“The wisdom, truths, teachings and insights of Indian and Hindu culture are not limited to or applicable to only Hindus or Indians. Rather they belong to the world and can deeply benefit the world. It is, therefore, our aim that the richness of this ancient yet timeless culture and heritage should be made available to the entire world, in a way that is authentic, academic, comprehensive and illuminating.” – Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji
The world’s first Encyclopedia of Hinduism has been nearly twenty-five years in the making and it is the first time in history that the depth and breadth of India’s great spiritual culture has been made available in authentic, academic and scholastic form. A project of India Heritage Research Foundation, founded, guided, inspired and led by one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, the Encyclopedia of Hinduism is a colossal product of more than 1,000 esteemed scholars from around the world, totaling 11-volumes and approximately 7,000 entries. It is truly a compendium of thousands of years of history, science, art, architecture, polity, religion, philosophy and culture. Further, the Encyclopedia is not limited to Hinduism as a religion, but rather provides all inclusive treatment of India’s spiritual culture (including coverage of Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism traditions in India).
The Encyclopedia of Hinduism presents – lucidly and authentically – the vast panorama of Hinduism, giving a faithful record of the world’s oldest living spiritual tradition. To ensure comprehensive coverage, the entries of the Encyclopedia are conveniently prepared under the following twelve subject areas:
- Art: Architecture, Music, Iconography, Painting, Dance, Drama, Theater Performance, and Sculpture.
- Hinduism in Global Context: Nepal, Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, Mauritius, Africa, and the Caribbean.
- History, Historiography, and Geography: Religious Developments in Hindu Kingdoms and Empires. Epigraphy, Numismatics, Flora and Fauna, Mountains, Rivers, and other pertinent data.
- Language and Literature: Texts and commentaries in Sanskrit and in different Indian Languages, Folk Literature, Myths, Legends, and Journals.
- Philosophy: Metaphysics, Psychology, Ethics, Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, Jaina, Buddhist and Sikh Thought, Tantra, Saiva Siddhanta, and Contemporary Hindu Thought.
- Polity: Political Institutions, Judicial Systems, Economics, Law and Order, Military History, and Weapons.
- Religion and Spirituality: Knowledge Texts, Gods and Goddesses, Saints, Mystics and Teachers, Rites and Ceremonies, Holy Places, Sectarian Movements,Temples, Sacraments and Modern Developments.
- Sciences: Ayurveda, Astronomy, Astrology, Mathematics, Cosmology, Chemistry, and other relevant disciplines.
- Social Institutions and Movements: Education, Varnasrama Dharma, Tribes and their Customs, Status of Women, Sports and Pastimes, Feasts, Fasts, Festivals, Diet, Dress and Cosmetics.
- Spiritual Disciplines: Karmayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Hathayoga, and Tantra.
- Scholarship in Hindu Studies: Ideological, Theosophical, and Commentarial Tradition, Oral Tradition, Philological Studies, Sociological, Mystical, and Comparative Studies.
- Women Studies: Full coverage of issues related to the important role played by women in cherishing, maintaining, and transmitting Hindu heritage.
August 2013 marked a historic moment in the spiritual and cultural history of India: the official launch of the international edition of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism. The launch ceremony was organised and hosted by the University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA.
The official launch of the international edition, published by Mandala Earth Publications, an esteemed publisher of California, USA, was organised, hosted and sponsored by the University and presided over by Dr. Harris Pastides, the President of the University. The Encyclopedia project was headquartered at theUniversity of South Carolina for many years during its compilation and editorial stages, and it was a beautiful and fitting full-circle for the University to be the ones to host the official launch.
The launch was graced by:
- H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Founder/Chairman of India Heritage Research Foundation
- Hon. Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina
- Dr. Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina
- Shri Anna Hazare, renowned social leader from India
- Hon. Joe Wilson, Congressman for South Carolina
- Hon. Ajit Kumar, Consul General to India
- Dr. Meera Narasimhan, Vice Dean, School of Medicine, USC, organizer of the event
- Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia
- Many esteemed scholars of the Encyclopedia and dignitaries.
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji said: “The wisdom, truths, teachings and insights of Indian and Hindu culture are not limited to or applicable to only Hindus or Indians. Rather they belong to the world and can deeply benefit the world. It is, therefore, our aim that the richness of this ancient yet timeless culture and heritage should be made available to the entire world, in a way that is authentic, academic, comprehensive and illuminating.” Dr. Harris Pastides said: “It is a deep honor to be participating in the American release of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism. This is a remarkable work of scholarship and research. I hope that many in academia and in everyday life will turn to it as a resource to better understand the characters, the tenets, and the impact that Hinduism has had, and is having, in the world.”
Shri Anna Hazare said: “I am so happy to be here this evening. Pujya Swami Chidanandji is carrying our Indian culture to the entire world. This is a historic event here tonight. Spreading the teachings of our great tradition is a wonderful task Pujya Swami Chidanandji has undertaken and completed successfully.” Meera Narasimhan, vice dean at the USC School of Medicine, said: “Hinduism, one of the oldest traditions of the world, has been a major influence with a focus on the ancient moral and spiritual insights and their modern developments. The EOH will serve as a comprehensive, scholastic reference for students, teachers and researchers and helps deepen the inter-cultural dialogue. As an Indian American, I have strongly been influenced by Hinduism and it’s rich rubric of spiritual, philosophical, and cultural ideas and practices that originated in India. As a physician trained in western medicine, it provided me with an abundance of knowledge to help better understand the mind, body, spirit connection that is key in understanding health as it pertains to disease and wellness.”
Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, said: “Encyclopedia of Hinduism is a historic milestone in Indian studies. It will facilitate the understanding of the culture and civilization of India and its diaspora scattered all over the world.” V.V. Raman, emeritus professor of physics and humanities, Rochester Institute of Technology and senior fellow at Metanenexus Institute, said: “Indic civilisation is among the brightly shining stars in the firmament of humanity’s heritage. Volumes have been written on it. There are copious commentaries on the abundant treasures of Indic culture. But one thing it has not had until now: a multi-volume Encyclopedia dedicated to it, in which the primary authors are scholars and thinkers from the Hindu tradition. That serious lacuna has disappeared as a result of this major publication. In keeping with India’s welcoming arms to one and all, Non-Hindu scholars were also invited to contribute to this international project.”
Rama Rao Pappu, senior professor of philosophy at Miami University (Ohio), said: “The EH is comprehensive in its scope by including important topics in Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism; erudite scholars from all over the world have given their expert knowledge of their discipline, at the same time making the EH accessible to other scholars and general public as well.” Pujya Swamiji presented the first official set to the Governor of the State of South Carolina, for the State’s Library. Hon’ble Nikki Haley, the Governor said: “It is so beautiful, and such a great gift, this Encyclopedia of Hinduism. I am so honored to receive these beautiful 11 volumes on behalf of the State. I am so glad to be here tonight at this historic event.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati said: “This is a great moment in history. The depth and breadth of the world’s oldest living culture, civilization, philosophy and theology has finally been encapsulated in encyclopedic form. To have the international edition launched by the University of South Carolina in USA demonstrates the universal applicability and universal appeal of the Hindu tradition. The launch is a great meeting of East and West. With Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Shri Anna Hazareji here from India joining hands with the President of the University, Dr. Harris Pastides and the state congressman Joe Wilson, shows that the Hindu and Indian culture truly have no boundaries and no borders.”
Congressman Joe Wilson and the Consul General Ajit Kumar were also full of praise for the Encyclopedia and the great accomplishment that Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji has achieved in conceiving of this project and then bringing it to fruition.
Second part of the official release
Together with many of the scholars who worked on the Encyclopedia, University officials, and the hundreds who gathered for the release, Pujya Swamiji, Shri Anna Hazare and USC President Harris Pastides unveiled the encyclopedia’s 11 volumes.The unveiling was part of a daylong conference on Hinduism and the encyclopedia project and drew many USC faculty, staff and students. In addition to numerous talks, the event captured the vibrancy of Indian culture with a traditional Indian lamp lighting ceremony, music and food and art. President Pastides said it was a deep honor for the university to host the American release of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism.
“This is a remarkable work of scholarship and research. I hope that many in academia and in everyday life will turn to it as a resource to better understand the characters, the tenets and the impact that Hinduism has had, and is having in the world,” Pastides said. Hal French, professor emeritus of religious studies, served as associate editor of the encyclopedia since its inception in 1987. He called the 25-year quest to document Hinduism a privilege. “Having studied the Hindu tradition as my major research area, it has been a real privilege to work in some small way with many others in producing a work, which may be the standard comprehensive rendering of Indian tradition for years to come,” French said. “The time and effort required adds to the gratification in seeing this really monumental project come to completion.”
The Encyclopedia of Hinduism, conceived, inspired and guided by Pujya Swamiji, and a project of India Heritage Research Foundation, has been made possible through the great dedication, commitment, generosity, and selflessness of innumerable people and organizations. The following were invaluable, essential assets to the project:
- All of the generous donors and particularly the Platinum Pioneer donors. All of the past and present Board of Trustees of IHRF.
- All of the scholars who wrote articles, edited, reviewed and finalized the articles All of the sevaks who gave their time and energy in Encyclopedia offices around the globe assisting with a wide variety of crucial, administrative tasks.
- Dr. K.L. Seshagiri Rao, Chief Editor, Dr. Kapil Kapoor, Editor-in-Chief, and Late Pt. Dr. Vidya Niwas Mishra, Editor-in-Chief, for being the encyclopedia behind the Encyclopedia and guiding the teams of national and international scholars in bringing this project to fruition.
- The University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA, Pittsburgh University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, India and so many colleges, universities and institutions around the world for their great support and assistance.
- The team at Rupa & Co. Publications for bringing out the Indian Edition and the team at Mandala Earth Publications & InsightEditions for bringing out the International Edition.
- All of the revered saints who have blessed this project from its inception and carried it forth to its fruition. n