What is the name of the religion that is practiced in the land of Bharatha? Some call it Hinduism, some Sanatana Dharma – but isn’t Sanatana Dharma an overarching term that refers to all the religions that are Indic in origin? And, is Hinduism really the name of this ancient religion. The Paramacharya of Kanchi Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi calls it the nameless religion. Why? Because it is the most ancient religion – the mother ship, the fountainhead of all other religions. The Paramacharya asks – “If there was only one religion that existed all over the world, why would anyone need to give it a name?” Below, is a summary of the Paramacharya’s views on this question.
Our religion which predates all these (other religions) had spread all over the world. Since there was no other religion to speak about then, it was not necessary to give it a name. When I recognised this fact I felt at once that there was no need to be ashamed of the fact that our religion had no name in the past. On the contrary, I felt proud about it.
All religions barring our own were established by single individuals. “Buddhism” means the religion founded by Gautama Buddha. Jainism was founded by the Jina called Mahavira. So does Christianity owe its origin to Jesus Christ.
In none of our ancient sastras does the term “Hindu religion” occur. The name “Hindu” was given to us by foreigners. People from the West came to our land across the Sindhu river which they called “Indus” or “Hind” and the land adjacent to it by the name “India”. The religion of this land came to be called “Hindu”. The name of a neighbouring country is sometimes applied to the land adjacent to it. Let me tell you an interesting story in this connection. In the North people readily give alms to anybody calling himself a bairagi. These bairagis have a grievance against Southerners because they do not follow the same practice. “Illai po po kahe Telungi” is one of their ditties. “Telugus do not say “po, po” but “vellu” for “go, go”.”Po” is a Tamil word.
Then how would you explain the line quoted above? During their journey to the South, the bairagis had first to pass through the Telugu country (Andhra); so they thought that the land further south also belonged to the Telugus. There is the same logic behind the Telugus themselves referring to Tamil Nadu as “Arava Nadu” from the fact that a small area south of Andhra Pradesh is called “Arva”. Similarly, foreigners who came to the land of the Sindhu called all Bharata beyond also by the same name.
However it be, “Hinduism” was not the name of our religion in the distant past. Nor was it known as “Vaidika Mata” (Vedic religion or as “sanatana dharma” (the ancient or timeless religion). Our basic texts do not refer to our faith by any name.
That is why I say: “SINCE THERE WAS NO OTHER RELIGION TO SPEAK ABOUT THEN IT WAS NOT NECESSARY TO GIVE IT A NAME”