The “Hinduness” or the Hindu awareness as something more than a geographical phenomenon is attested clearly in the 14th century inscriptions which appear in South India. Indologist David Lorenzen, in his book Who Invented Hinduism? Essays on Religion in History, concedes:
“One interesting earlier reference comes from Andhra Pradesh. Cynthia Talbot has analyzed how the military expansion of Muslim dynasties into the Andhra region in AD 1323 led to a sharper sense of regional, political and religious identity among the Hindu population in the region. She notes that the title ‘Sultan among Hindu kings (Hindu-Raya-Suratrana)’, perhaps the earliest use of the term in Indian language, ‘begins to figure in Andhra inscriptions from CE 1352 onward’.
Talbot suggests that these references to Hindu kings possibly implied more a geographical than a religious identity. Negating this is the fact that Muslim dynasties had already been in control of most of the Ganges valley since the end of the 12th century, for about 150 years before the first appearance of the phrase “Sultan among the Hindu kings” in the Andhra inscriptions. In such circumstances how could the Andhra kings consider their Muslim opponents to be non-Hindu in a merely geographical sense, i.e. non-Indians?”
Lorenzen also refers to an earlier Hindu source Prithviraj Rasa, a historical romance attributed to a Canda Baradai. Traditionally thought to be written not long after the 1192 CE defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan by invader Muhammad Ghori, scholars consider that all, or all but one of the versions of the text are more recent, but they have not reached a consensus about which was written when. Here too in all versions, “Hindus” and Turks are mentioned, and in one version the religious nature of the term Hindu is well defined.