A 25-year quest to document and present one of the world’s oldest living traditions came to fruition Aug. 26, when the Encyclopedia of Hinduism was unveiled at the University of South Carolina.
Hundreds of scholars, dignitaries, Hindu families, 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.
The day-long conference 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.
Among the speakers were Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, president of Parmarth Niketan Ashram in India and founder of the India Heritage Research Foundation; and Indian social activist Anna Hazare.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of Divine Shakti Foundation and managing editor of the encyclopedia, said the conference, like the encyclopedia, aimed to deepen a conversation among cultures as part of India’s quest for spiritual unity.
The Aug. 26 event launched the international edition (English) of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism. The Dalai Lama launched the Indian edition in April 2010 in Rishikesh, India.
The encyclopedia, also called the “Project of the Third Millennium,” began in 1987 under the leadership of Saraswati. The offices for the project were located at the University of South Carolina until 2003 when they transitioned to India for the final stages of the project.
Hal French, a USC distinguished professor emeritus of religious studies, has served as associate editor of the encyclopedia since its inception.
French was among nearly 1,000 scholars from India, the United States and Europe who wrote, edited and compiled the encyclopedia, which provides the first standardized and objective presentation of the panorama that is Indian culture.
In one work, the encyclopedia encompasses more than 7,000 articles that span Indian history, civilization, language and philosophy; architecture, art, music and dance; medicine, sciences and social institutions; and religion, spirituality and the role of Hindu women. Additionally, more than 1,000 color illustrations and photographs bring the Hindu traditions and culture alive for readers.
Dr. Meera Narasimhan, Indian American professor and chairman of neuropsychiatry and vice dean at the USC School of Medicine, led efforts to organize the conference. While the Encyclopedia of Hinduism was the culmination of one project, its launch is the beginning of another. At the conference, the University of South Carolina announced CarolIndia, a celebration of India through a series of fall and spring events.
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