CHARLOTTE (TIP): South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley launched the Encyclopedia of Hinduism at the University of Southern California campus in the presence of Gandhian Anna Hazare and Indian Consul General in Atlanta Ajit Kumar. Hundreds of scholars, dignitaries, Hindu leaders, students and the public converged on the university’s campus to witness the release of the much anticipated and definitive 11- volume guide conceived, compiled and produced by the India Heritage Research Foundation and published by Mandala Publishing in California. The meet coinciding with the release featured some of most prominent Indian scholars who discussed the significance of the encyclopedia and the richness and diversity of Indian culture that binds more than one billion people worldwide. The event is the launch of the international edition of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama launched the Indian edition in April 2010 in Rishikesh. Dr. Harris Pastides, President of University of South Carolina (USC) said that he was humbled to see the encyclopedia being launched in his campus. “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.” Consul General Ajit Kumar said India and Hindus all over the world are grateful to the University of South Carolina for the launch of the monumental work. The Comprehensive encyclopedia of one of the world’s major religions has 11-volume work covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy, and is the culmination of a 25-year academic effort.

The encyclopedia is written in English and includes about 7,000 articles on Hinduism and its practices. The work also deals with Indian history, languages, art, music, dance, architecture, medicine, and women’s issues. The entire encyclopedia contains more than 1,000 illustrations and photographs. Brightly colored images of Hinduism’s deities fill entire pages, with foot-noted explanations of the forms and powers God can take in the religion. “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 a small group of scholars in 1987 to offer academic support for the project. “This hadn’t really been attempted before,” said French an octogenarian distinguished professor emeritus of religious studies at the school and an associate editor. “It is a milestone of research that brought together both Eastern and Western scholarship.” French, who specializes in the religions of Asia and served as an associate editor of the encyclopedia, said the primary inspiration is one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders, Swami Chidanand Saraswati.

The encyclopedia’s volumes run from 600 to more than 700 pages. Some 3,000 copies are being issued in the first printing and will be of interest to libraries, religious institutions, and those studying Indian culture around the world, French said. Board of Editors -Dr. Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Dr. V.V. Raman, emeritus professor of physics and humanities, Rochester Institute of Technology and senior fellow at Metanenexus Institute, Dr. Rama Rao Pappu, senior professor of philosophy at Miami University in Ohio and Dr. Ratna Lahiri, senior fellow, Encyclopedia of Hinduism spoke on the project dedicated to humanity. The encyclopedia is the brain child of Swami Chidanand Saraswati president of Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Hrishikesh and founder of the India Heritage Research Foundation. Swami Chidanand Saraswati said the idea of the encyclopedia was not to convert anyone to Hinduism but help others becoming a good citizen. It presents Hinduism as a living religion with application to modern times and contains over six million words and 10,000 original entries. “It’s for the parents who have no answers to the queries of their inquisitive children about Hinduism and gods and also to educate themselves on their own religion,” he said. Some of the subjects covered include art, architecture, iconography, painting, history, philosophy, language and literature, polity, spirituality, sciences, social institutions and spiritual disciplines.

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