From the Jacket
Never before has the fabulous world of Hinduism been dealt within its entirety in a single work. This book presents the vast pageant of India in all its teeming variety. It is the first general encyclopedia of Hinduism covering every major aspect of Hindu life and thought, embodying the result of recent scholarship, yet not ignoring the traditional point of view. Of absorbing interest, it will be found to contain a wealth of information not readily available to the general reader. It is astonishingly wide in range: besides religion, philosophy, yoga, art, music, architecture, history and mythology, it deals in fascinating detail with source of lesser-known subjects such as dress, diet, festivals, handicrafts, psychology, science, alchemy, magic, Tantrism, medicine, erotics, dance, social observances and cult cites.
As a reference book Hindu world is unique, and will appeal both the layman and the scholar. It contains over 700 lucidly-written articles, each of which gives a comprehensive account of the subject, and by a system of cross references interlinks all topics related to it, so that a single theme may be traced in all its ramifications through the whole book. An index of over 8000 items, which in itself forms a veritable treasury of Sanskrit terms and names, will further assists the reader in finding his way among the lesser topics treated in the work.
The substance of this book is derived largely from the standard works of recognized authorities, supplemented by material drawn from traditional Indian sources. It contains much that is not easily obtainable without access to a large specialist library, and its chief justification is that it is the only work of its kind. While there do exist several reference books on various aspects of Hinduism, there is no single work that covers the whole field, and Hindu World is the first attempt to do so.
This does not mean that every byway of the vast panorama of Hinduism has been described here in all its scholastic variora. The wealth of data found in the authoritative writings on Hinduism have indeed been utilized in the compilation of the present work, but this has naturally had to be modified and condensed to suit its objectives. Imperfections of scholarship will be apparent to the specialists in their respective fields, and I hope they will pardon the occasional liberty I may have taken in my treatment of their evidence, and that my own non-specialist status will mitigate their under- standable vexation if they find that I have skimped a subject to which they have devoted a lifetime.
Hindu World has been subjected to a continuous check for clearness and accuracy, but discrepancies will necessarily remain as long as there is no unanimity about the facts. Thus, little attempt is made to reconcile dates for the early historical period since traditional dates frequently differ from those given by modern scholars. Even for the recent period the fixing of dates is full of hazards. It will be observed that the etymology of Sanskrit terms given here is often based on commentarial tradition, and I have thought it pre- ferable to retain this version so as to preserve an ancient concept which might otherwise be obscured by a newer interpretation. The translation of Sanskrit words and names might at times appear clumsy, but neatness of expression had occasionally to be sacrificed to obtain verbal exactitude. For example, nish-kama-karma is rendered 'non-desire-activity', rather than 'service without reward', in order to indicate the literal meaning in the sequence of the original. An effort has been made to interrelate all connected articles by cross references, so that any subject may be read in its entirety if desired. An asterisk against a word signifies that there is a separate article under that heading. A reference to the Index will provide helpful ideas for further reading.
It is my pleasant duty to tender a word of special thanks to Mr Gerald Yorke for his patience and faith in this project. At every stage of the writing he was at hand with friendly advice and it was he who urged the book along those channels that make a publishable proposition out of an author's lucubrations. This work owes more than I can express to his guidance and mediation.
To Dr David Friedman of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, another great obligation is due. When the final bulky typescript was put into his hands he directed to it a keen and critical mind. particularly to the articles on philosophy and Buddhism. I have made the fullest use of his searching observations, but I must absolve him from the blame for any faults that remain.
It must again be emphasized that this book is the fruit of the labours of a host of devoted scholars who have done the spade work in delving into primary sources. My own function has largely been to gamer their harvests and make such appraisals as are within my competence. The names of these scholars will be found in the bibliographies, which will also serve as a rough guide to the chief sources from which I have drawn my material. I express my indebtedness to them, one and all. If an occasional echo of their writings is heard in my own work without acknowledgment I hope they will be charitable enough to forgive the inadvertence.
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