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Johnson's Hindostan or British India map, 1864

Hindustan (About this sound pronunciation ) is the Persian name for India, broadly the Indian subcontinent, which later became an endonym.[1][2] After the Partition of India, it continues to be used as a name for the Republic of India.[3][4][5]

A secondary meaning of Hindustan is as a geographic term for the Indo-Gangetic Plain in north India.[6]


Hindustan is derived from the Persian word Hindū cognate with the Sanskrit Sindhu.[7] The Proto-Iranian sound change *s > h occurred between 850–600 BCE, according to Asko Parpola.[8] Hence, the Rigvedic sapta sindhava (the land of seven rivers) became hapta hindu in the Avesta. It was said to be the "fifteenth domain" created by Ahura Mazda, apparently a land of 'abnormal heat'.[9] In 515 BCE, Darius I annexed the Indus valley including Sindhu, the present day Sindh, which was called Hindu in Persian.[10] During the time of Xerxes, the term "Hindu" was also applied to the lands to the east of Indus.[7]

In middle Persian, probably from the first century CE, the Sanskrit suffix -stān was added, indicative of a country or region, forming the present word Hindūstān.[11] Thus, Sindh was referred to as Hindūstān in the Naqsh-e-Rustam inscription of Shapur I in c. 262 CE.[12][13]

Scholar Bratindra Nath Mukherjee states that from the lower Indus basin, the term Hindūstān got gradually extended to "more or less the whole of the subcontinent". The Greco-Roman name "India" and the Chinese name Shen-tu also followed a similar evolution.[12][14]

Current usage

Nation State

"Hindustan" is often used to refer to the modern day Republic of India.[15][4][5] Slogans involving the term are commonly heard at sports events and other public programmes involving teams or entities representing the modern nation state. In marketing, it is also commonly used as an indicator of national origin in advertising campaigns and is present in many company names. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and his party the Muslim League, insisted on calling the modern day Republic of India as 'Hindustan' to signify its Hindu majority population.[16]


In one usage among Hindustani speakers in India, the term 'Hindustani' refers to an Indian, irrespective of religious affiliation. Among non-Hindustani speakers e.g. Bengali-speakers, "Hindustani" is sometimes used to describe persons who are from the upper Ganges, also regardless of religious affiliation, but rather as a geographic term.

Hindustani is sometimes used as an ethnic term applied to South Asia (e.g., a Mauritian or Surinamese man with roots in South Asia might describe his ethnicity by saying he is Hindustani). For example, Hindoestanen is a Dutch word used to describe people of South Asian origin, in the Netherlands and Suriname.


Hindustani is also used to refer to the Hindustani language (not to be confused with Hindi, which is a register of Hindustani alongside Urdu, another register of the same language), which derives from the Khariboli dialect under the Delhi Sultanate of present-day Western Uttar Pradesh, Southern Uttarakhand and Delhi areas.

Historical usages

Babur Nama
The country of Hindustan is extensive, full of men and full of produce. On the east, south and even on the west it ends at its great enclosing ocean (muḥiṭ-daryā-sī-gha). On the north it has mountains which connect with those of Hindu-Kush, Kafiristan and Kashmir. North-west of it lies Kabul, Ghazni and Qandahar. Dihlī is held (aīrīmīsh) to be the capital of the whole of Hindustan...
Babur Nama, A. S. Beveridge, trans., vol. 1, sec. iii: 'Hindustan'[17]

Early Persian scholars had limited knowledge of the extent of India. After the advent of Islam and the Muslim conquests, the meaning of Hindustan interacted with its Arabic variant Hind and almost became synonymous with it. The Arabs, enagaing in oceanic trade, included all the lands from Tis in western Balochistan (near modern Chabahar) to the Indonesian archipelago, in their idea of Hind, especially when used in its expansive form as "Al-Hind". Hindustan did not acquire this elaborate meaning. It also did not acquire the distinction between Sind (roughly modern Pakistan) and Hind (the lands to the east of it).[1][18][19] The 10th century text Hudud al-Alam defined Hindustan as roughly the Indian subcontinent, with its western limit formed by the river Indus, southern limit going up to the Great Sea and the eastern limit at Kamarupa, the present day Assam.[14] For the next ten centuries, both Hind and Hindustan were used within the subcontinent with exactly this meaning, along with their adjectives Hindawi and Hindustani.[20][21][22]

North India

With the Turko-Persian conquests starting in the 11th century, a narrower meaning of Hindustan also took shape. The conqueres were liable to call the lands under their control as "Hindustan" ignoring the rest of the subcontinent.[23] In the early 11th century a satellite state of the Ghaznavids in the Punjab with its capital at Lahore was called "Hindustan".[24] After the Delhi Sultanate was established, north India, especially the Gangetic plains, came to be called "Hindustan".[23][25][26][27] Scholar Bratindra Nath Mukherjee states that this narrow menaing of Hindustan existed side by side with the wider meaning, and some of the authors used both of them simultaneously.[28]

The Mughal Empire (1526–1857) called its lands 'Hindustan'. The term 'Mughal' itself was never used to refer to the land. As the empire expanded, so too did 'Hindustan'. At the same time, the meaning of 'Hindustan' as the entire Indian subcontinent is also found in Baburnama and Ain-i-Akbari.[29]

Colonial usage

These dual meanings persisted with the arrival of Europeans. Rennel produced an atlas titled the Memoir of a Map of Hindoostan or the Mogul Empire in 1792, which was in fact a map of the Indian subcontinent. Rennel thus conflated the three notions, 'India', 'Hindustan' and the Mughal Empire.[30][31] J. Bernoulli, to whom Hindustan meant the Mughal Empire, called his French translation Lar Carte generale de l'Inde (General Map of India).[32] This 'Hindustan' of the British was divided into British-ruled territories (sometimes referred to as 'India') and the territories ruled by native rulers.[33] The British officials and writers, however, thought that the Indians used 'Hindustan' to refer to only North India.[34][27] An Anglo-Indian Dictionary published in 1886 states that, while Hindustan means India, in the "nativa parlance" it had come to represent the region north of Narmada River excluding Bihar and Bengal.[26]

During the independence movement, the Indians referred to their land by all three names: 'India', 'Hindustan' and 'Bharat'.[35] Mohammad Iqbal's poem

Sare jahāṃ se acchā Hindustāṃ hamārā
(the best of all lands is our Hindustan)

was a popular patriotic song among independence activists.[36]

Partition of India

The 1940 Lahore Resolution of the All-India Muslim League demanded sovereignty for the Muslim-majority areas in the northwest and northeast of India, which came to be called 'Pakistan' in popular parlance and the remaining India came to be called 'Hindustan'.[37] The British officials too picked up the two terms and started using them officially.[15]

However, this naming did not meet the approval of Indian leaders due to the implied meaning of 'Hindustan' as the land of Hindus. They insisted that the new Dominion of India should be called 'India', not 'Hindustan'.[38] Probably for the same reason, the name 'Hindustan' did not receive official sanction of the Constituent Assembly of India, whereas 'Bharat' was adopted as an official name.[39] It was recognised however that 'Hindustan' would continue to be used unofficially.[40]


  1. ^ a b Ahmad, S. Maqbul (1986), "Hind: The Geography of India according to the Medieaeval Muslim Geographers", in B. Lewis; V. L. Ménage; Ch. Pellat; J. Schacht, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Volume III (H–IRAM) (Second ed.), Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-12756-2 
  2. ^ Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 46: "They used the name Hindustan for India Intra Gangem or taking the latter expression rather loosely for the Indian subcontinent proper. The term Hindustan, which in the Naqsh-i-Rustam inscription of Shapur I denoted India on the lower Indus, and which later gradually began to denote more or less the whole of the subcontinent, was used by some of the European authors concerned as a part of bigger India. Hindustan was of course a well-known name for the subcontinent used in India and outside in mediaeval times."
  3. ^ "Sindh: An Introduction", Shaikh Ayaz International Conference – Language & Literature, archived from the original on 20 October 2007 
  4. ^ a b Sarina Singh (2009). Lonely Planet India (13, illustrated ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 276. ISBN 9781741791518. 
  5. ^ a b Christine Everaer (2010). Tracing the Boundaries Between Hindi and Urdu: Lost and Added in Translation Between 20th Century Short Stories (annotated ed.). BRILL. p. 82. ISBN 9789004177314. 
  6. ^ "Hindustan: Definition". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  7. ^ a b Sharma, On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva (2002), p. 3.
  8. ^ Parpola, The Roots of Hinduism (2015), Chapter 9.
  9. ^ Sharma, On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva (2002), p. 2.
  10. ^ Parpola, The Roots of Hinduism (2015), Chapter 1.
  11. ^ Habib, Hindi/Hindwi in Medieval Times (2011), p. 105.
  12. ^ a b Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 46.
  13. ^ Ray & Chattopadhyaya, A Sourcebook of Indian Civilization (2000), p. 553.
  14. ^ a b Ray & Chattopadhyaya, A Sourcebook of Indian Civilization (2000), p. 555.
  15. ^ a b White-Spunner, Barney (2017), Partition: The story of Indian independence and the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Simon & Schuster UK, p. 5, ISBN 978-1-4711-4802-6 
  16. ^ Pande, Aparna (2011). Explaining Pakistan’s foreign policy: escaping India. New York: Routledge. p. 14-15. ISBN 0415599008. At partition, the Muslim League tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the British that the two independent countries should be called Hindustan and Pakistan but neither the British nor the Congress gave in to this demand. It is important to note that Jinnah and the majority of the Pakistani policy-makers have often referred to independent India as "Hindustan," as an affirmation of the two nation theory.  
  17. ^ Ray & Chattopadhyaya, A Sourcebook of Indian Civilization (2000), p. 17.
  18. ^ Wink, Al-Hind, Volume 1 (2002), p. 5: "The Arabs, like the Greeks, adopted a pre-existing Persian term, but they were the first to extend its application to the entire Indianized region from Sind and Makran to the Indonesian Archipelago and mainland Southeast Asia."
  19. ^ Wink, Al-Hind, Volume 1 (2002), p. 145: "The Arabic literature often conflates 'Sind' with 'Hind' into a single term but also refers to 'Sind and Hind' to distinguish the two. Sind, in point of fact, while vaguely defined territorially, overlaps rather well with what is currently Pakistan. It definitely did extend beyond the present province of Sink and Makran; the whole of Baluchistan was included, a part of the Panjab, and the North-West Frontier Province."
  20. ^ Ali, M. Athar (January 1996), "The Evolution of the Perception of India: Akbar and Abu'l Fazl", Social Scientist, 24 (1/3): 80–88, JSTOR 3520120 
  21. ^ Ahmad, Imtiaz (2005), "Concepts of India: Expanding Horizons in Early Medieval Arabic and Persian Writing", in Ifran Habib, India — Studies in the History of an Idea, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, pp. 98–99, ISBN 978-81-215-1152-0 
  22. ^ Habib, Irfan (July 1997), "The Formation of India: Notes on the History of an Idea", Social Scientist, 25 (7/8): 3–10, JSTOR 3517600 
  23. ^ a b Shoaib Daniyal, Land of Hindus? Mohan Bhagwat, Narendra Modi and the Sangh Parivar are using ‘Hindustan’ all wrong, Scroll.in, 30 October 2017.
  24. ^ J. T. P. de Bruijn, art. HINDU at Encyclopædia Iranica Vol. XII, Fasc. 3, pp. 311-312, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hindu, accessed 6-05-2016
  25. ^ "Hindustan". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  26. ^ a b Yule, Henry; Burnell, Arthur Coke (1996) [first published 1886], Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary, Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 978-1-85326-363-7 : "Hindostan, n.p. Pers. Hindūstan. (a) 'The country of Hindūs', India. In modern native parlance the word indicates distinctively (b) India north of the Nerbudda, and exclusive of Bengal and Behar. The latter provinces are regarded as pūrb (see Poorub), and all south of the Nerbudda as Dakhan (see Deccan). But the word is used in older Mahommedan authors just as it is used in English school-books and atlases, viz., as (a) the equivalent of India Proper. Thus Babur says of Hindustan: 'On the East, the South and the West it is bounded by the Ocean'"
  27. ^ a b Macdonnell, Arthur A. (1968) [first published 1900]. A History of Sanskrit Literature. Haskell House Publishers. p. 141. GGKEY:N230TU9P9E1. 
  28. ^ Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 132.
  29. ^ Vanina, Eugenia (2012), Medieval Indian Mindscapes: Space, Time, Society, Man, Primus Books, p. 47, ISBN 978-93-80607-19-1 
  30. ^ * Edney, Matthew H. (2009), Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843, University of Chicago Press, p. 11, ISBN 978-0-226-18486-9 
  31. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, India, that is Bharat (2014), paragraph 3.
  32. ^ Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 71.
  33. ^ Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 48.
  34. ^ Mukherjee, The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent (1989), p. 133.
  35. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, India, that is Bharat (2014), paragraph 1.
  36. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, India, that is Bharat (2014), paragraph 26.
  37. ^ Dhulipala, Creating a New Medina (2015), pp. 17–18, 22.
  38. ^ Sabharwal, Gopa (2007), India Since 1947: The Independent Years, Penguin Books Limited, p. 12, ISBN 978-93-5214-089-3 
  39. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, India, that is Bharat (2014), paragraph 39.
  40. ^ Clémentin-Ojha, India, that is Bharat (2014), paragraphs 42–45.

General sources

  • Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine (2014). "'India, that is Bharat…': One Country, Two Names". South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. 10. 
  • Dhulipala, Venkat (2015), Creating a New Medina, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-05212-3 
  • Habib, Irfan (2011), "Hindi/Hindwi in Medieval Times: Aspects of Evolution and Recognition of a Language", in Ishrat Alam; Syed Ejaz Hussain, The Varied Facets of History: Essays in Honour of Aniruddha Ray, Primus Books, pp. 105–124, ISBN 978-93-80607-16-0 
  • Lipner, Julius (1998), Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, ISBN 0415051827 
  • Parpola, Asko (2015), The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, Oxford University Press Incorporated, ISBN 0190226927 
  • Mukherjee, Bratindra Nath (1989), The Foreign Names of the Indian Subcontinent, Place Names Society of India 
  • Ray, Niharranjan; Chattopadhyaya, Brajadulal, eds. (2000), A Sourcebook of Indian Civilization, Orient Blackswan, ISBN 978-81-250-1871-1 
  • Sharma, Arvind (2002), "On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva", Numen, 49 (1): 1–36, JSTOR 3270470 
  • Wink, André (2002) [first published 1990], Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World (Third ed.), Brill, ISBN 0391041738 

Further reading

  • A Sketch of the History of Hindustan from the First Muslim Conquest to the Fall of the Mughal Empire by H. G. Keene. (Hindustan The English Historical Review, Vol. 2, No. 5 (Jan., 1887), pp. 180–181.)
  • Story of India through the Ages; An Entertaining History of Hindustan, to the Suppression of the Mutiny, by Flora Annie Steel, 1909 E.P. Dutton and Co., New York. (as recommended by the New York Times; Flora Annie Steel Book Review, February 20, 1909, New York Times.)
  • The History of Hindustan: Post Classical and Modern, Ed. B.S. Danniya and Alexander Dow. 2003, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1993-4. (History of Hindustan (First published: 1770-1772). Dow had succeeded his father as the private secretary of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.)

External links

  • Meaning and origin of the word "Hindu"

Coordinates: 23°59′40″N 67°25′51″E / 23.99444°N 67.43083°E / 23.99444; 67.43083

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