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‘Hindutva, Sanatan Dharma to define Hindus’

World Hindu Congress rejected ‘Hinduism’ that was popularized as part of 150-year Christian conspiracy to proselytise practising Hindus


How does one define Hindu? Is it Hinduism or Hindutva? What’s ‘Sanatan Dharna’?

These precise questions were sought to be addressed at three-day World Hindu Congress (WHC) that was held in Thai capital, Bangkok.


Over 2000 top prominent Dharmic leaders, organizations and stakeholders from 61 countries met for a quadrennial marathon session that ended on Sunday. At the brainstorming sessions, serious effort seems to have been made to clear air on ‘Hindutva’ as a concept, philosophy and universal sustainable way of life.

In a significant declaration adopted on Friday, Hindu leadership rejected ‘ism’ as a suffix or affix to describe ‘Hindus’. Instead, the universal philosophy adhered to by over 1.2 billion people in about 100 countries will now be known by ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduness’.

For starters, Hinduism, Hindutva and Hinduness may not make much of a difference. But, for practitioners,  Hindutva defines their way of life outlined in ‘Sanatan Dharma’, eternal abode of everything that a righteous Hindu individual, family, community stands for, both animate and inanimate.

Rejection of the very word, ‘Hinduism’ is all the more important. As the ‘ism’ was associated with 150-years old conspiracy to depict Hindus or Hindutva with ‘oppressive and discriminatory attitude’ or belief. Well, if one were to simply delve into very origins of ‘Hinduism’, it definitely was part of a larger conspiracy to discredit one of the oldest civilizations through which humanity evolved.


‘the isms’ were routinely attached to regressive, retrogressive, radical religious or spiritual movements. Isms were derogatory and negative apart from being divisive in spirit and content. ‘Isms’ were also attached to non-mainstream and fringe movements. Given this historical context, World Hindu Congress’ that prides itself as the largest congregation of Hindus globally, rejected and totally discarded ‘Hinduism’

Yet another reason for World Hindu Congress to discard ‘Hinduism’ was the very origins of this coinage. Hinduism was introduced and popularised by Monier Monier Williams through his handbook on Hinduism. Let’s not ignore the fact that this handbook on ‘Hinduism’ was published way back in 1877 by Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge.

With this in the backdrop, one can easily infer the motive behind this intellectual dishonesty possibly committed as part of a larger game plan to build anti-Hindu narratives, demonize the civilization and not spare even the most pious and spiritual leaders in Hindu pantheon including the sages and saints. World Hindu Congress seems geared up to expose this well thought out 150-year old well-crafted plan.

Rightly, Hindus globally seem to have signalled shift away from this conspiracy and be represented by ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduness’ that’s more inclusive and an all-encompassing philosophy outlined by ‘Sanatan Dharma’.  Hindutva as defined by World Hindu Congress is simpler and represents eternal nature of its philosophy and the way of life distinct to Hindus over millennia. Again juxtaposing Hindutva against Sanatan Dharma owing to political expediency or individual prejudices was recognized by the World Hindu Congress through its declaration adopted unanimously. By placing Hindutva and Sanatan Dharma on diametrically opposite stands is perhaps one way of attacking everything that’s good and beautiful in the way of life itself.

In fact, Hindu centric Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat went a step further to explain how it was misrepresented to fuel bigotry. Hindutva was above all the ‘isms’ like capitalism, communism and materialism is what Dr Bhagwat asserted during inaugural session of World Hindu Congress last Friday. Even if these ‘isms’ and religions led to some materialistic gains for a few, happiness, bliss and peace was something that were found wanting even today.  

Dr Bhagwat’s speech explained in some detail ‘inclusiveness’ of Hindutva while differentiating it from what’s sought to be depicted by the rival ecosystem. For instance, ‘all sampradayas’ or traditions led to ultimate purification under the wider Hindutva umbrella. This tolerant umbrella was willing to not accommodate just bharatiya traditions but also foreign faith practitioners that descended on Bharat over ages.

This year’s theme for World Hindu Congress was,‘Jayasya Aayatnam Dharmah’, which loosely translated to mean “Dharma, the abode of victory”. Here again, the intent was made very clear. RSS chief said in no uncertain terms that Hindus were not seeking or looking at victory over ‘anyone else’. Instead, Hindus seek victory for all in progress, development and spread of prosperity at materialistic, spiritual and meta-physical levels. Mata Amritanandamayi added another spec to Hindutva and Sanatan Dharma. Amritanandamayi also known as ‘amma’ (the mother) from Kerala state pointed to Supreme Consciousness and Supreme Knowledge of the universe that differentiated Hindutva from others.

 World Hindu Congress decision to move ahead with Hindutva and Sanatana Dharma are a significant step going forward. This will be precursor to Hindus seeking to play a meaningful role in global affairs to realize ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’, entire humabity as one big family.

(the author is Director and Chief Executive of New Delhi based non-partisan think tank, Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies)

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