Formidable natural barriers protect the land of India. The Himalayas guard the north and northeastern frontiers; the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal protect the Indian peninsula. Before the Partition, we literally had the Indus forming the northwest boundary of India. Amongst these marvellous guardians of the Indian sub-continent, the Indus was the most pervious. Here starts the story of our great nation’s name.
The early Aryans (probably coming from central Asia) who settled in India named the river the Sindhu, meaning ocean, a large sheet of water. Naturally, the land around and beyond the Sindhu came to be called the Sindh, the people inhabiting it were Sindhi and their language was Sindhi. The Persians pronounce the letter ‘S’ as ‘H’. Later on, when the Persians or the Iranians conquered India, the river came to be called the Hindu (better than calling it Hindhu!), the land became Hind, its people and language were now Hindi. Thus, everything related to this land was Hindi, but I wonder how the word Hindu came fit on people of a certain religion instead of all people living in the land. Maybe because other religions came to this land much later.
When the Muslim conquerors came to India, the place automatically became Hindustan – the sthan or place of the river Hindu/Sindhu. Its people were now Hindustani. The British probably pronounced the word Hindus as Indus, half eating up the letter ‘h’. Thus, the river was renamed Indus, its land was now India, and people and their culture came to be called Indian.
It is very sad that most of us have forgotten this and we continue to describe others and ourselves with unnecessary adjectives relating to stupid things like caste, religion, state of origin and in extreme cases even the districts where we came from! Irrespective of whether we have even visited our native places! No wonder this nation often finds being torn apart on account of macabre incidents taking place in the name of religion and caste. No wonder inter-caste and inter-religion marriages still face opposition in the society.
Our Preamble describes our nation as being a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. Let us all remember how the name of our great country originated. I think this will resolve all the unnecessary social conflicts in this country and help us to build a peaceful and progressive society. Let us honor the name of our nation and live up to it. We are Indians first and Indians last. No need for anything in between.