A ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is not a theocracy – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh Sinha“The connotation Hindu is inclusive in its origin and evolution. Any effort to draw a parallel between Hindu nation and theocratic states needs to be contested. India is the only nation in the world which is co-terminus with a civilisation. In other words, India is an organic example of continuity of age-old civilisation. ” – Rakesh Sinha

BharataThe comment by a Goa minister that India is a Hindu Rashtra is not something which goes against the spirit of the Indian Constitution or annihilation of secularism. The connotation Hindu is inclusive  in its origin and evolution. Any effort to draw a parallel between Hindu nation and theocratic states needs to be contested. India is the only nation in the world which is co-terminus with a civilisation. In other words, India is an organic example of continuity of age-old civilisation. Therefore, Hindu Rashtra  is an adjective of the nation, not a political objective. The origin of the connotation, Hindu, has neither religious origin nor identification with particularism. Its parallel connotation which is suggested is Bharatiya Rashtra. The nation has been named after the Hindu legendary Bharat, the son of Shakuntala and Dushyant, and he was groomed in the ashram of Kanwa, a Hindu saint. Going by epistemology, the term Bharat is more religious than Hindu.

Such controversy on the usage of Hindu is due to relentless deconstruction of our tradition of secularism since colonial period. The colonial India witnessed development of two parallel streams: one, people with perspective on the time-tested Hindu culture and world view. There are umpteen examples of such people—Raj Narayan Bose, Maharishi Aurobindo, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mahatma Gandhi, M. S. Golwalkar and Radhakrishnan. They used historiography and socio-cultural genealogy to understand India. By their logical and argumentative writings, they heralded a semi-renaissance in the country. No nation becomes civilisational antiquity when it fails to trace its roots and its people feel guilty while answering, who am I? Pal’s The Soul of India is a classic quest for defining India as a civilisational nation.

Cheraman Juma MasjidBut there was another strand which included people who understood India through the writings of Western scholars and submitted themselves to Western political philosophy, assuming it to be superior, more rational and of greater universal application than what India could offer. People like Keshab Chandra Sen, Jawaharlal Nehru, R. P. Dutt and Amartya Sen are representatives of this dimension. The classic test has been the definition of secularism. The former understood secularism as a way of life and felt proud of India’s tradition of diversities. It can be understood by the example of  Cheraman Mosque in Kerala built by a Hindu king to facilitate Muslim traders and immigrants. This is the world’s second oldest mosque (after Mecca). It denotes culture of coexistence and progressive assimilation.

Nehru & JinnahUnfortunately, the latter stream borrowed definitions and interpretations from the West and interpreted secularism as a political duel between competing communities  based on their numerical strength. It is they who made use of the colonial concepts of majority and minority. This led to mitosis of secularism into the process of ‘otherings’.

This was visualised during the debate in the Constituent Assembly. Fathers of the Constitution wanted to deter any further damage to our civilisational progress. Tajammul Hussain categorically stated that the majority-minority dichotomy was the British creation and argued that because he worshipped the same God in a different way, it didn’t turn him as a minority. He appealed to the makers of free India to “throw this term (minority-majority) from your dictionary”. But it could not happen. Contrary to it, the concept got institutionalised. H. C. Mukherjee, the Vice-Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, who was by faith Christian, warned that “if our idea is to have a secular state, it follows inevitably that we cannot afford to recognise minorities based upon religion”. Any concept whose practice breeds ‘otherings’ can’t be secular. And here the concept of Hindu Rashtra reflects geo-cultural inclusiveness which abhors uniformity. – The New Indian Express, 27 July 2014

» Prof Rakesh Sinha is an eminent political scientist. He is the Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. Contact him at rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

7 Responses

  1. At last a much needed renaissance to reclaim what ‘Hindu’ stands for – and yt our article is a timely reminder of the need to read Sri Aurobindo’s writings on the subject. http://auronation.wordpress.com


  2. The triangular shape of Indian sub continent is that of Syama Kali Yantra with the Himalayas looking like a dome in the shape of crescent moon. The uni-dimensional image of the Himalayas is like that of an umbrella. It is like moon-light covering the earth on all sides like an umbrella. These images have been displayed in my blog http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2013/07/to-be-indian-nationalist-means-hindu.html

    Geometric shapes trap energy. Specific shapes are drawn on various occasions in Vedic culture for various purposes. The shapes of Homa kundas, the shapes that are drawn to invite and position departed ancestors, Vishwadevas and Vishnu in the pitru ceremony and the shapes drawn as Kolam (rangoli) in Tamil homes even today, have some relevance and meaning. Shapes have a greater presence in Vedic life than what the people of the current generation know. Even before serving food, a square is drawn with rice flour on the ground upon which the banana leaf is spread for serving food. (Square stands for Lakshmi Narayana).

    The knowledge and use of shapes had been there as part and parcel of Vedic culture. As such the identification of Bharata Desa in the form of a geometric shape must have been there for long. In that context, the position of the mighty and umbrella like Himalayas resembling the cool moon, perhaps gave the country the name Indu. Hiuen Tsang’s reference to Indians shining with knowledge like the rays of Moon testifies the prevalence of the idea at that time of Moon and how this land was brimming with people energized and enabled by the shape of the country under Himalayan shadow, into spiritualism and lofty Thought on the Cosmos and Its Inner Self.


  3. Indu or Moon stands for coolness. There is a couple of lines in the 1st century AD Tamil Epic, Silappadhikara where there is reference to the entire landmass of India as ‘Naavalam thaN pozhil”. This means “Jambu dweepa with cool groves”.

    Full Moon signifies cool light and protection to all the beings of the world. The Kings of ancient India came to possess Royal Umbrella as a signifactor of cool light and happiness that it gives. There is a chapter called “Kudai Mangalam” in the grammar rules for Tamil poetry that deals with “the auspiciousness of the Royal Umbrella”. A sample verse is found in the Tamil Sangam text called Pura Nanooru (verse 60) where the Full Moon in the star Chita (Chitra Paurnami) is mentioned as an occasion for people to worship the Moon because it signifies the cool shade and protection that the Royal Umbrella of the king gives to his subjects.

    This idea must have been prevalent throughout India in olden days. The Umbrella emblem is found in Indus seals too. This idea fits with personification of Himalayas as the Royal umbrella under which India thrived. This justifies the name Indu for India.


  4. The relevant verse in Subramanya Bhujangam refers to Tiruchendur as Sindhu theera: “Sindhu-Tiire Ya Aaste” (verse 4 – line 3)


  5. I remember a comment made by Baba Muktananda of Ganeshpuri in 1970, where he also stated that Hindu came from Indu and that all Indians were ‘moon people’.

    Smt. Jayasreeji, thank you for the link to Bhikhu Patel’s article. It is now published.

    A note: By the time of the Romans, Indika-India had become a synonym for Asia. Parts of Africa (Egypt and Ethiopia) and all countries east of the Roman Empire’s borders up to China were known as India to European and West Asian writers. When referring to the subcontinent we know today as India, ancient writers would use the phrase “land of the Brahmins” rather than the proper name Indika. This was because they had encountered Brahmins, bhikkhus and sannyasis either in Alexandria or on their way to Alexandria to study, after the demise of Alexander and the rise of his name-sake city as a world center of learning.


  6. I think we have to do a re-think on the idea of the origin of the name India or Hindu from Iranian or Avetan or Greek or whatever source outside India. Though Hindu – India referred to a geographical area, the origin is not in Sindhu, the river, but in ‘Indu’, the Moon.

    I quote this from none other than Nehru in “Glimpses of World History”.

    “I told you once that India was known of old as the Land of the Moon-Indu-land! Hiuen Tsang also tells us about this, and describes how suitable the name is. Apparently even in Chinese in-Tu is the name for the moon.” (http://www.oocities.org/rsr_sam/HARSHA.htm)

    Even the name Hindukush is not correct. It was Indukush – “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.”

    Ibn Bhatuttah gave a wrong meaning as Hindu killer which was faithfully copied by western writers and Indian secularists. We must note that even the avowed secularists Nehru did not manipulate nor alter the original meaning of India. At least now Indians must realise the true meaning and name of India.

    ” In his travelogue, he (Hiuen Tsang) 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.” (http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=695%3Awords-hindu-hindosthan-indostan-india-are-rooted-in-sanskirt&Itemid=478)

    India is called so because it is Indu land – the land of Devi, the Goddess of Moon. Hinduism thrived under the cool Umbrella of the Himalayas and by the blessings of Devi. So anyone who is an Indian is a Hindu. Any Christian or Muslim who is born in this land had his ancestors enriched by this Devi only. Nehru himself conceded a similar notion in his election speech in 1936 -37 as follows :

    “I spoke {…} of this land of ours, of Hindustan or Bharatha, the old Sanskrit name for the mythical founder of our race”

    What is that “our race” that Nehru is referring to in his election speech in a rural village? It refers to all of us living in India for generations since Bharatha’s times. With this historical truth everyone has the right call himself as a Hindu, even if he is professing Christianity or Islam. Whether they agree or not, this is the land of the Himalayas whose daughter is Himavathy – the Devi signifying Indu, the Moon and all the region overseen by this Indu is Indu desa. This Indu had corrupted into Hindu.


    Looking at internal sources, reference to Himalayas is invariably there in the contexts on Indian landmass, in Tamil Sangam texts. The Himalayas are the Meru of India and that is why the Tamils kings of all the three races (Pandyan, Cholan and Cheran) made it a point to carve out their emblems on the Himalayas as a mark of their suzerainty. This is to show that Himalayas or Hima- alaya or Indu alaya had dominated the mind and spirits of the people all over the place to the south of Himalayas.

    Looking at the word Sindhu, it is a generic term used in many places in Rig Vedas to mean ocean or a huge body of water. Only one among such rivers came to get the name Sindhu. The people or the region in or near a sindhu came to be known by that name. This is the case with Sindhus and Sindhu kingdom of Sauviras or Sibi’s descendants.

    There is also a ‘country of Sindhu’ in the southern most part of India. It is “Tiruchendur’, an important abode of Lord Subramanya. Its original name was “Sindhu-theera” – meaning the land on the shore of ocean. This became Sindhur > chindur > Chendur in Tamil usage. This name is found mentioned in the 4th verse of “Subramanya Bhujangam” written by Adi Shankara in praise of Lord Subramanya of Tiruchendur.
    This info shows that the name Sindhu had existed only where the Sanskrit meaning of Sindhu as ocean was applicable.


  7. Though he doesn’t say it, Prof Sinha is playing on the original meaning of the term ‘Hindu’ which was geographical. The Iranians coined the term to refer to the people and land east of the River Indus.

    At that time there were no Muslims or Christians living in India.

    The term has since come to reflect the religious identity of those Indians who are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. This religious identity should not be undermined with the mindless inclusive universalism that some Hindus are prone to.


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