Hinduism and Indic civilization have always been among the brilliant lights in the firmament of humanity’s heritage. Volumes have been written – lay and religious, literary, philosophical, and spiritual, poetic and dramatic – relating to the Hindu world and culture. There are copious commentaries and countless interpretations on the abundant treasures of the Hindu tradition. All these are the proud possessions of the people of India and of Hindus all over the world. But one thing there has not been until now: a multi-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism, an Encyclopedia to which the primary contributors are scholars and thinkers largely from the Hindu tradition.
On August 26, 2013, The Encyclopedia of Hinduism was launched at the University of South Carolina in America: a country which has become a welcoming home to hundreds of thousands of Hindus in recent decades, an America which deserves more appreciation for its good works than it normally receives.
It is no secret that these are not the best of times for Hinduism. But Hindu culture has a glorious past and a promising future. It should not be forgotten that Hinduism has survived many plundering hordes and alien intrusion, forced conversion, colonial occupation, political domination and economic exploitation. However, if the mute mountains and meadows, the surging rivers and peaceful lakes in India could speak, they would proclaim fascinating and uplifting episodes that have transpired on India’s sacred soil, periods of joy as well as of tears, of feasts and festivals, and creativity, as also the ways in which Hindu culture has been enriched even by its alien unwelcome intrusions. The serenity of Vedic hymns, the visions of the Upanishads, the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, the magnificent epics of Valmiki and Vyasa, the bhakti works of Tulsi Das and Kabir Das, and Guru Nanak, and countless others, the grand compositions of Kalidasa, Kamban and countless others: these are among the undying pillars of Hindu culture.
Even in the midst of all the glitter and glitz, pubs and pizza huts, Bollywood and Tollywood and all the rest of it that are inevitable in a modernizing industrializing society, the spirit and soul of India are alive and well, vibrant and vivacious, like the temples and sculptures and places of pilgrimage. Furthermore, the invocation of aum, the chants of the sacred mantras, the graceful lighting of the lamp, the spiritual disciplines of yoga and meditation, Hindu places of worship, as also all the colorful dances and cuisines of India have in the past several decades spread beyond the shores of India into every civilized country of all the continents of the globe.
The Encyclopedia of Hinduism spans between its beautifully bound covers not only the richness and abundance of Indic culture, the revelations of India’s seers, the reflections of her philosophers, and the spirituality of her saints, but also the discoveries of her scientists, the insights of her mathematicians, the variety of her languages, the creativity of her poets and artists and much more. It is a magnificent monument that celebrates India’s culture and traditions. It will inform the current generation and in its many re-editions it will inspire generations yet unborn.