The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism (2 Vol Set)

912 Pages · 2009 · 15.35 MB · English

  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism (2 Vol Set)

    The Illustrated Encyclopedia


    Hinduism The Illustrated Encyclopedia



    James G. Lochtefeld, Ph.D.

    The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

    New York To teachers whose gift of learning I can never fully repay.

    To students whose learning has taught me,and whose friendship has enriched me.

    To Fiona,Vera,and Gavin,who put life back into perspective every day,

    although they have yet to know this.

    To Rachel,who has made all of this possible.

    Published in 2002 by The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

    29 East 21st Street, New York, NY 10010

    Copyright © 2002 by James G. Lochtefeld

    First Edition

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without

    permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Lochtefeld, James G., 1957–

    The illustrated encyclopedia of Hinduism/James G. Lochtefeld.

    p. cm.

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    ISBN 0-8239-2287-1 (set)

    ISBN 0-8239-3179-X (volume 1)

    ISBN 0-8239-3180-3 (volume 2)

    1. Hinduism Encyclopedias. I. Title.

    BL1105.L63 2002

    294.5'03—dc21 99-27747


    Manufactured in the United States of America

    Staff Credits

    Editors: Margaret Haerens, Michael Isaac, Christine Slovey

    Editorial Assistant: Rob Kirkpatrick

    Book Design: Olga M. Vega

    Cover Design: MaryJane Wojciechowski

    Production Design: Erica Clendening, Beverly Fraser, Christine Innamorato,

    MaryJane Wojciechowski Table of Contents

    Volume One

    Introduction vi

    How to Use This Book xiii

    Contents by Subject xiv

    Entries A–M 1–450

    Volume Two

    Entries N–Z 451–786

    Note on Transliteration 787

    Pronunciation Guide 788

    Bibliography 795

    Index 807

    Photo Credits 875

    About the Author 876

    v Introduction

    As you drive through the cornfields of northern Illinois, just north of the town of

    Aurora, you may see a massive brick building that seems out of place. It stands three

    or four stories high with an elaborate facade depicting pillars and cornices. Topped by

    towering spires with flapping banners, it looks as if it belongs to another world. In a

    sense it does—the architectural style comes from southern India, and the building

    itself is a Hindu temple.

    I was there late on a Sunday morning, and the parking lot was about half full.

    There were cars from as far away as Michigan. The building’s main entrance was a little

    below ground level, and as is common with Hindu temples outside of India, the low-

    est level had a lobby, a kitchen, and a large meeting room that was comparable to the

    “church basements” of its Christian counterparts. The lobby was furnished austerely,

    with folding tables and chairs. There were a few people sitting near the kitchen, drink-

    ing tea and chatting informally.

    By the staircases leading upstairs to the temple room were rows of simple shelves,

    fronted by low benches. I removed my shoes, as is customary before entering a temple,

    both to preserve the temple and to signify that one is walking on holy ground. The

    staircase marked the threshold between two regions, the outer and the inner world.

    Upstairs, the temple was richly decorated. The presiding deity was Venkateshvara, a

    form of the god Vishnu, whose image was placed in the center of the temple, the most

    important space. Yet, as in most Hindu temples, there were images of deities from

    throughout the pantheon: Ganesh, Shiva, Subrahmanya, other forms of Vishnu, dif-

    ferent forms of the Goddess, and various subsidiary deities. Most of the images were

    carved from black South Indian granite and polished to a mirrorlike finish. Many were

    housed in small shrines built out of white marble. The primary function of a Hindu

    temple is to serve as the home for the deities it contains, and it was clear that the

    people who had commissioned the temple had spared no efforts. The temple had

    been lovingly built and has been carefully maintained.

    The worshipers in the temple took little notice of me, and I was allowed to roam

    as I wished. Even though Venkateshvara was the temple’s presiding deity, the primary

    activity while I was there took place in front of one of the subsidiary shrines, an image

    of the Goddess in the form of Kumari (“virgin”). Seated around the image were about

    twenty members of an extended family. The young girls, who were clearly the focus of

    the rite, sat directly in front of the shrine. Brahmin priests took various offerings from

    the older women: plastic gallon jugs of milk, Ziploc bags of sugar, and Tupperware

    containers of yogurt and honey. Each offering was poured over the image in turn. A

    pitcher of water was poured over the image between each offering to wash it clean.

    The temple priests performing the rite were dressed traditionally, with white dhotis

    (garments worn around the waist, extending below the knees), bare chests, and the

    sacred thread over their left shoulders. They bore crisp red tilaks (sectarian identifying

    marks) on their foreheads, and intoned the rite in rapid-fire Sanskrit.

    Although a Christian visitor might find the languages, deities, and rites completely

    alien, many of the other elements of the day would be soothingly familiar: a group of

    families coming for worship on a Sunday morning, dressed in their “Sunday best,”

    with others chatting over coffee and sweets in the “church basement.” Except for a few

    sari-clad older women, the people there were dressed no differently than anyone one

    might encounter on the street—the men in suits and jackets, the girls and women in

    long, flowing dresses.

    Just as the Hindu temple in rural Illinois had introduced Indian customs to the

    local community, it was clear that the influence of American culture had set this

    temple apart from its traditional counterparts in India. Unlike in India, where temples

    serve mainly as places of worship, Hindu temples in America often serve as cultural

    centers for the Hindu community, sponsoring events such as dance, music, and

    drama performances, along with language study programs and festival celebrations.

    vi In many cases, the membership of Hindu temples in America cuts across the tradi-

    tional barriers that divide Indian society—social status, regional background, sectar-

    ian loyalty—giving these Hindu temples far more inclusive constituencies.

    The cultural landscape of the United States has changed dramatically in recent

    years. Today it possesses a plurality of cultures that my grandparents and their gener-

    ation probably would have found inconceivable. The Hindu temple outside of Aurora,

    Illinois, is but one small sign of the increasing visibility of Asian cultures in American

    society. Another sign of this pluralism is the growing number of ways that Americans

    are coming into contact with traditional Hindu culture—whether through practicing

    yoga, through alternative medical systems such as ayurvedic medicine, or through the

    piquant delights of Indian cuisine.

    Despite the growing interchange between Indian and American cultures,

    Hinduism is still often stereotyped and misunderstood. On one hand are the remnants

    of an antiquated point of view that refuses to see the United States as anything but a

    Christian nation. Those holding this view either dismiss Hinduism as an alien or exotic

    set of rituals and beliefs or actively condemn it as idolatrous. On the other hand are

    people searching for an alternative spirituality who idealize Asian cultures as founts of

    ancient wisdom. At the very least, such an uncritical embrace ignores these cultures’

    genuine tensions, problems, and inequities; at the extreme it can result in a “designer

    religion,” in which beliefs and practices from various religious traditions are selec-

    tively adopted, wrenching each of these elements from its roots in a living culture.

    Outright condemnation and idealized acceptance overlook the richness and com-

    plexity of India’s religious and cultural traditions. To gain a genuine understanding, it

    is important that we discern the cultural context behind Hindu beliefs, practices, and

    history. In learning about this context, one quickly encounters familiar ideas: hard

    work, thrift, education, and the importance of the family. Along with these general

    similarities to American cultural values, one finds equally profound differences. To

    examine the nuances of Hindu culture is to enter into a rich and complex world with

    its own inner logic and consistency. Encountering and understanding a different

    world view can throw one’s own into sharper perspective, enriching it with new depth

    and understanding.

    What Is Hinduism?

    The very word Hinduism is misleading. The word was coined by the British as an

    umbrella term, referring to any and all forms of religion in India, many of which share

    few if any common features. It was used to describe all sorts of beliefs and practices,

    from simple nature worship to the most highly sophisticated ritual and philosophical


    Hinduism is a vast religious tradition, encompassing various and contradictory

    strands and ideas. It has usually defied all the usual strategies for categorization and

    classification. There is no founder, no definitive scripture, no centralized authority, no

    single supreme god, no creed of essential beliefs, and no heresy. Thus, it would be

    more accurate to think of the religion as Hinduismsrather than Hinduism, since this

    would reflect the rich diversity one encounters.

    India is a land of contrasts and cultural variety. The subcontinent contains almost

    every type of environmental ecosystem, the inhabitants of each possessing their own

    local and regional culture. There are over a dozen distinct languages, each of which

    establishes and nourishes a regional identity that many Indians maintain with great

    care wherever they live. The combinations of language, regional identity, sectarian

    affiliation, and social status have given rise to overwhelming variation. For Hindus,

    diversity is a basic trait of Hindu life, and thus one person’s practice may be very dif-

    ferent from another’s. This has given Hinduism little in the way of centralized

    doctrine or dogma, but its grounding in everyday life has made it extraordinarily

    resilient and adaptable.

    vii Basic Beliefs

    Hinduism is first and foremost a way of life. This means that Hinduism has tended to

    be orthoprax (stressing correct behavior) rather than orthodox (stressing correct

    belief). It tends to be woven through the differing elements of everyday life, rather

    than only performed as practices or rituals for certain days and times. Hindu religious

    expression is conveyed through every facet of society: music, dance, art and architec-

    ture, philosophy, politics, literature, and social life.

    Some of the most important aspects of everyday life in the Hindu tradition are a

    person’s family and social affiliations. Despite the incredible variety of Hindu belief

    and practice, each family and local community is tightly and carefully organized.

    Every individual, as a member of a particular family, has a well-defined role and an

    obligation to fulfill specific duties. As in any culture, one’s individual identity is

    strongly shaped by the linguistic, regional, or sectarian characteristics of his or her

    family. This familial influence persists whether the family lives in its ancestral home or

    moves to a different region of India or a foreign country.

    Families, of course, are members of a larger community. These communities share

    certain beliefs about a person’s proper role in society based on status, age, and gender.

    Traditional Indian society was sharply hierarchical. According to the traditional social

    groupings, there should be four status groups: the brahmins, who are scholars and

    religious technicians; the kshatriyas, who are warriors and rulers; the vaishyas, who

    are artisans and farmers; and the shudras, who serve the others. Each person is born

    as a permanent member of a particular group. Society is seen as an organic whole, in

    which some parts have higher status than others, but every part is necessary for the

    whole to function smoothly. A common metaphor for social organization is the

    human body, which has many different parts performing many different functions, all

    of which are necessary for the body’s maintenance and well-being. In actual practice,

    the picture was far more complex. Each of these four groups was split into hundreds

    of subgroups known as jatis. Jatis were most often identified with a certain hereditary

    occupation, and a jati’s status in a particular place was subject to all kinds of local vari-

    ables. These variables could include whether or not members of a jati owned land or

    the degree to which a jati’s occupation was economically vital to its community.

    These beliefs about social status are becoming less important in modern India,

    and have even less importance for Hindus who live abroad. In modern India, society

    is still functionally divided into four groups: brahmins; “forward castes,” which tend to

    control land, money, or power; “backward castes,” which have historically had very

    little influence, although the situation is changing rapidly; and Dalits (“oppressed”).

    Once called “untouchables,” many Dalits live in poverty and oppressive social condi-

    tions. Except for the brahmins, these social divisions bear little relationship to the four

    groups in the earlier model.

    Reincarnation is still a pervasive belief within Hinduism, as it is in other Indian

    religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Almost all Hindus have generally

    accepted that although our bodies are transient, our souls are immortal. After the

    death of a particular body, the soul will inhabit a different body. The nature of one’s

    incarnation in a future life is determined by the quantity and quality of one’s karma.

    Karma literally means “action,” but it also can be generated by words or even thoughts.

    It is not produced only by the things one does or says, but also by one’s underlying

    motives. An individual’s good karma will bring a favorable rebirth in heaven as a god

    or on earth as a wealthy or high-caste human being. Bad karma will bring an unfavor-

    able rebirth. A person’s current social status reveals how properly he or she lived in the

    previous life. The notion of karmic rewards and punishments is a central justification

    for the traditional social hierarchy in India.

    Karma is thought of as a purely physical process, like gravity, operating without

    any need for a divine overseer. An action one performs, for good or for ill, is seen as


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