What is the Definition of “Hindu” under Hindu Law?

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in his “Hindu view of life” observes:

“The Hindu civilization is so called, since its original founders or earliest followers occupied the territory drained by the Sindhu river system corresponding to the North West Frontier Province and the Punjab. The people on the Indian side of the Sindhu were called Hindu by the Persian and the later Western Invaders”

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Etymologically therefore, the term Hindu had only a territorial significance. However, in law at the present day it has a narrower meaning. It has acquired a theological significance and a Hindu is one who professes Hinduism. Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his Gita rahasya has pointed out that “Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and realisation of the truth that the number of Gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion”.

Dr. A.L. Basham in Encyclopaedia Britanica observed “In principle Hinduism incorporates all forms of beliefs and worships ……. Hinduism is then, both a civilisation and conglomeration of religious with neither a beginning, a founder, nor central authority, hierarchy nor organisation “. The Privy Council in Rani Bhagawan Koer’s case, (1903) 30 IA 249, termed that Hinduism is marvellously Catholic and its theology is marked with collectivism and tolerance. A Hindu continues to be so even if he leads a heterodox life.

The highest form of Hinduism recognises only one God as the ultimate reality. It attributes birth and life to past Karma i.e., the fruit of the actions of past lives. It envisages future births and regards salvation as the merger of the individual soul in the universal soul, i.e., God or the realisation of the unity of the individual soul with God, the ultimate reality.