If You Can Pronounce “Sonia”, Why Do You Call Us “Hindu”?

In many regions of the World, it is common for the wife to take her husband’s last name. From what we gather, this symbolizes the transformation of the woman from a daughter to a wife. This may be why marriages in many parts of the world contain a formal “giving away” of the bride by the father to the husband.

In some parts of India, this tradition was augmented to enable the husband to give a new first name to the wife as a symbol of her new life.

We think of this tradition whenever we hear or read the word “Hindu”. This was a name given to people of India (another given name) by Persians and Arabs.  Apparently, they could not pronounce the name “Sindhu”, the name of the great river on whose banks the culture and religion was developed. So the Arabs and Persians called the people who lived on the banks of that great river as “Hindu”. Eventually, the religion of the “Hindu” people came to be called “Hinduism”.

For about 600 of the past 1,000 years, India was ruled by Muslim invaders from Afghanistan, Tajikistan,  Uzbekistan and Persia.  All these conquerors used the given name of Hindu for their defeated subjects. 

The British during their 150 year rule kept the name “Hindu” for the conquered people. This allowed them to segregate and treat differently the Muslim minority in India. Then the British left and India became independent. In Independent India, the majority religion is called “Hindu” and the majority of the leaders call themselves “Hindu”.

In other words, like an eternally dutiful wife, the previously conquered people keep using the name “given” to them by their past conquerors. It seems mental defeat is hard to overcome!

We find this strange and yet so characteristically typical of “Hindus”. Virtually every “Hindu” Television Soap features a woman who sacrifices her feelings and her own needs for the harmony of the family. All other family members focus on themselves and do everything they can to maximize their share of the family pie. But not this dutiful, virtuous woman. She takes pride in being taken for granted and feels she will be rewarded in after life.  

Today, as in past few centuries, “Hinduism” has taken on this role of the self-effacing, self-sacrificing woman in the family of world’s religions. It is the only religion in the world that uses the name given to it by conquerors of another religion. During the past few centuries, this religion has been misunderstood and deliberately demeaned by others, especially by Western “scholars” intent on spreading their own religion in India. This is how “Hinduism” came to “carry a lot baggage” to use the words of Lisa Miller of Newsweek. But the people of this religion have remained quiet, almost supine.

Why should it carry any baggage at all? The central thoughts of this religion are the most universal and noblest of any religion anywhere. It is not a religion bound narrowly by any single personality or icon. It is probably the oldest religion in the world today. You can see the influence of its philosophy in virtually every other religion in the world. It is not a small isolated religion. Nearly a billion people practice it around the world.

But “carrying the baggage” is the role of the virtuous, self-effacing wife of Indian Family dramas. And “Hindus” keep playing that role. 

We think it is time to stop playing the “dutiful wife” religion. It is time to man up and shed the “given” name “Hindu”. It is time to proclaim the true identity and greatness of our Dharma, a concept that is much greater than just a religion. The appropriate name should be Sanaatan Dharma or Eternal Dharma in English. But that might be too much of a transition for most followers.

So, why not simply use the original name and call ourselves “Sindhus”? This would be easy and direct. 

Today no one in the world, Iranians and Arabs included, has any trouble pronouncing the name “Sonia”, the first name of India’s most powerful politician. So if they can pronounce “Sonia”, why can’t they pronounce “Sindhu”?

So how about it. Dr. Aseeem Shukla? Would you consider changing the name of your organization to “The Sindhu American Foundation”? This simple and proud change will send a strong message to the entire world that our Dharma, our religion is waking up from a 1,000 year stupor.

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