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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


    of


    Hinduism The Illustrated Encyclopedia


    of


    Hinduism


    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


    CIP


    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


    systems.


    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


    viii


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