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For the book by Veer Savarkar, see Hindutva (book).

Hindutva, a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, is the prominent set of movements advocating Hindu nationalism in India. An umbrella of organizations, called the Sangh Parivar, champions the concept of Hindutva.


Ancient Hindu flag with two pennants.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Hindutva ('Hindu-ness'), [is] an ideology that sought to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values".[1]

In a 1995 judgment, the Supreme Court of India 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 ... it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption ... that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion ... It may well be that these words are used in a speech to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant.[2]

According to Veer Savarkar, Hindutva is an inclusive term of everything Indic. He said:

Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. ... Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.[3]

Central concepts[edit]

Cultural nationalism[edit]

According to this, the natives of India share a common culture, history and ancestry. M S Golwalkar, one of the 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.[4]

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.[5]

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 term. The term as a cultural concept will include and did always include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. 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 and the Christians and the call to "reverse" the cultural influence resulting from these intrusions.[4]

Social justice[edit]

Adherents believe 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 claim to aim to bring to leadership positions in their organizations.[8]

Uniform Civil Code[edit]

Leaders subscribing to Hindutva have been demand 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 use the term pseudo-secularism to refer to policies which they believe are unduly favorable towards the Muslims and Christians. 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.[10] The Uniform Civil Code is opposed by Muslims[11] and political parties like the Indian National Congress and The Communist Party of India (Marxist)[12]

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.[13]

The passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 by the Rajiv Gandhi government, under pressure from conservative Muslims, to dilute the secular judgment of the Supreme Court, 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.[14]

Protection of Hindu interests[edit]

The followers of Hindutva are known for their criticism of the Indian government as too passive with regard to the carnage of Kashmiri Hindus[15][16] by Kashmiri Muslim separatists and advocates of Hindutva wish a harder stance in Jammu and Kashmir.[17]

They have called for the protection of native Hindu traditions,[18] holy structures, rivers[19] and the animals.[20]

Hindu nationalists have the stated aim of uniting the Hindu society.[citation needed]

Views on other faiths[edit]

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 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] RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav recently expressed support for Israel.[27]

Views on Indian history[edit]

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 deliberate British strategy to teach Indians a wrong version of history.[4] In this context, the writings of Lord Macaulay,"the brain behind the system of English education", are referred to as an indication of this.[4]

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.[29]

Further information: Indigenous Aryans and Indo-Aryan migration


Main article: Sangh Parivar

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, Hindutvavadis (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 - using the concept of Hindutva as a political tool. 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 currently the ruling party of India with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. As of June 2013 it is in power in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It is an alliance partner in the states of Punjab,and Goa. BJP ended its alliance with JDU in Bihar in June, 2013.

Political parties pertaining to the Hindutva ideology are not limited to the Sangh Parivar. Examples of political parties independent from the Sangh's influence but espouse the Hindutva ideology include Prafull Goradia's Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh,[30] Subramanian Swamy's Janata Party[31] and the Marathi nationalist Shiv Sena.[32] The Shiromani Akali Dal is a Sikh religious party, but maintains ties with Hindutva organisations, as they also represent Sikhism.[33]

Rajeev Menon, National President of the Hindu Mahasabha is active in South Indian States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Criticism and support[edit]

The opponents of Hindutva philosophy consider Hindutva ideology as a euphemistic effort to conceal communal beliefs and practices. Many Indian social scientists 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.[34] The Hindutva movement on the other hand terms such description as coming from the far left.[35][36]

Critics[37] 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."[38]

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.[38]

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.[39]

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".[40] Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS, said, "The country should have a Prime Minister who propounds Hindutva."[41] Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul also rejects these allegations and views the rise of Hindutva as a welcome, broader civilizational resurgence of India.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Essentials of Hindutva 
  4. ^ a b c d M S Golwalkar (1966), Bunch of thoughts, Publishers: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  5. ^ Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar: Hindutva, Bharati Sahitya Sadan, Delhi 1989 (1923)
  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, 6 June 1993
  7. ^ M. G. Chitkara 2004, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Published by APH Publishing, ISBN 81-7648-465-2, ISBN 978-81-7648-465-7 (Quoting Late RSS leader Balasaheb Deoras "If untouchability is not a sin, nothing is a sin").
  8. ^ "Organise under Dalit leadership: RSS to Hindus". The Times of India. 
  9. ^ "BJP calls for Uniform Civil Code". expressindia.com. 
  10. ^ Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 back on BJP Agenda http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Uniform-civil-code-Article-370-back-on-BJP-agenda/317218/
  11. ^ Press Trust of India (2003-08-02). "Muslim leaders oppose uniform civil code". Express India. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  12. ^ "Rediff On The NeT: Uniform civil code will divide the country on communal lines: Congress". rediff.com. 
  13. ^ "Organiser - Content". organiser.org. 
  14. ^ "The Hindu : The Shah Bano legacy". hinduonnet.com. 
  15. ^ See refs in Kashmiri Pandit
  16. ^ see refs in Wandhama massacre
  17. ^ Indian Summer looks set to become a long autumn by Robert Jenkins
  18. ^ "Ouch, Something seems wrong!!". organiser.org. 
  19. ^ 'Save Ganga' Campaign by RSS, BJP
  20. ^ India Votes: Lok Sabha & Vidhan Sabha Elections 2001-2005, p. 115, Mahendra Singh Rana - 2006
  21. ^ BJP Official Website See philosophy
  22. ^ Bharatiya Janata Party Official Website Hindutva: The Great Nationalistic Ideology
  23. ^ The Rediff Election Interview/Bal Thackeray,Rediff.com
  24. ^ Hindu-Zion
  25. ^ "India's changing stand". hinduonnet.com. 
  26. ^ "RSS slams Left for opposing Sharon's visit". rediff.com. 
  27. ^ Press spotlight on Sharon's India visit,BBC
  28. ^ Rabindranath Tagore, The History of Bharatavarsha, Bhadra 1309 Bengal Era (August 1903)
  29. ^ Sheshadri H V, Tragic story of Partition, Publisher: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana
  30. ^ "Yahoo India News - Latest India News & World News Headlines". Yahoo News India. 
  31. ^ "India can be revived if 'Hindutva' is voted with majority ! – Dr. Subramanian Swamy -News". forumforhinduawakening.org. 
  32. ^ "Shiv Sena for PM with Hindutva view". http://www.hindustantimes.com/. 
  33. ^ SAD-BJP Alliance helped bridge Hindu Sikh gap Indian Express
  34. ^ Fascism of our times Prabhat Patnaik
  35. ^ e.g. Partha Banergee
  36. ^ - Rajesh Tembarai Krishnamachari, South Asia Analysis Group
  37. ^ e.g. Partha Banergee, Romila Thapar, Himani Bannerji, Prabhat Patnaik
  38. ^ a b "The Fascism of Our Times" Social Scientist VOl 21 No.3-4, 1993, p.69 [2]
  39. ^ Christian Post, archive link
  40. ^ Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 23 Number 3 May 2000 pp. 407–441 ISSN 0141–9870 print/ISSN 1466–4356 online
  41. ^ "Country needs a PM who propounds Hindutva: RSS". Zee News. 
  42. ^ Naipaul V.S. India, a million Mutinies now, Penguin 1992

Further reading[edit]


  • 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)
  • Desai, Radhika. 'A Latter Day Fascism', Economic and Political Weekly, 30 August 2014, Volume XLIX, no. 35, pp. 48-58.
  • 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)
  • 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 978-0-226-50878-8, pp. 531–593.
  • Sharma, Arvind (2002). "On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva". Numen 49 (1): 1–36. JSTOR 3270470. 


  • Banerjee, Partha, In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1998). ISBN 978-8120205048
  • Bhatt Chetan, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg Publishers (2001), ISBN 1-85973-348-4.
  • Desai, Radhika. Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics, New Delhi: Three Essays, Second Edition, 2004.
  • Jaffrelot, Christophe: The Hindu Nationalist Movement of India, Columbia University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0231103350
  • Nanda, Meera, The God Market. How Globalization is Making India more Hindu, Noida, Random House India. 2009. ISBN 978-81-8400-095-5
  • Nussbaum, Martha C., The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India's Future, Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-674-03059-6
  • Ruthven, Malise, Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA (2007), ISBN 978-0-19-921270-5.
  • Sharma, Jyotirmaya, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin Global (2004), ISBN 0-670-04990-5.
  • 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 978-0415953139.

Hindu nationalist sources

External links[edit]