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Indo-Gangetic Plain

Hindustan (About this sound pronunciation ) is a widely used endonym for the Republic of India[1][2]. Historically, it was also used as a geographic term for the northern/northwestern Indian subcontinent, and sometimes for the entire subcontinent.[3][4]


The Proto-Iranian sound change *s > h occurred between 850–600 BCE, according to Asko Parpola.[5] Hence, the Rigvedic sapta sindhava (the land of seven rivers) becomes hapta hinduva in Old Persian. It was said to be the "fifteenth domain" created by Ahura Mazda, apparently a land of 'abnormal heat'.[6] In 515 BCE, Darius I annexed the Indus valley to his empire, which the Achaemenids called hinduš, ie. 'the land of the river'.[7] During the time of Xerxes, this term was applied to the lands to the east of the Indus.[8]

As 'Persian language' is pārsīg in Middle Persian, so 'Indic speech' is hindūg. Probably from the first century CE, the suffix -stān was added, indicative of a country or region, forming hindūstān, which later became an endonym.[9]

In the early 11th century, with an eye to the wealth of the subcontinent, Mahmud of Ghazni made forays further and further eastwards, though only annexing the fertile Punjab region for his own.[10] With the re-ascendancy and subsequent conquests of the Ghurids under Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, 'Hindustan' came to refer to all of North India.

Current usage

Nation State

"Hindustan" is often used to refer to the modern day Republic of India.[1][2] 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.[11]

Geographic area

Geographically, the term "Hindustan" currently has different meanings. However, historically it has been applied to the Gangetic Plain of North India, between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas[12] and the Indus River basin in Pakistan.[13][14]

Alternatively, it may pertain to numerous aspects belonging to two geographical areas: the Indus River basin (eastern Pakistan) during medieval times, or a region in Northern India, east and south of the Yamuna river, between the Vindhya mountains and the Himalayas, amongst the places where Hindustani is spoken.

Most formally, in the proper disciplines of Geography and History, Hindustan refers to the region of the upper and middle Ganges valley and the eastern banks of the river Indus. Hindustan by this definition is the region located between the distinct lands of Punjab in the northwest and Bengal in the north-east. So used, the term is not a synonym for the terms "South Asia", "India", or "Country of the Hindus" [sic], or of the modern-day Republic of India, variously interpreted.[15]


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.


  1. ^ a b Sarina Singh (2009). Lonely Planet India (13, illustrated ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 276. ISBN 9781741791518. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "Hindustan: Definition". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  4. ^ Sindh: An Introduction Archived October 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Parpola 2015, Chapter 9.
  6. ^ Sharma 2002, p. 2.
  7. ^ Parpola 2015, Chapter 1.
  8. ^ Sharma 2002, p. 3.
  9. ^ Habib 2011, p. 105.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ 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.  
  12. ^ "Hindustan". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  13. ^ A Geography of Hindustan, Ancient and Modern, American Ceylon Mission, 1843.
  14. ^ chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people. 1878. p. 537. 
  15. ^ "Hindustani language and literature" (PDF). De Tassay. 

General sources

  • 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 
  • Sharma, Arvind (2002), "On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva", Numen, 49 (1): 1–36, JSTOR 3270470 

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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