Since udhayanidhi Stalin called Sanatan Dharma dengue, mosquitoes, malaria and corona while urging to eradicate them, many people came out in his support. Amid the controversy, old posts on X (formerly Twitter) of the so-called professor on an anti-Hindu crusade, Audrey Truschke, have surfaced where she claimed that the term ‘Sanatan Dharma’ was coined in the 19th century during British Rule in India.
In one of the posts in the thread, she wrote, “The term “Sanatan dharma” was coined in the 19th century, during British colonialism. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Most terms for Hindu traditions or strands thereof — including Hinduism and Brahmanism –were coined during the British colonial period.”
She further added that the more specific context of “Sanatana Dharma” was the Hindu Reform movements, “a group of organisations and individuals, overwhelmingly upper caste, who sought to significantly alter Hindu traditions.”
In a recent tweet, she quoted a paper on Hinduism she had written in January this year and said, “Sanatana dharma” is in the news. This phrase has a history, perhaps a bit more recent than many realize.”
Going through her paper, we find the mention of Sanatan Dharma with her claims that it was coined in the 19th century. Interestingly, she provided no substantial proof that it was an old or comparatively new term. She wrote, “Their self-description of “Sanatana dharma” dates to the nineteenth-century Hindu reform movements. In this sense, it is useful to consider “Sanatana dharma” alongside other terms coined in the colonial era, such as “Hinduism” and “Brahminism.”
There was no citation, no mention of the Hindu scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata or Manusmriti. There is a meme going around these days for people like Audrey who do not explain the source of their information. If asked, Audrey might behave like the meme and say, “Trust Me Bro”!
The argument that Sanatan Dharma was coined in the 19th century is not limited to Audrey. In a recent article in the Indian Express, author Adhrija Roychowdhury drew lines in the parallel. “It is only more recently, particularly since the late 19th century, that Sanatan Dharma has been used to signify Hinduism as a distinct religion. It is used to evoke a certain homogeneity in Hinduism, without specifying how exactly that homogeneity is constituted.”
She quoted, ‘Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices’ (1994) by Julius J Lipner, a professor of Hinduism at the University of Cambridge. Interestingly, he mentioned that Arjuna used Santana Dharma as a term in Gita during his conversation with Krishna on the battlefield. But the point is that these Western authors claimed that Sanatan Dharma was never used in scarcity before the 19th century can be a well-established way to discredit the religion Hindus followed in India before invaders came 1,000 years ago.”
While Western historians themselves agree that Sanatan Dharma, as a term, has been used several times in Hindu text that is older than the other religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, the likes of Audrey emphasise the notion that the term “Sanatana Dharma” only came into existence in the 19th century. Imagine being under the rule of invaders for over 700 years and seeing the essence of your Dharma or religion burning to ashes; how would it have been possible to talk about Dharma at that time? Obviously, many common terminologies would have vanished from the history books.
During a debate on Times Now, one of the prominent speakers on Sanatan Dharma, Dushyant Sridhar, dismantled the notion that Sanatan Dharma is a comparatively new term. During his argument in the debate, he mentioned how Sanatan Dharma was used in Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Hindu scriptures.
I am often asked, “Why can’t you stick to delivering discourses? Why should you participate in debates defending #SanatanaDharma?” I will add to it. “Why should I have relinquished my corporate career at a young age and begin delivering discourses?” – Answer is :: “Because I am… pic.twitter.com/B1YVSo64Zq
— Dushyanth Sridhar (@dushyanthsridar) September 4, 2023
He pointed out that Bhagwan Ram used the word Sanatan Dharma during his conversation with Bali, where he told him that it was against Sanatan Dharma to try to have a physical relationship with his brother’s wife. Sanatan Dharma was used by Krishna while telling Arjuna about the Eternal truth.
The 25th Shloka of Baal Kaand in Valmiki Ramayana reads, “राज्यभारनियुक्तानामेष धर्मस्सनातन:, translating to, “Those who have the responsibility of maintaining the state, it is their Sanatan Dharma.
Shloka 12 of 162 chapter of 12th Parv in Mahabharata reads, “सत्यं सत्सु सदा धर्मः सत्यं धर्मः सनातनः । सत्यमेव नमस्येत सत्यं हि परमा गतिः ॥ ४ , translating to “For truthful people, truth is Sanatan Dharma. Bow down in front of the truth because truth is eternal salvation.”
Countless mentions of Sanatan Dharma in Hindu texts date back thousands of years. The notion presented by Audrey in her tweet has no base.