25 years in making, Hindu encyclopedia to be unveiled tomorrow

Washington: In a milestone in Indian studies, the English edition of `Encyclopedia of Hinduism`, a product of 25 years of relentless academic efforts by nearly 1000 scholars, will be unveiled tomorrow.

The 11-volume encyclopedia which covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy, encompasses more than 7,000 articles that span Indian history, civilisation, language and philosophy; architecture, art, music and dance; medicine, sciences and social institutions; and religion, spirituality and the role of Hindu women.

Additionally, more than 1,000 colour illustrations and photographs bring the Hindu traditions and culture alive for readers.

Conceived, compiled and produced by the India Heritage Research Foundation and published by Mandala Publishing, the voluminous product presenting one of the world`s oldest living traditions is scheduled to be unveiled at the University of South Carolina tomorrow during a day-long conference.

The conference would be attended by Rajendra K Pachauri, the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007; Anna Hazare, an anti-corruption activist, besides Swami Chidanand Saraswati, president of Parmarth Niketan Ashram and founder of India Heritage Research Foundation.

"The encyclopedia, a comprehensive compilation of the spiritual and cultural heritage of India, provides a rich tapestry of Hinduism in the global context, a great gift to mankind," said Dr. Meera Narasimhan, a professor and chairman of neuropsychiatry and vice dean at USC School of Medicine.

"It has been an ambitious undertaking," said Hal French, a USC distinguished professor emeritus of religious studies, who has served as associate editor of the encyclopedia.

"The Encyclopedia of Hinduism is a milestone in research for this culture and religion, reflecting the very best in India and Western scholarship," he said.

The encyclopedia`s volumes run from 600 to more than 700 pages. Some 3,000 copies are being issued in the first printing, French said.

Hinduism is the world`s third-largest religion, with 1 billion followers, according to a Pew Research Center study published this year. Christians number 2.2 billion and Muslims 1.6 billion.

"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," Subhash Kak, a computer science professor, told reporters.

"Indic civilization 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," said V V Raman, emeritus professor of physics and humanities.

"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," Raman told reporters.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of Divine Shakti Foundation and managing editor of the encyclopedia, said the day-long conference aims to deepen a conversation among cultures as part of India`s quest for spiritual unity.

"The Indian cultural and spiritual traditions, encompassed within the religion known as Hinduism offer some of the deepest and most universally applicable insights, truths and teachings. Unfortunately, these tend to be misunderstood in the West.

"The Encyclopedia of Hinduism brings together, in a format comprehensible and accessible to people of all cultures, all religions and all walks of life, the depth and breadth of this ancient yet timeless heritage," Saraswati said.

The Dalai Lama launched the Indian edition in April 2010 in Rishikesh.


Pic Courtesy: lifestyle.inquirer.net