H is for Hindu

A few months ago, Buzzfeed writer Rega Jha published a list of 26 questions that Indians are sick of answering.

Number 3: “Do you speak Hindu?”
Her response: Yup, fluently. And I can say a couple of things in Muslim and Christian too.”

The Hindi/Hindu mix-up is a constant problem for foreigners, even for those of us who live in India for an extended time. I have heard experienced expats mix up this usage many times. It’s a major pet peeve for me.


Editor’s note: All caps and colors should be a major indicator you’ve irritated the blogger. Let’s not do that again, OK?

How to remember the difference:

Hindi is the language. This word ends with an “i” like many other native languages in India. For example, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Konkani, and Gujarati are all languages spoken in India. Hindi belongs in that group, so it ends with an “i.”

US Embassy, New Delhi website

On 4 April, the US Embassy in New Delhi released its website in Hindi. Viewers can switch between English and Hindi versions of the site.

Hindu is the religion. The best way for you to remember this word is that Hindu  ends with a “u” and describes “U” not your language. Hinduism is similar to Christianity in that it’s the  umbrella word used to describe a wide variety of beliefs.

Hindu children with Ganesh in Mumbai, India

The boy and girl are returning from seeing Ganesh, the Hindu god of good fortune. During the festival, they may place sweets at his feet.


Just as many denominations exist in Christianity, so too are Hindus equally diverse in their religious divisions. A friend of mine often wishes Facebook friends:

“Happy Navratri [or other holiday] to those who celebrate it.”

The implication is that not everyone celebrates Navratri, not even all Hindus. Navratri is most widely celebrated in the states of West Bengal and Gujarat. In Mumbai, the biggest Hindu celebrations are Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganesh’s birthday) and Diwali (the festival of lights). In Mumbai, Diwali continues nonstop for three solid days, but in Kerala, in South India, the festival lasts only one day. This diversity of ritual observance is why Hinduism cannot be easily explained in a single Wikipedia page, although it’s not a bad place to start.


2 thoughts on “H is for Hindu

  1. I can imagine. So many Goans are Christians. I am sure the Hindu question irritates even more. Beautiful place with beautiful food. Thanks for the RT, too.


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