It cannot please his Lord, Jesus Christ in Heaven, who abhorred desecration and occupation of the others’ holy sites.”[27] This is perhaps not the kind of religious revival the world is waiting for; it is at least not the focus of Talageri’s interest in world-wide Paganism.

By “Paganism”, Hindu Revivalists do not just mean the Indo-European (hence Veda-related) forms of pre-Christian religion: “The aborigines of Australia, the Red Indians of America, the pre-Islamic Pagans of Arabia, the Negroes of Africa are looking at Hindu society with expectation and hope. They are hopeful because it was the Hindu society in India alone which could survive the combined onslaught of Islam, Christianity and Marxism.”[28]

A remarkable item in this list is “the pre-Islamic Pagans of Arabia”. They have been out of existence since the 7th century, and unlike in Europe, no movement for Pagan revival is known to exist in Arabia. So, perhaps this is no more than a symbolic exercise, but Hindu revivalists want to render justice to the deceased Paganism of Arabia.

It is very common to mention the Pagans of Arabia, Prophet Mohammed’s enemies, in purely pejorative terms. That this is done in Islamic writings is only to be expected; that Indian secularists follow suit, is hardly surprising. But it is also very common in Western scholarly publications, e.g., a famous Dutch Islamologist writes: “The Arab religion was a primitive polytheism, poor in real religiosity”.[29] Moreover, he also relays as fact the Islamic claim that the Arab religion was a degeneration from what was originally a prophetic monotheism founded by Abraham in Mecca, an Ur-form of Islam: “Over time, among the Arabs, this original monotheism had degenerated into Paganism: the true knowledge had been lost.”[30]

Against this near-monopoly of the Islamic version of what Arab Paganism stood for, a few Hindu Revivalists, most articulately Sita Ram Goel, have tried to reconstruct the Arab Pagans’ own viewpoint. The subject is worthy of a detailed treatment, for it is decidedly one of the most original contributions of Hindu Revivalism, universally relevant for any understanding of the Prophet’s career and of Islam; however, I will limit myself to a few general points here.

Far from being originally a form of Abrahamic monotheism, Arab Paganism was a cosmic religion, focusing largely on the starry sky, just like its fellow “Semitic” sister religion of Babylon, or like the Vedic religion.[31] The Arabs had a pantheon comparable to that of the ancient Greeks or Hindus, embodying metaphysical, cosmological and ethical notions. Just like India, “the whole of their homeland was honeycombed with temples and sanctuaries housing hundreds of divinities with as many Names and Forms.”[32] After finishing a survey of what is actually known about Arab Paganism with a list of Arab deities, Goel concludes: “The deities listed in the foregoing few pages may sound too many to minds under the spell of monotheism. The fact, however, is that they are far too few and represent only what has been salvaged by modern scholarship from the extensive ruins caused by Islam.”[33]

The presiding deity of the Ka’ba, the Arab national shrine, was a male moon deity, Hubal, who presents many similarities with Shiva; not least the fact that in the temples of both, the central mûrti (idol) is an unsculpted stone. While it would be exaggerated to say that the Ka’ba was a Shiva temple (a position taken by eccentric historian P.N. Oak), there is an undeniable typological kinship between Hinduism and Arab Paganism.

If we count the polytheistic Greeks and Hindus as civilizations, Goel, who rejects the now-classical description of the Arab Pagan as “quarrelling rabble addicted to idol-worship”, cautions us to think twice before condemning the Arab Pagans as savages in urgent need of Mohammed’s civilizing mission: “It is nothing short of slanderous to say that pre-Islamic Arabs were barbarians devoid of religion and culture, unless we mean by religion and culture what the Muslim theologians mean.”[34]

The Pagan Arabs themselves, at least, thought themselves very religious, though not in the sense of “believers”. Goel quotes the reply of an Arab prince when the king of Persia had told him how inferior he considered the Arabs: “What nation could be put before the Arabs for strength or beauty or piety, courage, munificence, wisdom, pride or fidelity? (…) So liberal was he that he would slaughter the camel which was his sole wealth to give a meal to the stranger who came to him at night. No other people had poetry so elaborate or a language so expressive as theirs (…) So faithful were they to the ordinances of their religion that if a man met his father’s murderer unarmed in one of the sacred months he would not harm him. A sign or look from them constituted an engagement which was absolutely inviolable”.[35]

Again, we cannot go into more detail here, but it is important to note that this non-nationalist tendency within the Hindu Revivalist movement thinks in global terms. One of its goals, though as yet only conceived as distant and theoretical, is the restoration of Arabia, if not to its ancient religion, at least to some form of pluralistic non-prophetic religion. It is to be noted how far this ambitious tendency is removed from the defensive and gloomy psychology of “Hinduism under siege”, though it is largely voiced by the same individuals. – Who is a Hindu?, Voice of India, New Delhi, 2001


  1. The Chinese transcription letter <x>, now pronounced as cerebral [sh], often stems from an original strongly aspirated /h/, /x/. In modern Chinese, India’s name is rendered as Yin-du, on the basis of the non-aspirated pronunciation proposed by Xuan Zang himself.
  2. Surendranath Sen: India though Chinese Eyes, p. 59.
  3. S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2 (2nd ed.), p. 396. The chapter concerned has also been published separately: Hindus and Hinduism, Manipulation of Meanings (1993).
  4. The pre-modern existence of the term “Hindu” was conceded, before a disappointed audience of Indologists (who habitually teach and write that Hinduism is a recent “Orientalist construct”) by Prof. David Lorenzen, in a paper about the definition of “Hindu” read at the 1995 South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.
  5. I forego discussion of various crank propositions by Hindus to explain Hindu as a Sanskrit word, e.g. that Hindu is derived from Sanskrit hîna, “humble” (as in Hînayâna, “the lesser vehicle”), or Xuan Zang’s little idea that it was derived from indu, “moon”.
  6. An English translation of Timur’s autobiography, Malfuzat-i-Timuri, is given in Elliott & Dowson: History of India, vol-3, 389-477. Likewise, in the Yugoslav civil war, the Serbs referred to the Muslims as “Turks”, though what they meant was not Turkish-speaking people but people professing Islam.
  7. Not that I believe this narrative. That Indian nationhood originates elsewhere than in the freedom struggle is implied in the fact that the Indian nation was by no means united in that struggle: numerous Indians wholeheartedly collaborated with the British. But this does not deny their common nationhood either, just as the division of the French in collaborators and resisters under the German occupation (1940-44) does not prove the non-existence of the French nation.
  8. V.D. Savarkar: Hindutva, p. 45.
  9. Albiruni: India, vol. 1, p. 121. He attributes the division of men into sects to none other than Rama. “Magians” are Maga Brahmins, who are indeed worshippers of Surya, the sun; the “eight mothers” are the ashta-Lakshmî, usually depicted along with the Sri Yantra (four upward and five downward triangles intertwined), and worshipped e.g. in the Math of the Kanchi Shankaracharya.
  10. Another meaning sometimes given to Paganism, and not further considered here, is the religious attachment to “material” elements such as ritual prescriptions, as opposed to the Christian emphasis on the “spirit” (in ethics, on the “intention”); by this criterion, pure Theravada Buddhism is not Pagan, while orthodox Judaism is; Vedantic Hinduism is not Pagan, while Tantric Hinduism is; the most austere forms of Protestantism are not Pagan, while Catholicism with its sacraments is.
  11. For a typical example, Karen Armstrong, formerly a Catholic nun and now an Islam enthusiast, calls herself a “free-lance monotheist with Buddhist influence” (speaking to Ludo Abicht on Flemish radio, 1996).
  12. Quran 41:37.
  13. F. Staal: Een Wijsgeer in bet Oosten, p. 107-108. Likewise, in his book Le Corps Taoïste, Kristofer Schipper has made the same remark about Taoism.
  14. E. Krishnamacharya: Our Heritage, p. 16.
  15. In that sense, both Communism and Nazism could be considered as (secular, pseudo-scientific) forms of “Paganism”, as is frequently done in Christian Writings, e.g. the Vatican document on Christian responsibility for the Holocaust, March 1998. I find this usage confusing and hence undesirable, but the valid point is that both ideologies based themselves on (secularly understood) “laws of nature”, in the case of Communism specified as “laws of history”.
  16. See e.g. G. Harvey & C. Hardman: Paganism Today, Vivianne Crowley: Principles of Paganism; G. Harvey: Speaking Earth, Listening People.
  17. Ram Swarup: The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods, p. 132.
  18. Ram Swarup corresponded with Prudence Jones, twice chairperson of the Pagan Federation, and with Gudrun Kristin Magnusdottir, Icelandic Pagan author of the book Odsmal, which ties the Germanic Asatru religion in with Transcendental Meditation and other Eastern lore. His article “Of Hindus, Pagans and the Return of the Gods” (Hinduism Today, Oct. 1991) was reprinted in the Californian anarcho-Pagan magazine Green Egg, Yule 1991 and again March 1998.
  19. E.g. Alain de Benoist: Comment peut-on être païen? (French: “How to be a Pagan?”), part of the “mono-poly” polemic which animated the Paris parlours in ca. 1980, in which Bernard-Henry Lévy defended monotheism, albeit a “monotheism without God”: Le Testament de Dieu (French: “God’s testament”).
  20. Ram Swarup: Word as Revelation, p. 129.
  21. Ram Swarup: Word as Revelation, p. 128.
  22. Ram Swarup: Word as Revelation, p. 126.
  23. Ram Swarup: Word as Revelation, p. 128.
  24. Ram Swarup: Word as Revelation, p. 128.
  25. Sri Aurobindo: Foundations of Indian Culture, p. 135.
  26. S. Talageri in S.R. Goel: Time for Stock-Taking, p.227. Sanâtanism: from Sanâtana Dharma, the “eternal” religion, a self-designation of Hinduism.
  27. Young India, April 1998, back cover; emphasis in the original.
  28. Mayank Jain: “Let us fulfil the Sardar’s mission”, Organiser, 21-12-1997.
  29. J.H. Kramers: De Koran (Dutch), p. viii.
  30. J.H. Kramers: De Koran, p. x.
  31. S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2, p. 266 and p. 273-296, with reference to F. Hommel in The First Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 1, p.377 ff., and to Shaikh Inayatullah: “Pre-Islamic Arabian Thought”, in M.M. Sharif, ed.: A History of Muslim Philosophy, Lahore 1961.
  32. S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2, p.294.
  33. S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2, p.294.
  34. S.R. Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2, p.272.
  35. Quoted in D.S. Margoliouth: Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, p. 2-3, and in Goel: Hindu Temples, vol. 2, p. 270

» Dr. Koenraad Elst was born in Leuven, Belgium, on 7 August 1959, into a Flemish (i.e. Dutch-speaking Belgian) Catholic family. He graduated in Philosophy, Chinese Studies and Indo-Iranian Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven. During a stay at the Benares Hindu University, he discovered India’s communal problem and wrote his first book about the budding Ayodhya conflict. While establishing himself as a columnist for a number of Belgian and Indian papers, he frequently returned to India to study various aspects of its ethno-religio-political configuration and interview Hindu and other leaders and thinkers. His research on the ideological development of Hindu revivalism earned him his Ph.D. in Leuven in 1998. He has also published about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, comparative religion, and the Aryan invasion debate.

3 Responses

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  2. Thanks for giving an very good knowledge about “HINDU”


  3. The term “Mleccha” may have originally referred only to the Iranians as they mispronounced Sanskrit and were therefore uncivilised. Later, it may have acquired a variety of meanings and references.


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