She is wearing  a Cross. Must be Christian. He is wearing a skull cap, Must be Muslim. He is having beard but no moustache. Must be Wahabi Muslim. He is having a tilak (sacred mark) on his forehead. Must be Hindu. She is wearing ‘salwar Kameez’ or ‘sari’. Must be Hindu. She is having Bindi (sacred mark) on her forehead. Must be a Hindu. She is wearing Burka. Must be Muslim. She is Fatima. Must be Muslim. He is  Mohammed. Must be a Muslim. She is Arti. Must be Hindu. He is Rama Chandra. Must be Hindu. He is Johnson. Must be Christian. So is true about people from other religions and sects.

Of the three modes of communication, written, spoken and visual, the most common is visual. Your dress is a visual communication.

Your dress in  your statement of your religion EXCEPT in Office Uniform or Theater or politics.

Your name is your statement of your religion, EXCEPT Pseudo names on Twitter, Facebook, and other such media.

In a recent high court judgement,  a woman whose name was a Hindu name and she was dressed like a Hindu and said I am not Hindu, was told that ‘you are Hindu by name and dress, you can’t claim to be a non- Hindu’.

The court may be right as this tantamount to  misrepresentation. You look like a Hindu. You sound like a Hindu, but you say you are not Hindu. Are you impersonating religion?

But there are quite a few who look and sound like Hindus by name and dress only. They are not Hindus by conduct. The conduct should be more important than dress and name.

And that brings us to a question: Who is a Hindu?

Geographic Location

At one level, Hindu has been defined by territorial location.

People who lived at the banks of Indus River, were called Indoi by Greeks and Hindu by Persians.

Veer Savarkar was of the view that the people whose ancestors were born in the region surrounded by three oceans on east, west and South and to the Himalayas in North, and whose holy land has been Bharat, is a Hindus.

Customs, Practices and Values

At a more practical level, Hindus are those who followed customs, practices and values as prescribed by Veda, Smritis, Puranas and Shastras. Incidentally, customs, practices and values were never ordained (decreed) by a person or a book to Hindus as in Christianity and Islam and a few other religions. Of course, based on their logic and practicality, those customs, practices and values were followed far and wide. You may see evidence even today that Hindus living in far off places from Bharat still follow those customs, practices, and values.

In the context of Post- Independence law and law Courts

In the context of post- Independence law and law courts, the question as to who is a Hindu has been dealt with in a different way. Hindu is one to whom the Hindu law applies.

In the post- Independence era, Hindus are governed by

1. The Hindu Married Women’s Right to Separate Residence and Maintenance Act, 1949.

2. The Special Marriage Act, 1954.

3. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

4. The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956

5. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

6. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956

7. Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976

 8. The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978

And Hindu law applies to the following categories of persons:

1. Any person who is a Hindu, Jain, Sikh, or Buddhist;

2. Any person who is born of Hindu Parents;

3. Any person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew and who is not governed by any other law.

Hindus have Hindu Dharma as Hindu law for Centuries. These post-independence laws bring out two funny things:

  1. Indian Law provides a negative definition of Hindu. ‘Any person who is NOT a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew and who is not governed by any other law’.
  2. Laws were made for Hindus only and not for Indians or followers of other religions like Islam or Christianity.

On the face, it may look pro- Hindu and noble stance, but that is the nefarious design of Congress Party under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru who along with Muslim Leaders Jinnah, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan  and others divided the country on religious basis, accepting two nation theory- two separate nations for Muslims and Hindus, and still giving option to Muslims to choose to go to Pakistan or stay back in India (Hindustan, Bharat). And then under this scheme playing unabashedly vote bank politics, which under Jawahar Lal Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, was further dug deeper by amending the constitution of India by adding ‘secular and socialist’ before Republic of India, in the most undemocratic manner, by declaring emergency in the country, putting all opposition leaders in jails, and extending term of parliament beyond normal 5 years.

A Hindu is a Hindu who conducts like a Hindu.

A Hindu is a Hindu if S(he) takes pride in Hindu values and culture.

A Hindu is a Hindu if S(he) doesn’t baselessly and for gaining personal rewards and favors criticize Hindus, Hinduism and Hindutva.

Much can be written about what should be the conduct to be Hindu. Dress, name, geographic location don’t make you Hindu. In my opinion, in one word, to be Hindu, in the modern day world, means living by the canon:

जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी (Jananī janmabhūmiśca svargādapi garīyasī)

Mother and Motherland are higher (better) than heavens.

Those are the words of Hindu Icon, Maryada Purushotam Ram Chandra. You got to catch up with that if you wanted to call yourself a Hindu. You may, of course, self- assess.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.