Glossary of Hinduism Terms
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Glossary of Hinduism Terms

The following list consists of notable concepts that are derived from Hindu culture and associated cultures (Indian, Nepali, Balinese) traditions, which are expressed as words in Sanskrit or other Indic languages and Dravidian languages. The main purpose of this list is to disambiguate multiple spellings, to make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, to define the concept in one or two lines, to make it easy for one to find and pin down specific concepts, and to provide a guide to unique concepts of Hinduism all in one place.

Separating concepts in Hinduism from concepts specific to Indian culture, or from the language itself, can be difficult. Many Sanskrit concepts have an Indian secular meaning as well as an Hindu dharmic meaning. One example is the concept of Dharma. Sanskrit, like all languages, contains words whose meanings differ across various contexts.


A

Adharma
Something against Dharma.
Agni
Fire god
Asura
A demon or evil being.
Ashwatthama
The son of Drona.
Aruna
The charioteer of Vivasvan the Sun God.
Avatar
Material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth.

B

Bhagavad Gita
A knowledge of the attaining the supreme told to Arjuna by Krishna on the Kurukshetra battlefield.
Bhagavan
Bhagavan is a term used to refer to a god.
Bhargava
The descendants of the great rishi, Bhrigu.
Brahma
He is the Creator God.
Brahmacharya
The first phase of a person's life where he goes to live with his guru to learn the different studies.
Brahman
The Supreme Transcendental Awareness which pervades and yet transcends the manifest universe. Not to be confused with the god Brahma or the varna Brahmin.
Brahmin
The class or varna of people consisting of priests, sages and gurus.

C

Chyavana
A great Bhargava rishi.
Chiranjivi
One who is immortal.

D

Dashavatara
The series of 10 Avatars of Vishnu.
Dharma
Following the divine and great path.
Dhaumya
A great sage who had three disciples - Aruni, Upamanyu and Veda.
Drona
Guru (or teacher) of Kauravas and Pandavas.
Dvaita
A branch of Hindu philosophy, founded by Shri Madhvacharya that advocates dualism and stresses a strict distinction between God and souls.

E

Elapatra
A character in the Sarpa Satra.

G

Ganesha
The god of good fortune, commonly identified for his elephant head.
Ganga
A holy river in Northern India, believed to be a goddess by Hindus (see Ganga in Hinduism)
Gayatri Mantra
A revered mantra in Hinduism, found in the Yajur Veda.
Grihastha
The second of the four phases (Purushartha) of a man, when a person gets married and settles down in life and begets children.
Guru
A spiritual teacher. In contemporary India, the title and term "Guru" is widely used within the general meaning of "wise man".

H

Hanuman
A vanara who helped Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, in rescuing his wife Sita from the Rakshasa king Ravana.
Hindu scripture
Sacred texts of Hinduism mostly written in Sanskrit. Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: ?ruti – that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (i.e. tradition, not revelation).
Hinduism
A worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendant of the Vedic religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies.

I

Indra
The chief deity of the Rigveda, the god of weather and war as well as Lord of Svargaloka in Hinduism.
Ishvara
A Hindu philosophical concept of God referring to the Supreme Being which is the lord and the ruler of everything. Hinduism uses the term Ishvara exclusively to refer to the Supreme God in a monotheistic sense.

J

Janeu

Sacred thread worn by Hindus, especially by Brahmin after the rite of Upanayana.

Japa
A spiritual discipline in which a devotee repeats a mantra or the name of God. The repetition can be aloud, just the movement of lips or in the mind.

K

Kali
A dark, black aspect of the mother-goddess Devi whose consort is Shiva.
Kali Purusha
The demonic personification of Kali Yuga.
Kali Yuga

Last of four yugas in Hindu cosmology.

Kalki
The tenth avatar of Vishnu who is yet to come and will appear as a man on a horse at the end of Kali Yuga.
Kama
Best understood as aesthetics, the definition of Kama involves sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, pleasure of the senses, love, and the ordinary enjoyments of life regarded as one of the four ends of man (purusharthas).
Karma
A Sanskrit term that encompasses the entire cycle of cause and effect.
Karma Yoga
The practise of disciplining action. Karma yoga focuses on the adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward. It states that one can attain Moksha (salvation) by doing his duties in an unselfish manner.[1]
Kartikeya
A god born out of a magical spark created by Shiva, his father. His brother is Ganesha.
Krishna
The eighth avatar of Vishnu, one of the most worshipped by many Hindus. Krishna is famous for his lecture to Arjuna written in the Bhagavad Gita.
Kshatriya
The class or varna in Hindu tradition, consisting of the warriors, soldiers and rulers of society.
Kubera
One of the gods of wealth and riches.
Kurma
The second avatar of Vishnu where he took the form of a tortoise.

L

Lakshmi
Goddess of prosperity, wealth and good fortune. She is the consort of Vishnu and an aspect of Devi.

M

Mahabharata
One of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is of religious and philosophical importance in India; in particular, the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of its chapters (Bhishmaparva) and a sacred text of Hinduism.
Mantra
A religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras are performed through chanting.
Matsya
The first avatar of Vishnu, where he came in the form of a fish.
Mitra
One of the Adityas.
Moksha
Refers to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In higher Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of consciousness of time, space, and causation (karma).

N

Narasimha
The fourth avatar of Vishnu. He is a mixed form of a man and a lion.
Nirvana
Literally "extinction" and/or "extinguishing", is the culmination of the yogi's pursuit of liberation. Hinduism uses the word nirvana to describe the state of moksha, roughly equivalent to heaven.

O

Om
(Also Aum, ?) is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, first coming to light in the Vedic Tradition. The syllable is sometimes referred to as the "Udgitha" or "pranava mantra" (primordial mantra); not only because it is considered to be the primal sound, but also because most mantras begin with it.

P

Parashurama
The sixth Avatar of Vishnu, where he came in the form of an axe-wielder in order to kill the corrupt kings at the time.
Parvati
Goddess of love, the consort of Shiva and mother of Ganesha.
Purushartha
The four chief aims of human life. Arranged from lowest to highest, these goals are: sensual pleasures (kama), worldly status and security (artha), personal righteousness and social morality (dharma), and liberation from the cycle of reincarnation (moksha).

R

Rama
The Seventh Avatara of Vishnu. The life and heroic deeds of Rama are written in the Sanskrit epic, The Ramayana.
Ramayana
Part of the Hindu smriti, written by Valmiki. This epic of 24,000 verses in seven kandas (chapters or books) tells of a Raghuvamsa prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the rakshasa Ravana.
Rudra
A Rigvedic god of the storm, the hunt, death, Nature and the Wind. Rudra is an early form of Shiva and a name of Shiva in the Shiva sahasranama.
Ruru
The son of Pramati and grandson of Chyavana. He married Pramadvara, granddaughter of Vaivasvata Manu.

S

Sadhana
Spiritual exercise by a Sadhu or a Sadhaka to attain moksha, which is liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), or a particular goal such as blessing from a deity.
Samadhi
A term used in yogic meditation. Samadhi is also the Hindi word for a structure commemorating the dead.
Samkhya
A school of philosophy emphasising a dualism between Purusha and Prakrti.
Samsara
Refers to the concept of reincarnation or rebirth in Indian philosophical traditions.
Saraswati
The goddess of education and consort of Brahma.
Shakti
An aspect of Devi and a personification of God as the Divine Mother who represents the active, dynamic principles of feminine power.
Shiva
A form of Ishvara or God in Shaivism. ?iva is commonly known as "the destroyer" and is the third god of the Trimurti.
Shudra
The class or varna in Hindu tradition, consisting of artisans, cleaners and labourers.
?ruti
A canon of Hindu scriptures. Shruti is believed to have no author; rather a divine recording of the "cosmic sounds of truth", heard by rishis.
Sita
The wife of Vishnu's seventh avatar Rama.
Sloka
A verse of lines in Sanskrit, typically recited as a prayer.
Smarta
A Hindu denomination, which follows Advaita philosophy and considers that all gods are manifestations of Ishvar.
Soma
A ritual drink of importance among Hindus. It is frequently mentioned in the Rigveda, which contains many hymns praising its energizing or intoxicating qualities.
Surya
A solar deity who is one of the three main Vedic Gods.
Sutra
Refers to an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a book or text.

T

Tantra
The esoteric Hindu traditions of rituals and yoga. Tantra can be summarised as a family of voluntary rituals modeled on those of the Vedas, together with their attendant texts and lineages.

U

Upanishad
Part of the Hindu ?ruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy, seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism.

V

Vaishya
The class or varna in Hindu tradition consisting of merchants, artisans, and landowners.
Vamana
The fifth Avatara of Vishnu. He is the first Avatar of Vishnu which had a completely human form, although it was that of a dwarf brahmin.
Vanaprastha
A person who is living in the forest as a hermit after giving up material desires.
Varaha
The third avatar of Vishnu, who came in the form of a boar.
Varna
Varna, according to Hindu scriptures, refers to the classification of people based on their qualities. The term is derived from the Sanskrit word, vr, which means "to describe," "to classify" or "to cover."
Varuna
A god of the sky, of rain and of the celestial ocean, as well as a god of law and of the underworld.
Vayu
The god of air and wind who is also father of Bhima and Hanuman.
Veda
Collectively refers to a corpus of ancient Indo Aryan religious literature that are considered by adherents of Hinduism to be revealed knowledge. Many Hindus believe the Vedas existed since the beginning of creation.
Vishnu
A form of God, to whom many Hindus pray. For Vaishnavas, He is the only Ultimate Reality or God. In Trimurti belief, He is the second aspect of God in the Trimurti (also called the Hindu Trinity), along with Brahma and Shiva. Known as the Preserver, He is most famously identified with His avatars, especially Krishna and Rama.
Vrata
Fast.

W

Wamika
God.

Y

Yajna
A Vedic ritual of sacrifice performed to please the Devas, or sometimes to the Supreme Spirit Brahman. Often it involves a fire, which represents the god Agni, in the centre of the stage and items are offered into the fire.
Yama
The lord of death in Hinduism, first recorded in the Vedas.
Yamas
A yama (Sanskrit), literally translates as a "restraint", a rule or code of conduct for living virtuously.
Yoga
Spiritual practices performed primarily as a means to enlightenment (or bodhi). Traditionally, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga are considered the four main yogas. In the West, yoga has become associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, popular as fitness exercises.
Yoga Sutra
One of the six darshanas of Hindu or Vedic schools and, alongside the Bhagavad Gita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, are a milestone in the history of Yoga.
Yuga
In Hindu philosophy (and in the teachings of Surat Shabd Yoga) the cycle of creation is divided into four yugas (ages or eras).
Yuga Dharma
One aspect of Dharma, as understood by Hindus. Yuga dharma is an aspect of dharma that is valid for a Yuga. The other aspect of dharma is Sanatan Dharma, dharma which is valid for eternity.

Z

Zaal
Trap.

Notes

  1. ^ Paul V. M. Flesher. "Hinduism Glossary for Introduction to Religion". Retrieved .

References

See also


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