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For Veer Savarkar's book, see Hindutva (book).

Hindutva (Devanagari: हिन्दुत्व, "Hinduness", a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? ) is the term used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism. Members of the movement are called Hindutvadis [1]

In India, an umbrella organization called the Sangh Parivar champions the concept of Hindutva. The sangh comprises organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bajrang Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

This ideology has existed since the early 20th century, forged by Veer Savarkar, but came to prominence in Indian politics in the late 1980s, when two events attracted a large number of mainstream Hindus to the movement. The first of these events was the Rajiv Gandhi government's use of its large Parliamentary Majority to overturn a Supreme Court verdict granting alimony to an old woman that had angered many Muslims (see the Shah Bano case). The second was the dispute over the 16th century Mughal Babri Mosque in Ayodhya — built by Babur after his first major victory in India. The Supreme Court of India refused to take up the case in the early 1990s, leading to a huge outcry. Tempers soon flared, and a huge number of nationalist Hindus from all parts of India razed the mosque in late 1992, causing nationwide communal riots. The razing of the mosque and subsequent conflict arguably lifted the BJP and Hindutva to international prominence.



Ancient Hindu flag with two pennants.

According to Savarkar, Hindutva is meant to denote the Hindu characteristic, or Hinduness.[2]

In a judgment the Supreme Court of India ruled that "no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage." The Court also ruled that "Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu and since the Hindu is disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, he tends to believe that the highest divine powers complement each other for the well-being of the world and mankind."[3]

Central concepts


Integral Humanism

It believes in an "integral" and "holistic" approach to create a harmonious society. It does not accept the Western political philosophies as a blueprint for the Indian society, because of their "preoccupation" with materialism, and their overall over-looking of the social well-being of the individual. Both capitalism and socialism are seen as inadequate – stimulating as they do from greed, class antagonisms, exploitation and social anarchy.[4]

Cultural Nationalism

According to this, the natives of India share a common culture, history and ancestry.

M S Golwalkar, one of the main proponents of Hindutva believed that India's diversity in terms of customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this diversity was not without the strong underlying cultural basis which was essentially native. He believed that the Hindu natives with all their diversity, shared among other things "the same philosophy of life", "the same values" and "the same aspirations" which formed a strong cultural and a civilizational basis for a nation.[5]

Savarkar similarly believed that the Indian subcontinent (which includes the area south of the Himalaya and the Hindu Kush or Akhand Bharat (undivided India, अखण्ड भारत) is the homeland of the Hindus. He considered "Hindus" as those who consider India (Bharat, भारत) to be their motherland (matrubhumi), fatherland (pitrubhumi, पितृभूमि) as well as their holy land (punyabhumi, पुण्यभूमि), hence describing it purely in cultural terms.[2].

RSS, one of the main votaries of Hindutva has stated that it believes in a cultural connotation of the term Hindu. "The term Hindu in the conviction as well as in the constitution of the RSS is a cultural and civilizational concept and not a political or religious dogma. The term as a cultural concept will include and did always include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The cultural nationality of India, in the conviction of the RSS, is Hindu and it was inclusive of all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland, including Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The answering association submit that it is not just a matter of RSS conviction, but a fact borne out by history that the Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although as religions they are not so."[6]


Emphasizing historical oppression of Hindus by Colonial invaders like the Muslims (see Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent) and the Christians (see Goa Inquisition) and the call to "reverse" the cultural influence resulting from these intrusions [5].

Social justice

The acceptance that Hindu social structure "is ridden with castes and communities", and that this has led to "barriers and segregation" and condemnation of "obnoxious vice of social inequality" and "untouchability".[7].The supporters of Hindutva have a positive outlook towards the Dalit community, which they aim to bring to leadership positions in their organizations.[8]

Uniform Civil Code

Leaders subscribing to Hindutva have been known for their demands for a Uniform Civil Code for all the citizens of India. They believe that differential laws based on religion violate Article 44 of the Indian Constitution and have sowed the seeds of divisiveness between different religious communities[9].

The advocates of Hindutva often use the term pseudo-secularism to refer to policies which they believe are unduly favorable towards the Muslims and Christians. They oppose what they see as a 'separate-but-equal' system; some supporters of Hindutva see it as the Indian National Congress party's effort to woo the sizable minority vote bank at the expense of true equality[10]. The subject of a Uniform Civil Code, which would remove special religion-based provisions for different religions (Hindus, Muslims, Christians, etc) from the Indian Constitution, is thus one of the main agendas of Hindutva organizations[11]. The Uniform Civil Code is opposed by Muslims[12] and political parties like the Indian National Congress and The Communist Party of India (Marxist)[13]

Followers of Hindutva have questioned differential religious laws in India which allows polygamy and triple talaq among Muslims and thereby compromises on the status of Muslim women and "marginalizes" them[14].

The passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 by Rajiv Gandhi government to dilute the secular judgment of Supreme Court under pressure from the conservative Muslims was opposed by Hindutva organisations. The new act, in tune with the Shariat, denied even utterly destitute Muslim divorcees the right to alimony from their former husbands.[15]

Protection of Hindu interests

The followers of Hindutva are known for their criticism of the Indian government as too passive with regard to the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus[16][17] by Kashmiri Muslim separatists and advocates of Hindutva wish a harder stance in Jammu and Kashmir.[18]

They have called for the protection of native Hindu traditions[19] holy structures, rivers[20] and the cow (which is considered holy by Hindus)

Hindu nationalists have the stated aim of uniting the Hindu society which is plagued by casteism, regionalism, and passive religion.

Views on other faiths

The votaries of Hindutva believe that the way Muslims and Hindus have treated each other in the past is a one-way compromise and they intend on making society more balanced and fair towards the majority Hindu population.[21] The BJP has also invited Muslims to be a part of this new society and work with the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs for a better India.[22] Even more militant parties such as the Shiv Sena have invited Muslims to join and the party leader declared after the Babri Mosque incident,

"We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us.[23]"

Hindutva groups are supportive of the Jewish State of Israel, including Savarkar himself, who supported Israel during its formation.[24]. The RSS is politically pro-Israel and actively praised the efforts of Ariel Sharon when he visited India.[25][26] R.S.S spokesperson Ram Madhav recently expressed support for Israel.[27]

Views on Indian history

The Hindu organisations like the RSS believe that the history of India was written by the British with a condescending attitude towards the native people and their culture. M S Golwalkar writes that the history of ancient India was summed up as "Tanglewood Tales". Similar concerns were raised by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his essay, "The History of Bharatvarsha", in 1903. He calls the history books "nightmarish account of India". He writes "while the lands of the aliens existed, there also existed the indigenous country" meaning the latter was grossly being neglected. He adds that the British accounts of Indian history "throw a beam of artificial light on such a spot that in our own eyes the very profile of our country is made dark".[28]

M S Golwalkar argues that it was a delibrate Imperialist strategy to teach Indians a wrong version of history.[5] In this context, writings of Lord Macaulay,"the brain behind the system of English education", are referred to as an indication of this.[5]

Lord Macaulay had stated "We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and millions whom we govern-a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect." [29]

He had also written "No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respected classes 30 years hence.” [30]

Senior RSS leader H V Sheshadri refers to this attitude of "White man's burden" which he believes shaped the English education system in India and British version of Indian history.[31]

The RSS is opposed to the theory of Indo-Aryan migration to India, a number believing in the alternative Out of India theory. While largely uncontroversial in academia, the "Aryan Invasion theory" debate in India, involving e.g. Sita Ram Goel, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and Arun Shourie, is also a matter of politics.


Hindutva is commonly identified as the guiding ideology of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu Nationalist organizations, and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in particular. In general, Hindutvavaadis (followers of Hindutva) believe that they represent the well-being of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Ayyavazhi, Jainism and all other religions prominent in India.

Most nationalists are organized into political, cultural and social organizations. The first Hindutva organisation formed was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded in 1925. A prominent Indian political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (BJP) is closely associated with a group of organisations that advocate Hindutva. They collectively refer to themselves as the "Sangh Parivar" or family of associations, and include the RSS, Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Other organisations include:

The major political wing is the BJP which was in power in India's Central Government for six years from 1998 to 2004 and is now the main opposition party. It is also in power in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh,Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Uttaranchal. It is an alliance partner in the states of Orissa, Punjab, and Bihar.

Political parties pertaining to the Hindutva ideology are not limited to the Sangh Parivar. Examples of political parties independent from the Sangh's influence include Praful Goradia's Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh[32] and Uma Bharti's Bharatiya Janshakti Party.[33] The influence of these groups is relatively limited.

The controversial Maharashtrian political party, the Shiv Sena, converted its ideology to the Hindutva one in recent times. It has been very influential in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The party is not part of the Sangh Parivar but is associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Similar is the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is a Sikh religious party but maintains ties with Hindutva organizations, as they also represent Sikhism.[34]

Criticism and support

The opponents of Hindutva philosophy consider Hindutva ideology as a euphemistic effort to conceal communal beliefs and practices.

Many Indian Marxist sociologues have described the Hindutva movement as fascist in classical sense, in its ideology and class support specially targeting the concept of homogenised majority and cultural hegemony.[35] The Hindutva movement on the other hand terms such description as coming from the far left.[36][37] More moderate critics of Hindutva do not base their criticism on allegations of "fascism", but raise issues with regards to their sometimes-vacillating attitudes towards non-Hindus and secularism. The epithet of "fascism" is also used to evoke double standards against Hindus in political and academic discourse. The academia and polity have been accused of engaging in a form of anti-Hindu McCarthyism against Hindu political expression by leveling the accusation of "fascism" against anyone who expresses sympathy for Hindus.[38]

Marxist critics,[39] have used the political epithets of "Indian fascism" and "Hindu fascism" to describe the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. For example, Marxist social scientist Prabhat Patnaik has written that the Hindutva movement as it has emerged is "classically fascist in class support, methods and programme"[40]

Patniak bases this argument on the following "ingredients" of classical fascism present in Hindutva: the attempt to create a unified homogenous majority under the concept of 'the Hindus'; a sense of grievance against past injustice; a sense of cultural superiority; an interpretation of history according to this grievance and superiority; a rejection of rational arguments against this interpretation; and an appeal to the majority based on race and masculinity.

Views on Hindutva and fascism include those of the Christian convert to the RSS viewpoint, Anthony Elenjimittan, who based his views on RSS's symbolism of the Bhagva (the banner of lord Shiva), Dharma Chakra [the Wheel of Faith] and Satyameva Jayate [Truth alone triumphs] (one must note that these symbols are normative in Hinduism and bear no relation to Hindutva and the latter is the national motto of a secular democratic India).

The description of Hindutva as fascist has been condemned by pro-Hindutva authors such as Koenraad Elst who claim that the ideology of Hindutva meets none of the characteristics of fascist ideologies. Claims that Hindutva social service organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are "fascist" have been disputed by academics such as Vincent Kundukulam.[41]

Academics Chetan Bhatt and Parita Mukta reject the identification of Hindutva with fascism, because of Hindutva's embrace of cultural rather than racial nationalism, because of its "distinctively Indian" character, and because of "the RSS’s disavowal of the seizure of state power in preference for long-term cultural labour in civil society". They instead describe Hindutva as a form of "revolutionary conservatism" or "ethnic absolutism".[42].

Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul also rejects these allegations and views the rise of Hindutva as a welcome, broader civilizational resurgence of India.[43]

See also


  1. ^ Webb, Adam (2006). Beyond the global culture war: Global horizons. CRC Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780415953138.  
  2. ^ a b Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva, Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923)
  3. ^ Supreme Court on Hindu Hindutva and Hinduism
  4. ^ Upadhaya Deendayal, Integral Humanism
  5. ^ a b c d M S Golwalkar (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Publishers: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  6. ^ Quoting RSS General Secretary's reply to the Tribunal constituted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 to hear the case on the RSS, Organiser, June 6, 1993
  7. ^ M. G. Chitkara 2004, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Published by APH Publishing, ISBN 8176484652, 9788176484657 (Quoting Late RSS leader Balasaheb Deoras "If untouchability is not a sin, nothing is a sin").
  8. ^ Organize under Dalit leadership: RSS
  9. ^ BJP leader, Rajnath Singh demanding Uniform Civil Code
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 back on BJP Agenda
  12. ^
  13. ^ Uniform civil code will divide the country on communal lines: Congress
  14. ^
  15. ^ Shah Bano Case
  16. ^ See refs in Kashmiri Pandit
  17. ^ see refs in Wandhama massacre
  18. ^ Indian Summer looks set to become a long autumn by Robert Jenkins
  19. ^ Speech by RSS leader K S Sudarshan,Oct 18 2008
  20. ^ 'Save Ganga' Campaign by RSS, BJP
  21. ^ BJP Official Website See philosophy
  22. ^ Bharatiya Janata Party Official Website Hindutva: The Great Nationalistic Ideology
  23. ^ The Rediff Election Interview/Bal Thackeray,
  24. ^ Hindu-Zion
  25. ^ The Hindu
  26. ^ Rediff
  27. ^ Press spotlight on Sharon's India visit,BBC
  28. ^ Rabindranath Tagore, The History of Bharatavarsha, Bhadra 1309 Bengal Era (August 1903)
  29. ^ George Anderson, Manilal Bhagwandes Sudebar, The Last Days of the Company: A Source Book of Indian History, 1818-1858, Published by G. Bell, 1921
  30. ^ Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson, Imagined Communities:Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Edition: 2, revised Published by Verso, 1991, ISBN 0860915468, 9780860915461
  31. ^ Sheshadri H V, Tragic story of Partition, Publisher: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  32. ^ Jana Sangh promises to make India Hindu nation
  33. ^ Uma launches new party
  34. ^ SAD-BJP Alliance helped bridge Hindu Sikh gap Indian Express
  35. ^ Fascism of our times Prabhat Patnaik
  36. ^ eg. Partha Banergee
  37. ^ - Rajesh Tembarai Krishnamachari, South Asia Analysis Group
  38. ^ Puzzling Dimensions and Theoretical Knots in my Graduate School Research, Yvette Rosser
  39. ^ eg. Partha Banergee, Romila Thapar, Himani Bannerji, Prabhat Patnaik
  40. ^ "The Fascism of Our Times" Social Scientist VOl 21 No.3-4, 1993, p.69[2]
  41. ^ Christian Post,archive link
  42. ^ Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 23 Number 3 May 2000 pp. 407–441 ISSN 0141–9870 print/ISSN 1466–4356 online
  43. ^ Naipaul V.S. India, a million Mutinies now, Penguin 1992

Further reading

  • Andersen, Walter K., ‘Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching for the Hindu Nationalist Face’, In The New Politics of the Right: Neo–Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies, ed. Hans–Georg Betz and Stefan Immerfall (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), pp. 219–232. (ISBN 0-312-21134-1 or ISBN 0-312-21338-7)
  • Banerjee, Partha, In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1998). (ISBN 81-202-0504-2) (ISBN not available)
  • Bhatt Chetan, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg Publishers (2001), ISBN 1859733484.
  • Elst, Koenraad: The Saffron Swastika. The Notion of "Hindu Fascism". New Delhi: Voice of India, 2001, 2 Vols., ISBN 81-85990-69-7 [3], [4]
  • Elst, Koenraad: Decolonizing the Hindu Mind. Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism. Rupa, Delhi 2001.
  • Embree, Ainslie T. , ‘The Function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation’, in Accounting for Fundamentalisms, The Fundamentalism Project 4, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 617–652. (ISBN 0-226-50885-4)
  • Goel, Sita Ram: Perversion of India's Political Parlance. Voice of India, Delhi 1984. [5]
  • Goel, Sita Ram (editor): Time for Stock Taking. Whither Sangh Parivar? 1996.
  • Gold, Daniel, 'Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truths to Hindu Nation' in: Fundamentalisms Observed The Fundamentalism Project vol. 4, eds. M. E. Marty, R. S. Appleby, University Of Chicago Press (1994), ISBN 978-0226508788, pp. 531-593.
  • Nanda, Meera, The God Market. How Globalization is Making India more Hindu, Noida, Random House India. 2009. ISBN 978-81-8400-095-5
  • Ruthven, Malise, Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA (2007), ISBN 978-0199212705.
  • Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923).
  • Sharma, Jyotirmaya, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin Global (2004), ISBN 0670049905.
  • Shourie, Arun: A Secular Agenda. HarperCollins ISBN 81-7223-258-6
  • Smith, David James, Hinduism and Modernity, Blackwell Publishing ISBN 0-631-20862-3
  • Webb, Adam Kempton, Beyond the global culture war: Global horizons, CRC Press (2006), ISBN 978-0415953138.

External links


Simple English

Hindutva is an ideology which is centered around the following beliefs:

  • the entire Indian subcontinent (which includes countries other than India) is the homeland of the Hindus.
  • "Hindus" are those who believe India is their fatherland (pitribhumi) and holyland (punyabhumi)
  • emphasizing historical oppression of Hindus by invading forces like the Muslims and the Christians and the call to "reverse" the influence resulting from these intrusions.
  • opposing British colonialism
  • opposing Communism for a perceived weakening of Hindus.
  • a call to form a "Hindu Nation" (Hindu Rashtra)
  • Cow slaughter in India should be banned.

The Hindutva ideology is the central tenet of the organizations which advocate Hindu nationalism.

Many proponents of the Hindutva ideology portray violence against Muslims and Christians as a form of "self-defence" against "invaders".[1] As the Hindutva ideology has grown more powerful over the years, many Hindutva activists have partaken in riots against minority communities in India.[2] The Hindutva ideology is described as a fascist ideology.[3][4] Although this ideology is associated with Hinduism, majority of Hindus who are tolerant or "secular" do not support the Hindutva movement. Some tolerant or "secular" Hindus describe the supporters of the Hindutva movement as "Hindu Taliban".[5]


  1. Basu, Tapan Kumar (1993). Khaki shorts and saffron flags: a critique of the Hindu right. [New Delhi]: Orient Longman. pp. 20. ISBN 0-86311-383-4. 
  2. Paul Brass, The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, University of Washington Press, 2003: p1144.
  3. S. P. Udayakumar (2005). Presenting the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. p39. ISBN 9780275972097. 
  4. "The Fascism of Our Times" Social Scientist VOl 21 No.3-4, 1993, p.69[1]
  5. Fritz Blackwell (2004). India: A Global Studies Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. p126. ISBN 9781576073483. 


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