Sanatana Dharma & Indigeneity

When Hindus (or Sanatanis) refer to our tradition as indigenous, we are frequently met with raised eyebrows or righteous indignation. This is due, in part, to the persistence of colonial era theories and Western-centric assumptions about how indigeneity is constructed. These ideas have been repeated so frequently and are so deeply embedded into the collective consciousness that Hinduphobes can simply pick them up and throw them at us to appear knowledgeable and moral, while accusing us of being appropriative, oppressive, and unethical.


Let’s unpack some common questions/arguments.

In short, the answer is no. Aryan Invasion Theory is colonial era propaganda that has since been debunked across three different disciplines – archeology, linguistics, and genetics. The term Adivasi was coined in the late 19th century by the British and popularized in the 1930s by a Christian convert.  If you’d like to learn more, there is a list of authors, articles, and books in the Resources section. 

When Hindus (and other Dharma practitioners) refer to ourselves as indigenous, it’s important to clarify that we are not referring to the genetic population of India. We are referring to an uninterrupted ancestral connection to and stewardship of an indigenous knowledge tradition.

We are not indigenous to this land. However, we are stewards of an indigenous tradition – Sanatana Dharma. Hindu indigeneity refers to the knowledge tradition, not about our genetic make-up or where we currently live. We still have a Dharmic responsibility to honor the indigenous people and traditions of our Karma Bhoomi.

Below is an articulation of Indigenous versus Non-Indigenous / Western frameworks of knowledge, worldviews, and religion. (This table is an aggregation/adaptation of several tables from scholarship that represents different indigenous traditions from around the planet.) Read these tables closely. Pair them with your knowledge of and experiences with Hinduism. Talk to other Hindus, to your guru, your parents or other knowledgeable family members. Examine our scriptures, our practices, our ethos.

On which side of these tables does Sanatana Dharma predominantly sit?