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Who is a Hindu?

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Who is a Hindu?

Meaning and Definition.


Meaning and Definition: The term “Hindu” is derived from the Greek word “Indoi”. The Greeks used to call the inhabitant of the “Indus Valley” as “Indoi”. The law, which governs the Hindus is called “Hindu Law”. Eg.

  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955;

  • The Hindu Succession Act, 1956;

  • The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956;

  • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, etc.

According to ancient Hindu Texts, a Hindu is born and cannot be made. In other words, the status of a person as a Hindu is determined by his/her birth to Hindu parents. However, this view is not valid legally since a person can become a Hindu by conversion to Hinduism. Similarly, a Hindu can destroy his/her status as Hindu by conversion to Christianity (to become a Christian) or Islam (to become a Muslim/ Mohammedan). Therefore, it is made clear that Hindus are not only born but also made. Therefore, the term ‘Hindu’ includes “those born as Hindus and also those who become converts to Hinduism”. Hindus are therefore born as well as made and thus the applicability of Hindu Law is not restricted or confined to those persons only who are Hindus by birth. Its application has been extended to those persons also who have accepted the Hindu religion or who convert to Hinduism. A non-Hindu may renounce his religion and become Hindu by conversion by any of the three methods:

a)if he performs the ceremony of conversion prescribed by the caste or community to which he converts;

b)if he expresses an intention to become a Hindu and actually lives as a Hindu and the community or caste into the fold of which he is ushered in accepts him as a member of

that community or caste;

c)if he declares that he is a Hindu and lives as a Hindu. It is very difficult to define the term “ Hindu” in terms of the Hindu religion. Hindu is one, who is brought up as Hindu. However, from I he points of view of the application of Hindu Law under Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 2 of the Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, and Section 3 of the Hindu Minority and (guardianship Act, 1956, the following persons are regarded as Hindus and are governed by the Hindu law.

In other words, Hindu law is applicable to the following persons:

a)any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana, or Arya Samaj;

b)any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina, or Sikh by religion, and

c)any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Apt extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew by religion unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu Law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed.

The following persons are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs by religion, as the case may be:

a)any child legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs by religion;

b)any child, legitimate, or illegitimate, one of whose parents is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of the tribe, community, group, or family to which such parent belongs or belonged;

any child, legitimate, or illegitimate who has been abandoned both by his father and mother or whose parentage is not known and who in either case is brought up as a Hindu, Jaina, or Sikh; and

a)any person who is a convert or re-convert to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, or Sikh religion.

As stated above, a Hindu may be subdivided into the following categories namely:

1. Hindu by Religion.

2. Hindu by Conversion (Converts and Reconverts); and

3. Hindu by Birth.


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