Hindi – Hindu – Indian — what’s the difference?

So I was reading the newspaper yesterday (like I do everyday of course) and the headlines on the main page surprised me:  Something about Hindi Community suffering a terrible tragedy.  The article was about a known and good hearted person from the Indian community in Montreal who passed away in an accident.  While this blog entry is not about that, it brought up a good question in my mind, what is it with folks over here not knowing the difference between “Hindi”, “Hindu” and “Indian”?

All of you guys out there who have no idea how to call us Indians, here’s the difference:

Hindi — Language we speak in India, so calling “Hindu” community a “Hindi” community will be totally wrong!  Imagine, a major english newspaper in Montreal making such a stupid mistake, that too, big bold headline on the main page.  *rolls eyes*.

Hindu — A person who adheres to Hinduism (the religion).  It does not necessarily means that he is from India, he/she could be from anywhere really, as long as they believe in Hinduism and call themselves Hindu.
Indian –  A person from India.  So No! People from India are not “Hindi” (actually no one can be called Hindi as it’s a language, you can’t be “Hindi”, you can only “Speak Hindi” or you can be “Hindu”) and no, not everybody in India is a “Hindu”, in fact we have a very mixed population with all religions present strongly, be it Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists.  Please do understand the distinction: “Hindu community” vs “Indian community”

Not only does the Montreal Gazette puts that in their Sunday May 6th newspaper, but also, in another little news snippet, they think Lahore is in India, the headline:
Lahore, India


11 thoughts on “Hindi – Hindu – Indian — what’s the difference?

  1. Hi Deb,

    Glad to be of assistance…. one person at a time, perhaps you can help me propagate this as well whenever you hear someone using one of these terms inappropriately.

  2. Wow! Thank you so much. I am a teacher and realized today that I was unclear on WHY the Goddess we were discussing was a Hindu Goddess of Knowledge and not the Hindi Goddess…thank goodness I did know enough to know she was NOT a “Goddess of India!”

  3. गर्व से कहो हम हिन्दू है । hi sir iam intrested to rss plz.send the informetio in hini lungwege to rss rools
    vikas singh (mumbai)

  4. Thank you so much for correcting an aeguement that has been going on. Mind you I was working for Sitars Etc. for four years until Barrat past away, and then I helped to transfer to …… who now carries his instruments.

  5. Excuse my ignorance, but I’m sincerely curious. If I have friends who are both from India and practice Hinduism, is it better to refer to them as Hindus, or Indians? I never quite know.

    Also, in our defense, it is confusing. People who speak English ARE called the English (or American, I guess).

  6. Hi Elizabeth, well here’s the thing, if they are from India, they are Indians, and if they practice Hinduism, they are Hindu Indians. We also have Muslim Indians, Christian Indians, Sikh Indians and other religions. So, if you want to say that this guy practices Hinduism (because there can be Hindus who don’t live in India such as myself), then I’m an Hindu. I’m also of Indian origins. There should be no confusion as “Hindu” refers to someone’s religion, “Indian” refers to someone’s nationality. You may be Christian, or Jewish, but you may also be American, or Canadian. Nothing changes that fact that you may be both.

    Notice that HINDU or INDIAN is not a language. The language spoken in India (while there are many) is called “Hindi”. So you speak Hindi, you don’t speak Hindu or Indian. You speak American English, but American itself, if I’m not mistaken, is not really a language. British English and American English are a bit different, but none-the-less, you still speak English.

    The key terms are Indian (nationality, citizen of India), Hindu (someone who practices Hinduism), Speaks Hindi (language).

    Now people who speak English can be from many countries, they can be Canadian, they can be American, they can be British, heck they can be Indians as well. :-) Hope this helps.

  7. HI. I am interested in knowing about the different cultures, religions, and languages that the country of India use.

  8. Indeed, it’s the same confusion, but it makes for some fun times with my Native friends, I always tease them saying I’m the “real” Indian :-)

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