Hinduism, unlike other religions (Western term used- do note that Hinduism is not a “religion” as per practical thinking), is not comprised of any central authority or core figure/books. Adding Hinduism under the category of “religion” is itself considered as an intellectual crime by those who understand the meaning and philosophies of most Hindu faiths.
The word “Hindu” originates from the entry of Arabs in India, who had a keen interest in the rich spices and metals which had made India famous around the globe. The word “Hind” was a prefix used for the geographical stretch that extended beyond the Sindh river which is now flowing in Pakistan. India was referred to as “Hindustan”, which meant the land of the Hindus.
In this context, the word “Hindu” was used as a reference to the local people who followed the variety of indigenous traditions along the stretch of modern day India and Pakistan. This made “Hinduism” more of a cultural identity, than a religion. A quick look into the modern history textbooks would make you notice that it is difficult to erase the cultural identity of people, even though it may have faced centuries of foreign invasion by the Mughals and Europeans. The invaders who attacked India slowly began to assimilate with the locals and adopted some of the traditions which were followed by the indegenious people, and that too despite the rigid blasphemy and Apostasy laws which are prevalent and punishable by death in many Abrahamic religions, particularly Islam.
In fact, if you compare Bahadur Shah Zafar’s administration conduct with that of traditional Arabic conduct, you’d notice that the Mughals had themselves begun to slowly assimilate with the locals of India (and slowly become “Hindus”) and a vast distinction was starting to emerge. At the time of Emperor Akbar the first, a new language began to evolve which we today call “Hindustani”. The original script of this language was Persian, but the vocabulary of it was derived from various indegenious languages such as Sanskrit, Maithili, Bhojouri and Khadi Boli (others also include Punjabi, Bengali and Arabic).
Another important point to discuss is the propping up of numerous rebellions under the Islamic Empires, which did not permit any empire to stretch their territory to the Southern tip of India. Even though some empires managed to conquer a few kingdoms in the Deccan-South, it never really lasted long due to the rebellions from within as well as outside the empire’s administration. The Islamic population from the Middle East were mainly concentrated in the urban areas and the capital city, where the Emperor needed them for official work. The large chunk of the population were still local Hindus who had no intention to continue paying the Jaziya tax or face scrutiny for visiting their pilgrimage sites.
Hindu culture emerged as the soul of India, the core values of it snowballed into Indian-ism. The word “Indian” and “Hindu” became synonyms of each other. This became the base of a new ideology that took shape in the political landscape of our country which shaped the thought-process of a large number of youth within India- Hindutva.
When compared to the Western religions, the Hindus have had the most flexible belief system which is hard to replicate if you want to create a western “religion”. There are no strict rules on who or what you want to worship in this category of indegenious faiths; in fact, many of the revolutionaries in India have been Hindu atheists, and are still revered across India!
As an Indian revolutionary, freedom fighter and freethinker, Veer Savarkar was a well-known atheist who became instrumental in the creation of the Hindutva ideology. He became the forefront of the non-Congress opposition to the British rule in India. Savarkar created a secret society that assassinated key British officers in an attempt to avenge the deaths of many freedom fighters that died protesting against British rule.
His contributions are still considered legendary by many Hindus throughout the country.