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Hindutva and Hinduism are not the same.

A practitioner of Hinduism may not believe in Hindutva but a proponent of Hindutva is a Hindu. Hindutva is a coinage of twentieth-century India under British rule. Then, who coined the word ‘Hindutva’?


Hindutva has become the talking point and debating issue with the rise of the BJP to power in India especially since 2014. In the General Elections of 2014, and in the General Elections of 2019, the BJP has won a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha or the Lower House of Indian parliament.

In article titled Democracy in India: Unite and rule in The Economist December 14th 2019 discusses about India ‘On the 70th anniversary of its constitution, India’s liberal democratic order is under threat’. In addition to an interview with Rajmohan Gandhi the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, it mentions about who coined ‘Hindutva’: ‘The biggest threat to the new order was posed by extremists who claimed to speak for the Hindu majority (then some 85% of India’s population, now 80%). The likes of Nathuram Godse, a zealot who shot dead Mr (Rajmohan) Gandhi’s grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi, called the republic’s leaders sellout, soft on Pakistan and needlessly concerned with the interests of non-Hindus. “India must be a Hindu land, reserved for Hindus,” wrote Vinayak Savarkar, who coined the term “Hindutva” for the politics of promoting Hindu interests above all.’


Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (Veer Savarkar, or Vir Savarkar) coined the term ‘Hindutva’ in 1923 when India was under the British Raj, and also refers to Hindu nationalism in India. Hindutva is translated into English as Hinduness but it may not capture the complete meaning of Hindutva. Britannica says, “In March 1910 Savarkar was arrested on various charges relating to subversion and incitement to war and was sent to India for trial and convicted. In a second trial he was convicted of his alleged complicity in the assassination of a British district magistrate in India, and after sentencing, he was transported to the Andaman Islands for detention “for life”. He was brought back to India in 1921 and released from detention in 1924. While imprisoned he wrote Hinditva: Who Is a Hindu? (1923) coining the term Hindutva (Hinduness), which sought to define Indian culture as a manifestation of Hindu values; this concept grew to become a major tenet of Hindu nationalist ideology.” Savarkar was implicated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Naturam Godese but was acquitted because of insufficient evidence. Savarkar and Godse were members of Hindu Mahasabha. Savarkar was also the president of Hindu Mahasabha for seven years.

Savarkar was born in Bhagur in India on 28 May 1883 and died in Mumabi on 26 December 1966. A website dedictated to him says he “left his mortal coil on 26 Dec 1966 in the highest Yogic tradition by way of prayopaveshan (giving up food and water unto death). He did this with a sense of deep contentment at having fulfilled his worldly duties. In an article published in the Marathi monthly, Sahyadri (Dec 1964), Savarkar had spelt out the difference between suicide and self-sacrifice”.


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