Sindhu, Hindu, Indies, Hindia

by Anand Krishna

It was the great Arab Historian of the 10th century BC, Al Beruni, who mispronounced Sindhu as Hindu. The historian collectively called all the lands and the islands beyond the Sindh valley “Hind”.

Much later, when the Moguls came to India and settled there, they called their kingdom Hindustan. “Hindu” was never used to identify a certain religion, but rather a civilization as well as the geographical location. The Portuguese did the same when they distorted the word further into “Indies”. Later, the British pronounced it India.

We — Nusantarans of old and modern Indonesians — shared this very same civilization with the Iranians, the Afghans and the peoples of Bharat (present day Indian subcontinent). As pointed out by Coedes, the French historian, the rulers of the subcontinent never colonized us. They did not impose upon us their religious and other beliefs. We shared with them those beliefs.

The westerners called us lesser India — a misnomer though it recognized the fact that we belonged to the same civilization. We were not “lesser” in any way. Indeed, our archipelago was recognized as SvarnaDvipa, the gold-yielding islands. The seas only separated us. Such geographical separation though did not separate us culturally. We still shared the same cultural roots.

If we are to use Al Beruni’s terms, then we all are Hindus. The “Hindu” here is not the same as the follower of Hinduism as a religion. The Hindu here is Al Beruni’s Hindu, a person belonging to the Sindh valley civilization.

This is part of the article published in The Jakarta Post.



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