Calling themselves Hindu in the 14th century

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 31 22:15:42 UTC 2000

Ven. Tantra writes:
>Although indigenous use of the term by Hindus themselves can be
>found as early as the fifteenth and sixteenth
>centuries, its usage was a derivative of Persian
>Muslim influences and did not represent anything more
>than a distinction between 'indigenous' or 'native'
>and foreign (mleccha)."

Atleast from 14th century onwards (see below for Kannada etc.,
inscriptions of the early Vijayanagar kings), Hindu as used by Muslims
or Hindus refers to a religious entity. Spreading from the South,
this use of the term Hindu as a religious category in the Northern
bhakti tradition seems to have started a century or so later.
Consider the parallel where bhakti mass movement starts in the South,
and goes North. I quote earlier discussion in Indology:

>I also tried to indicate in the two posts that colonial definition of
>"Hindu" (which now prevails) reduced the wider meaning of "Hindu" as
>a geographic cultural entity (from Persian Ind,Greek India, Islamic
>Hind/Hindostan/Mulke-Hindavi) to religious, i.e., the followers of the
>Vedas. (Prof. B. Gupt)

Prof. Luis Gonzalez-Reimann replied:
The notion that "Hindu" as a religious category is a colonial
fabrication does not stand up to scrutiny.  Let me quote from
D. Lorenzen (1995:12) as he discusses North Indian bhakti movements
  of the 15th and 16th centuries:

"...the poems of virtually all nirguNI saints beginning with Kabir
and Guru Nanak repeatedly refer to 'Hindus and Turks' and 'Hindus
and Muslims[musulaman]' in contexts that clearly show that
the authors had in mind religious, and not ethnogeographical,

What is not recognized in "Who invented Hinduism?" by Dr. Lorenzen
and Richard King's paper in the jl. Numen is the fact that
much earlier use of the term Hindu as a religious entity, distinct
from the Muslims, occurs in the South first. The Karnataka chiefs use
it and afterwards this usage travels North.

P. B. Wagoner, "Sultan among Hindu Kings": Dress, Titles, and
the Islamicization of Hindu culture at Vijayanagara,
JAS, JAS, 55.4 (Nov 1996), pp. 851-880

"In an inscription dated 1352, the second ruler of Vijayanagara's
first dynasty (the Sangama, c. 1330-1485)- Bukka I (r.1344-77)-had
himself described with the following series of titles:"the prosperous
great tributary, punisher of enemy kings, Sultan among Hindu kings,
The inscription represents the first documented use by a Vijayanagara
ruler of the title hiMdurAya suratrANa "Sultan among/of Hindu Kings".
In one form or another, this title continued in use by Bukka's
successors for at least another 250 years, through three changes
in dynasty, until as late as the opening years of the seventeenth
century [8]."

On p. 862, Wagoner lists tens of inscriptions from 14-15th centuries
employing the word Hindu. The years for inscriptions: 1352, 1354,
1358, 1425, 1507, and so on.

It is interesting that in this mileau where the term Hindu as
a religious category gets adopted by Hindus themselves,
Madava Vidyaranya starts the first Sankaran matha and propagates a
a myth that it was founded by the phlosopher Sankara himself.
After seeing the production of dvaita sect founder's hagiography,
Madava, the minister at the early court of Vijayanagar, probably
started writing the Sankara digvijaya text,- also a first. In the
Sankara-digvijaya, many shaivaite myths from Tamil hagiographic
tradition are recast for the life of Sankaracharya.
This remains not so well known.

N. Ganesan

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