Encyclopedia of Hinduism unveiled in California
One of the most painstaking and scholarly work, in the recent times, on the study of Hinduism and Indian culture – Encyclopedia of Hinduism – was launched in California in the University of South Carolina. The encyclopedia is prepared by the India Heritage Research Foundation which was founded by Swami Chidananda Saraswatiji. He is the head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram of Hrisikesh. The thought of compiling such a voluminous and much needed work first came to Swami Chidananda Saraswati in the year 1987. It took 25 years of efforts to complete the encyclopedia.
Other than Swami Chidananda Saraswati those who were present on the occasion were social activist Anna Hazare, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Indian Consul General in Atlanta Ajit Kumar and hundreds of scholars, dignitaries and students. The President of University of South Carolina Dr Harris Pastides said on the occasion that “It is a deep honour 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”
The encyclopedia has 11 volumes encompassing more than 7000 articles written by more than 1000 scholars of different fields and of highest eminence. Each volume runs from 600 to more than 700 pages. It not only covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy but also speaks about 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. The encyclopedia also covers various sects of our spiritual heritage like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikkhism etc.
“The goal was to have something pretty definitive _ not just about Hinduism, but about the whole South Asian tradition,” said University of South Carolina professor Hal French, who met with a small group of scholars in 1987 to offer academic support for the project. French, 83, who specialises in the religions of Asia, served as an associate editor of the encyclopedia.
French said “This hadn’t really been attempted before…It is a milestone of research that brought together both Eastern and Western scholarship.’’
This was the international edition of the encyclopedia. The Indian one was launched by spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Hrisikesh in 2010.
Disciple of Swami Chidnanda Saraswati and Managing Editor of the encyclopedia Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati said that the encyclopedia will help the Indian Diaspora all over the world to make their coming generations well-acquainted and knowledgeable about their rich heritage.
“The importance of really encapsulating the ancient and timeless wisdom and culture in a form that was accessible to them, and meaningful to them, in a modern, English, western way became so obviously apparent.” says Sadhvi Bhagawati Sarawati, the President of Divine Shakti Foundation.
Describing the deep research and hard work that was done to realise this ambitious project Sadhvi Bhagawati said that many of the experts who contributed to this encyclopedia wrote their articles by hand in the script of their original languages like Tamil and Bangla. These had to be translated and rechecked hence every article ended up being edited eight to ten times!
Speakers made it a point to tell people that the encyclopedia is not for the purpose of proselytising or a petty tactic to lure people to convert to Hinduism; but to provide an authentic reference point about one of the oldest and living heritage of the world.