Facing severe backlash over his recent Hindu extremist remarks, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Haasan Friday claimed that the very term ''Hindu'' was not a native description, but only a foreign coinage.
Neither the Alwars nor the Nayanmars, the famed Vaishnavite and Shaivite saints, had made any note on ''Hindu,'' he said in a Tamil statement uploaded on Twitter.
The citizens were identified only as ''Indians'' and confining it to religion was "erroneous," he said.
"There has been no mention of ''Hindu'' by the 12 Alwars or Nayanmars. We were christened Hindu by Mughals or those (foreign) rulers who predated them," he said.
The British, who ruled the nation, "endorsed" that coinage, he said.
"While we have so many of our own identities, it is ignorant to have something given to us by non-native as name and faith," he added.
While the identity "Indian is recent," it was "eternal", the MNM chief said.
"It is erroneous, in terms of commerce, politics and spirituality, for us to try to confine our vast country into religion," Mr Haasan said.
"To put it in layman's terms, living in harmony has a million benefits," he said referring to a Tamil saying.
Earlier, stoking a controversy, Mr Haasan had said "free India's first extremist was a Hindu," referring to Nathuram Godse, who shot dead Mahatma Gandhi.
"I am not saying this because this is a Muslim dominated area, but I am saying this before a statue of Gandhi. Free India's first extremist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse. There it (extremism) starts," he had said in bypoll bound Aravakurichi.
The remarks had resulted in a major row, with the BJP and AIADMK tearing into Mr Haasan, even as cases were filed against him in Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
However, the Congress's state unit and rationalist outfit Dravidar Kazhagam backed him.