From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sanātanadharma literally means ‘the eternal religion’.

Origin of Word Sanātanadharma[edit]

The word Hinduism used for the religion is of very recent origin. This religion had no particular name since the most ancient days, because there existed no other religion from which it had to be distinguished. Some scholars of present day like to call it ‘Sanātanadharma.’

Reference of Word Sanātanadharma[edit]

This word occurs in the Khānāpur plates of Mādhavavarma[1] assigned to the 6th century A. D. Other sources where it has been used are:

General Meaning[edit]

However overall the word does not refer to any specific religion but only to ancient practices of eternal values. Yet, it is possible to apply this word to religion since it reflects the true spirit of religion correctly. The expression dharma[5] has three senses:

  1. God
  2. Any spiritual discipline that leads to God
  3. Duty

‘Sanātana’ means the eternal.

Justification of Appellation[edit]

Since the various sādhanas or spiritual disciplines taught by the religion have been proving their efficacy even today,[6] hence sanātana or eternal, ultimately leading to God, the Eternal Truth, it fully deserves the appellation ‘Sanātanadharma’.


  1. Epigraphia Indica vol. 27, p. 312
  2. Matsyapurāna 143.30-32
  3. Bhāgavata 7.11.2
  4. Brahmāndapurāṇa 2.33.37-38
  5. Dharma means ‘that which supports’.
  6. It is preserved same as in the ancient period.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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