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Title: Hindutva  
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Subject: Hindu Nationalism, Bharatiya Janata Party, Sangh Parivar, Koenraad Elst, Rajnath Singh
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Hindutva, or "Hinduness", a term coined by Vishva Hindu Parishad, along with the older term Hindu Rashtra (translation: Hindu nation).


  • Historical background 1
    • Savarkar 1.1
    • Hedgewar and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 1.2
    • Bharatiya Jana Sangh 1.3
    • Golwalkar 1.4
    • Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party 1.5
  • Definition 2
  • Central concepts 3
    • Cultural nationalism 3.1
    • Decolonization 3.2
    • Social justice 3.3
    • Uniform Civil Code 3.4
    • Protection of Hindu interests 3.5
  • Views on other faiths 4
  • Views on Indian history 5
  • Organisations 6
  • Criticism and support 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Historical background

The term Hindu, cognate with Sanskrit Sindhu, was used in Iran to refer to the lands of the Rigvedic rivers, the Punjab region, as well as the areas beyond. The equivalent Arabic term al-Hind gave rise to another notion of "Hindu" meaning "Indian" as an adjective as well as to name of the people of India. After the Arab invasion of Sindh, the term came to signify the people that followed Indian religions. By converting to Islam, these people were deemed to have stopped being "Hindus" and become Muslims. After the advent of Orientalism in the 19th century the term "Hinduism" (the Indian religion) was coined to refer to the ancient religion of India. A third meaning of "Hindu" was now derived as the followers of this particular religion Hinduism. All three meanings, viz., Indian, follower of Indian religions, and follower of Hinduism, play a role in the notion of Hindutva, meaning "Hinduness" coined in the early 20th century.[1][a 1]


Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an Indian independence movement activist interned in Ratnagiri prison in the 1920s, sought to disassociate the term Hindu from Hinduism. His tract, Essentials of Hindutva,[2] better known under the later title Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?, defined a Hindu as one who was born of Hindu parents and regarded India as his motherland as well as holy land. The three essentials of Hindutva were said to be the common nation (rashtra), common race (jati) and common culture/civilisation (sanskriti).[1] Hindus thus defined formed a nation that had existed since antiquity, Savarkar claimed, in opposition to the British view that India was just a geographical entity.[3]

This notion of Hindutva formed the foundation for Savarkar's Hindu nationalism, which included in its fold the followers of all Indian religions including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, but excluded the followers of "foreign religions" such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.[1] It was a form of ethnic nationalism as understood by Clifford Geertz, Lloyd Fallers and Anthony D. Smith.[4]

Savarkar's formulation of Hinduness was regarded in his time as akin to a scientific discovery, a "revelation".[5] Christophe Jaffrelot states that Savarkar's idea of Hindutva marked a "qualitative change" in Hindu nationalism.[6]

Hedgewar and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Hindu Samaj" (Hindu Society).[10] In the words of an RSS publication, "it became evident that Hindus were the nation in Bharat and that Hindutva was Rashtriyatva [nationalism]," [11]

Bharatiya Jana Sangh

Both the terms "Hindutva" and "Hindu Rashtra" were used liberally in the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a party Savarkar became the president of in 1937. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, who served as its President in 1944 and joined the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet after Independence, was a Hindu traditionalist politician who wanted to uphold Hindu values but not necessarily to the exclusion of other communities. He asked for the membership of Hindu Mahasabha to be thrown open to all communities. When this was not accepted, he resigned from the party and founded a new political party in collaboration with the RSS. He understood Hinduism as a nationality rather than a community but, realising that this is not the common understanding of the term "Hindu," he chose "Bharatiya" instead of "Hindu" to name the new party, which came to be called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.[12] Thus, yet another term "Bharatiya" came into parlance with rough resemblance to Hindutva, which continues to be used in the successor party Bharatiya Janata Party to this day.


Whereas Savarkar's Hindutva was a cultural identity and religion was considered a part of the culture, M. S. Golwalkar, who succeeded Hedgewar as the Chief of the RSS, reversed the relationship: "with us culture is but a product of our all-comprehensive religion, a part of its body and not distinguishable from it." The "all-comprehensive religion" of the Indian nation is Hinduism of which the national culture is a product. "Those only are nationalist patriots, who with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and Nation next to their heart are prompted [...] to achieve that goal." The rest are "traitors and enemies to the National Cause."[13]

Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party

The RSS established a number of affiliate organisations after Indian Independence to carry its ideology to various parts of the society. Prominent among them is the

  • Veer Savarkar Website

External links

  • Elst, Koenraad: The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of "Hindu Fascism". New Delhi: Voice of India, 2001, 2 Vols., ISBN 81-85990-69-7 [2], [3]
  • Elst, Koenraad: Decolonizing the Hindu Mind. Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism. Rupa, Delhi 2001.
  • Goel, Sita Ram: Perversion of India's Political Parlance. Voice of India, Delhi 1984. [4]
  • Goel, Sita Ram (editor): Time for Stock Taking. Whither Sangh Parivar? Voice of India, Delhi, 1997. (ISBN 978-8185990484)
  • Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923).
  • Shourie, Arun: A Secular Agenda. HarperCollins ISBN 81-7223-258-6
  • Tembarai Krishnamachari, Rajesh: Call for an intellectual kshatriya South Asia Analysis Group, Paper 883, Jan 2004.

Hindu nationalist sources

  • Banerjee, Partha, In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1998). ISBN 978-8120205048
  • Bhatt, Chetan, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg Publishers (2001), ISBN 1-85973-348-4.
  • Desai, Radhika. Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics, New Delhi: Three Essays, Second Edition, 2004.
  • Nanda, Meera, The God Market. How Globalization is Making India more Hindu, Noida, Random House India. 2009. ISBN 978-81-8400-095-5
  • Nussbaum, Martha C., The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India's Future, Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-674-03059-6
  • Ruthven, Malise, Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA (2007), ISBN 978-0-19-921270-5.
  • Sharma, Jyotirmaya, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin Global (2004), ISBN 0-670-04990-5.
  • Smith, David James, Hinduism and Modernity, Blackwell Publishing ISBN 0-631-20862-3
  • Webb, Adam Kempton, Beyond the global culture war: Global horizons, CRC Press (2006), ISBN 978-0415953139.


  • Andersen, Walter K., ‘Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching for the Hindu Nationalist Face’, In The New Politics of the Right: Neo–Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies, ed. Hans–Georg Betz and Stefan Immerfall (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), pp. 219–232. (ISBN 0-312-21134-1 or ISBN 0-312-21338-7)
  • Desai, Radhika. 'A Latter Day Fascism', Economic and Political Weekly, 30 August 2014, Volume XLIX, no. 35, pp. 48–58.
  • Embree, Ainslie T., ‘The Function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation’, in Accounting for Fundamentalisms, The Fundamentalism Project 4, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 617–652. (ISBN 0-226-50885-4)
  • Gold, Daniel, 'Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truths to Hindu Nation' in: Fundamentalisms Observed: The Fundamentalism Project vol. 4, eds. M. E. Marty, R. S. Appleby, University Of Chicago Press (1994), ISBN 978-0-226-50878-8, pp. 531–593.


Further reading


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 33.
  4. ^ Jaffrelot 1996, pp. 12-13.
  5. ^ Pandey 1993, p. 249 quoting:
    • Preface to the 4th edition of Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?: "the definition of [Hindutva] acted as does some scientific discovery of a new truth in re-shaping and re-co-ordinating all current Thought and Action... At its touch [sic] arose an organic order where a chaos of castes and creeds ruled."
    • Swami Shraddhanand: "It must have been one of those Vaidik dawns indeed which inspired our Seers with new truths, that revealed to the author of Hindutva this Mantra... this definition of Hindutva!!"
  6. ^ Jaffrelot 1996, pp. 32.
  7. ^ Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 34.
  8. ^ Keer 1988, p. 170 cited in Jaffrelot 1996, p. 33
  9. ^
  10. ^ Goyal 1979, Appendix V.
  11. ^ Bharat Prakashan 1955, pp. 24–25 quoted in Goyal 1979, p. 58
  12. ^ Graham 1968, pp. 350-352.
  13. ^ Golwalkar 2007, pp. 103, 117 quoted in Panikkar 1993, pp. 24–25. See also Panikkar 2004
  14. ^ Katju 2013, pp. 3-4.
  15. ^ Jaffrelot 1996, pp. 326-327.
  16. ^ Jaffrelot 1996, p. 343.
  17. ^ The Hindutva Road, Frontline, 4 December 2004
  18. ^ Krishna 2011, p. 324.
  19. ^ 'Timeline: Ayodhya crisis', BBC News, October 17, 2003.
  20. ^ BJP Philosophy of Hindutva
  21. ^ Hindutva is India’s identity: RSS chief, The Hindu, 22 July 2013
  22. ^ Augustine 2009, p. 69.
  23. ^ Hindutva Oxford English Dictionary, 2011.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Hindutva is a secular way of life, Ram Jethmalani, The Sunday Guardian, 5 March 2015
  26. ^ a b c d Golwalkar, M. S. (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  27. ^ Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva, Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923)
  28. ^
  29. ^ M. G. Chitkara 2004, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Published by APH Publishing, ISBN 81-7648-465-2, ISBN 978-81-7648-465-7 (Quoting Late RSS leader Balasaheb Deoras "If untouchability is not a sin, nothing is a sin").
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 back on BJP Agenda, Financial Express, 1 June 2008
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ See refs in Kashmiri Pandit
  38. ^ see refs in Wandhama massacre
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ 'Save Ganga' Campaign by RSS, BJP, Archived 24 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^
  43. ^ BJP Official Website See philosophy
  44. ^ Bharatiya Janata Party Official Website Hindutva: The Great Nationalistic Ideology
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ SAD-BJP Alliance helped bridge Hindu Sikh gap Indian Express, 19 January 1999 Archived 17 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^
  52. ^ e.g. Partha Banerjee's views in "Showing our True Colors: Culture, Nation and the Left, Priyamvada Gopal, Ghadar, 26 November 1997
  53. ^ - Rajesh Tembarai Krishnamachari, South Asia Analysis Group
  54. ^ e.g. Partha Banerjee, Romila Thapar, Himani Bannerji, Prabhat Patnaik
  55. ^ a b "The Fascism of Our Times" Social Scientist Vol. 21 No.3-4, 1993, p.69 [1]
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ V. S. Naipaul, India, A Million Mutinies Now, Penguin 1992


  1. ^ The term is known to have been in use at least by 1913. "As Frenchmen are justly proud of their Latinity, so are Bengalis justly proud of their Hindutva, of the fact that almost every Bengali word can be traced to a Sanskrit origin." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1913. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2011)


See also

Academics Chetan Bhatt and Parita Mukta reject the identification of Hindutva with fascism, because of Hindutva's embrace of cultural rather than racial nationalism, because of its "distinctively Indian" character, and because of "the RSS’s disavowal of the seizure of state power in preference for long-term cultural labour in civil society." They instead describe Hindutva as a form of "revolutionary conservatism" or "ethnic absolutism".[57] V.S. Naipaul also rejects these allegations and views the rise of Hindutva as a welcome, broader civilizational resurgence of India.[58]

The description of Hindutva as fascist has been condemned by pro-Hindutva authors such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are "fascist" have been disputed by academics such as Vincent Kundukulam.[56]

Patnaik bases this argument on the following "ingredients" of classical fascism present in Hindutva: the attempt to create a unified homogeneous majority under the concept of "the Hindus"; a sense of grievance against past injustice; a sense of cultural superiority; an interpretation of history according to this grievance and superiority; a rejection of rational arguments against this interpretation; and an appeal to the majority based on [55]

Critics[54] have used the political epithets of "Indian fascism" and "Hindu fascism" to describe the ideology of the [55]

The opponents of Hindutva philosophy consider Hindutva ideology as a euphemistic effort to conceal communal beliefs and practices. Many Indian social scientists have described the Hindutva movement as fascist in classical sense, in its ideology and class support specially targeting the concept of homogenised majority and cultural hegemony.[51] The Hindutva movement on the other hand terms such description as coming from the far left.[52][53]

Criticism and support

Rajeev Menon, National President of the Hindu Mahasabha is active in South Indian States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

[50] Political parties pertaining to the Hindutva ideology are not limited to the

The major political wing is the BJP which was in power in India's Central Government for six years from 1998 to 2004 and is currently the ruling party of India with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. As of June 2013 it is in power in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It is an alliance partner in the states of Punjab,and Goa. BJP ended its alliance with JDU in Bihar in June, 2013.

Most nationalists are organised into political, cultural and social organisations - using the concept of Hindutva as a political tool. The first Hindutva organisation formed was the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Other organisations include:

Hindutva is commonly identified as the guiding ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in particular. In general, Hindutvavadis (followers of Hindutva) believe that they represent the well-being of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Ayyavazhi, Jainism and all other religions prominent in India.


Senior RSS leader H. V. Sheshadri refers to this attitude of "White man's burden" which he believes shaped the English education system in India and British version of Indian history.[46]

M. S. Golwalkar argues that it was a deliberate British strategy to teach Indians a wrong version of history.[26] In this context, the writings of Lord Macaulay, "the brain behind the system of English education", are referred to as an indication of this.[26]

The Hindu organisations like the RSS believe that the history of India was written by the British with a condescending attitude towards the native people and their culture. M. S. Golwalkar writes that the history of ancient India was summed up as "Tanglewood Tales". Similar concerns were raised by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his essay, "The History of Bharatvarsha", in 1903. He calls the history books "nightmarish account of India". He writes "while the lands of the aliens existed, there also existed the indigenous country" meaning the latter was grossly being neglected. He adds that the British accounts of Indian history "throw a beam of artificial light on such a spot that in our own eyes the very profile of our country is made dark".[45]

Views on Indian history

The votaries of Hindutva believe that the way Muslims and Hindus have treated each other in the past is a one-way compromise and they intend on making society more balanced and fair towards the majority Hindu population.[43] The BJP has also invited Muslims to be a part of this new society.[44]

Views on other faiths

Hindu nationalists have the stated aim of uniting the Hindu society.

They have called for the protection of native Hindu traditions,[40] holy structures, rivers[41] and the animals.[42]

The followers of Hindutva are known for their criticism of the Indian government as too passive with regard to the carnage of Kashmiri Hindus[37][38] by Kashmiri Muslim separatists and advocates of Hindutva wish a harder stance in Jammu and Kashmir.[39]

Protection of Hindu interests

[36] The reversal of the decision in

Followers of Hindutva have questioned differential religious laws in India which allows polygamy and "triple talaq" divorce among Muslims and thereby compromises on the status of Muslim women and "marginalises" them.[35]

[34]Communist Party and political parties like the Indian National Congress and the [33] The Uniform Civil Code is opposed by Muslims[32] The advocates of Hindutva use the phrase "

Leaders subscribing to Hindutva have been demand a Uniform Civil Code for all the citizens of India. They believe that differential laws based on religion violate Article 44 of the Indian Constitution and have sowed the seeds of divisiveness between different religious communities.[31]

Uniform Civil Code

[30] The supporters of Hindutva have a positive outlook towards the [29] Adherents believe Hindu social structure "is ridden with castes and communities", and that this has led to "barriers and segregation" and condemnation of "obnoxious vice of social inequality" and "untouchability".

Social justice

Emphasising historical "oppression" of Hindus by "colonial invaders" like the Muslims and the Christians and the call to "reverse" the cultural influence resulting from these intrusions.[26]


RSS, one of the main votaries of Hindutva, has stated that it believes in a cultural connotation of the term Hindu. "The term Hindu in the conviction as well as in the constitution of the RSS is a cultural and civilizational concept and not a political or religious term. The term as a cultural concept will include and did always include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. The cultural nationality of India, in the conviction of the RSS, is Hindu and it was inclusive of all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland, including Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The answering association submit that it is not just a matter of RSS conviction, but a fact borne out by history that the Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although as religions they are not so."[28]

Savarkar similarly believed that the Indian subcontinent, which included the area south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, or "Akhand Bharat" is the homeland of the Hindus. He considered as Hindus those who consider India to be their motherland, fatherland and holy land, hence describing it purely in cultural terms.[27]

According to this, the natives of India share a common culture, history and ancestry. M. S. Golwalkar, one of the proponents of Hindutva, believed that India's diversity in terms of customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this diversity was not without the strong underlying cultural basis which was essentially native. He believed that the Hindu natives with all their diversity, shared among other things "the same philosophy of life", "the same values" and "the same aspirations" which formed a strong cultural and a civilizational basis for a nation.[26]

Cultural nationalism

Central concepts

Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. ... Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.[2]

According to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Hindutva is an inclusive term of everything Indic. He said:

In a 1995 judgment, the Supreme Court of India ruled that "Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism ... it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption ... that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion ... It may well be that these words are used in a speech to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant.[25]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Hindutva is an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life.[23] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "Hindutva ('Hindu-ness'), [is] an ideology that sought to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values".[24]


The BJP claims that Hindutva represents "cultural nationalism" and its conception of "Indian nationhood," but not a religious or theocratic concept.[20] It is "India's identity," according to the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat.[21] However, in today's terminology, "Hindu" firmly refers to the Hindu religion, not to an Indian nationality. Scholars believe that culture nationalism is just a euphemism meant to mask the creation of a state with a Hindu religious identity.[22]

A number of political developments in the 1980s such as the militant Khalistan movement, the influx of undocumented Bangladeshi immigration into Assam, Muslim mobilisation in the Shah Bano case as well as the Satanic Verses controversy caused a sense of vulnerability among the Hindus in India.[16] The VHP and the BJP utilised this sense of vulnerability to push forward a militant Hindutva nationalist agenda leading to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The BJP officially adopted Hindutva as its ideology in its 1989 Palampur resolution,[17][18] reversing the 1951 move of its original founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee. This led to the unlawful demolition of the Babri Masjid by rioters in 1992.[19]

In the 1970s, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh merged with a number of opposition parties to form the Janata Party. The Janata Party however disintegrated within a few years, ostensibly owing to the former Jana Sangh's RSS connections that the other constituents of the Janata Party did not approve of. The former Jana Sangh, now named Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People's Party), became politically isolated. Disillusioned with this experimentation with the mainstream, the RSS decided that it needed to build a Hindu vote bank and charged VHP with the task. The RSS activists encouraged the BJP to become an explicitly Hindu party, exploiting Hindu feelings. [15]


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