Category Archives: Glossary of Hindu Terms

Here we will define Hindu terms

Namaste | What does it mean? | Hindu greeting

President Obama says Namaste

President Obama says Namaste

With all the depths and charms of my mind and all the love and cordiality of my heart, the Divinity in me salutes the Divinity in you.

 NAMASTE is a Hindu tradition that is both a spoken expression (mantra) and a symbolic gesture (mudra). It is used as a salutation when first meeting someone you know or as a valediction when leaving his or her company. The gesture is performed by joining the palms of your hands together with your thumbs close to or touching your forehead or heart, and bowing down to the person you are addressing.

The term, Namaste, is Sanskrit in origin and is actually made up of two separate words: namaha and te. Namaha means I bow down in recognition and reverence. And te means to you. Combined, the term literally means I bow down to you.   However, it is assumed to mean the Divine Spark in me acknowledges and salutes the Divine Spark in you.  When people see each other in this way, they are inspired to treat each other with respect, kindness, and love.  Their disposition becomes one of cooperation and engagement.  And people are motivated to find peaceful solutions to their problems.

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Rangoli during Diwali | Deepawali | Kolam | Alpana | Mandana – Part 2 of 2

Peacock Kolam, Rangoli

Peacock Kolam, Rangoli

This is a continuation of the discussion of rangoli.  (Go back to part 1)

On a mythological level, they are created to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, into their homes and businesses to bless with good fortune throughout the coming year.  On a metaphysical level, these designs act like sieves to filter the energies in the atmosphere and allow only the positive ones to enter. On a philosophical level, rangoli symbolizes the Hindu concepts of the Impermanence of Life and the Interconnectedness of the Universe.

For many, rangoli is a form of meditation, used as a tool to redirect the mind from worldly concerns to the singular task of creating a rest stop for Divinity. Other people, like those who live in Shanti Niketan (a city which was founded by Rabindranath Tagore over one hundred years ago) near Kolkata, study it as an independent subject in school.

Rangoli is known by different names in different parts of the subcontinent. For example, in Maharashtra, it is called rangoli, but in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is known as kolam. Bengalis call it alpana, and the people of Rajasthan call it madana. Whatever people call it, this traditional art form is rich in symbolism.

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Rangoli during Diwali | Deepawali | Kolam | Alpana | Mandana – Part 1 of 2

Beautiful Diwali Rangoli depicts an oil lamp

Beautiful Diwali Rangoli depicts an oil lamp

Rangoli is made up of ornamental lines and figures drawn with various powders on the floor, the walls, in front of the house, or in front of the idol of a deity.     -Rev. Kittal

 

Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form, which is made up of dots and lines, and is created with rice powder, flour, chalk powder, or sand.  It’s an ancient Indian art form that is practiced to celebrate Diwali (Hindu New Year) and other auspicious occasions throughout the Hindu calendar year. In a secular sense, Rangoli is decorative in nature and designed to welcome visitors and guests. In a religious sense, it serves as a metaphor for the Hindu concept of the Impermanence of Life and the Physical World.

The term, Rangoli, originally comes from the Sanskrit words, ranga, which means color, and avali, which means rows or lines. When put together, Rangoli can be translated as the expression of artistic vision through the creative use of color.

Intricate designs are applied onto the ground in front of homes, temples,  and businesses to welcome visitors.   Whole parties are thrown for the auspicious event of creating beautiful, original rangoli design for all to see.

(Go to part 2)

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What does Hindu Mean? | Broader definition of Hindu is Geographical, Not Religious

Hindu: THE COUNTRY OF THE SEVEN RIVERS

Hindu: THE COUNTRY OF THE SEVEN RIVERS

When you ask an Indian what the word Hindu means, you will get many different answers, because the term doesn’t have a universally-accepted definition. Most Indians define it as a religious term, but in truth, it is more of a geographical reference.  Its meaning is further confused by the fact that it is not mentioned anywhere in the most ancient of  Hindu scriptures. For example, the country of India was called “Sapta Sindhu” in the scriptures, meaning “the Country of the Seven Rivers”. In this context, Sindhu was used to define all rivers in general, not just the Indus River ( the greatest river on the western side of Southeast Asia,)

Over time, many peoples passed through this fertile land. Some moved on, some settled and intermingled with the existing inhabitants, and some occupied it and established themselves as its new rulers.

When the Persians arrived, they mispronounced the name of this great country, because they couldn’t pronounce the sound S. As a result, Sapta Sindhu became known as Hapta Hindu. Then, when the great Macedonian (Greek) ruler, King Alexander, entered India with an eye to conquer, he shortened the name from Hapta Hindu to Hindu.

The word Hindu went through more altercations before it settled on the word we use today: India. Hindu became the term used to describe the people who lived in the Country of the Seven Rivers.

- By Neelam Wadhwani

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Dharma definition | What does Dharma mean?

 

The meaning of Dharma

The meaning of Dharma

The word dharma comes from the Sanskrit word dhri, which means to uphold or to sustain.  From this perspective, dharma can be defined as that which upholds or sustains the positive order of things: the family, the community, the nation, and ultimately the universe. For the sake of this discussion, the concept of DHARMA can be broken down into two parts: the whole (Dharma) and its individual parts (dharma).

Dharma (the whole) refers to the set of actions that must be taken to sustain the overall order of a society or the cosmic order of the universe. For example, the Dharma of a policeman is to serve the people of the community and protect them from harm. The Dharma of a government is to rule its country with judiciousness. The Dharma of a religion is to provide people with a moral foundation on which to stand.

dharma (the individual parts) refers to the set of actions that must be taken to uphold or sustain the individual or the family. For example, the dharma of the householder is to earn enough money to sustain his or her family. The dharma of a student is to attend classes regularly and do the work required to pass them.

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Avatara – What does Avatara mean?

Hindu Avatars of Vishnu

Hindu Avatars of Vishnu

Avatara is a descent of God for the ascent of man.

- Stephen Knapp

 An AVATARA (or Avatar) is an incarnate of God, who has taken form on Earth to vanquish evil that has engulfed the world in darkness. This incarnate will take the form of something that is familiar to mankind so as not to insight suspicion or distract from the MESSAGE he wishes to convey. For example, Hindu scriptures proclaim that God, in this case, Lord Vishnu, will descend on Earth ten times in order to rid the world of the evils that have befallen it. As such, we have already witnessed nine of them: Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the tortoise), Varaha (the boar), Narasimha (half-man/half-lion), Vamana (the dwarf), Parasurama (Rama with an ax; the first warrior-saint), Rama (prince of Ayodhya), Buddha (aka Balarama; elder brother of Krishna; known as the Sankarashana form), and Krishna (essential character in the Mahabharata; marked the beginning of the Kali Yuga (the Iron Age).     The tenth, who will be known as Kalki (the Destroyer of Filth) will emerge at the end of the Kali Yuga, mounted on a white horse and wielding a blazing sword.  (written by Neelam Wadhwani)

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A little more about the Hindu Trinity (Trimurthi)

Shiva and Parvati as One

Shiva and Parvati as One

Neelam had some input that complements my last post about the Hindu Trinity:

Hindus believe in One God. However, this God is so encompassing that the average person cannot rationally comprehend it. So our ancient spiritual masters clustered the many aspects of God into three humanlike representatives. This way, the average human being could relate to God. That is why the Holy Trimurthy, of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, was created.

 Nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that woman is inferior to men. So in order to illustrate this, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, were given female consorts, without whom they are rendered incomplete. Thus emerged Saraswati (with Brahma), Lakshmi (with Vishnu), and Parvati (with Shiva).

What is Puja?

diwali-puja-wp-gfdl-565

 

A Puja is a ceremony showing reverence to God or a divine spirit.  The ceremony can include invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals.  Performing a puja allows one to make a spiritual connection with the Devine.  This contact is often facilitated through an object such as an element of nature, a sculpture, a painting, or a print.

The object chosen by the devotee is not considered the deity itself, but rather is believed to be filled with the essence of the deity and all that he represents to the devotee himself.  It is a focal point for communicating with and honoring God.   Each deity represents a different aspect of human nature and also the gift human’s value and would pray for.  For instance, there are specific Gods one would pray to for health, wealth, peace, protection, etc.  As one focuses on the chosen object, the consciousness mind of the devotee focuses single-mindedly on the benefit he hopes to achieve.   Praying in this manner is a powerful attractant for the desired outcome.  This is why we have so many “gods” in the Hindu religion.