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For other uses, see Hindu (disambiguation).

Hindu (About this sound pronunciation ) can refer to either a religious or cultural identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism. However, in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" has been used in places to denote persons professing any religion originated in India (i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism). Further, the terms Hindu or Hindi are also used as a cultural identity to denote people living on the other side of the Indus river, thus poets like Iqbal, ministers like M.C.Chagla and organisations like the RSS used the terms Hindu and Hindi to represent any person living on the other side of the Indus river, irrespective of religion.

The word Hindu is derived (through Persian) from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, the historic local name for the Indus River in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent (modern day Pakistan and Northern India). According to Gavin Flood, "The actual term Hindu first occurs as a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)". The term Hindu then was a geographical term and did not refer to a religion.

The term Hindu was later used occasionally in some Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450). The Hindu religion (dharma) was set in apposition with Islam (turaka dharma) by poets such as Vidyapati, Kabir and Eknath. 16th- to 18th-century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata also made similar comparisons. Towards the end of the 18th century, the European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus. The term Hinduism was introduced into the English language in the 19th century to denote the religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions native to India.

With more than a billion adherents, Hinduism is the world's third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. The vast majority of Hindus, approximately 940 million, live in India. Other countries with large Hindu populations include Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, United States, Fiji, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada and the island of Bali in Indonesia.



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