Origin of the term ‘Hindus’
The ancient Persians, who occupied the lands west to the Indus River called the whole country lying across the Indus River Sindh and its inhabitants Sindhus, a designation that was later taken over by the Greeks who succeeded them and resulted in the now commonly used designations of India and Indians. The Muslims, who began invading India from the eighth century onward, used the term Hindu as a generic designation for non-Muslim Indians, identical with “idol worshipers.”
The religion of Hindus
In the 1830s Englishmen, writing about the religions of India, added -ism to Hindu and coined the term Hinduism, making an abstract and generic entity out of the many diverse and specific traditions of the Hindus. While Hindus have appropriated the designation Hindu and use it today to identify themselves over against Muslims or Christians, they have expressed reservations with regard to the designation of Hinduism as the “religion of the Hindus.”
The vastness of Hindu dharma
Hindus emphasize that the Hindu dharma is more comprehensive than the Western term religion: it designates an entire cultural tradition rather than only a set of beliefs and rituals.