Hindu Glossary and Terms

Term Definition
Arati In the Hindu tradition, arati is the circling of oil lamp-lights before the murti (image) of the deity so as to illumine each part of its face and body. This is often the final act of puja (worship). So important is this lamp offering that the term arati is often used to describe the entire sequence of honor-offerings made to the deity.
Arya Arya is a Sanskrit term meaning “noble,” used to designate the people whose religious insights and ritual life are recorded in the Vedas.
Ashram In the religious traditions of India, an ashram is a retreat center, where the cultivation of religious life takes place under the guidance of a teacher or guru.
Bhagavad Gita The Bhagavad Gita
 or “Song of the Lord” forms part of the sixth book of the epic Mahabharata
 and contains Lord Krishna’s teachings to the warrior Arjuna. The Gita is beloved by Hindus for its message of selfless action and devotion to God.
Bhakta In the Hindu tradition, a bhakta is a devotee of God, one whose heart is filled with devotion or love (bhakti).
Bhakti Bhakti is devotion to or love of God. The term is derived from a Sanskrit root meaning “to share.” Hence, it conveys the sense of a personal relationship with the Lord, expressed in such forms as chanting, singing, dancing, and temple worship.
Brahman Brahman is a term used in the Hindu tradition to refer to the Supreme Reality that is the source of all being and all knowing, pervading and yet transcending all that is. Brahman is said to be one with Atman, the inner reality of the self or soul.
Brahmin A brahmin is a member of the priestly class, charged with the duties of learning the Vedas, teaching the Vedas, and performing rituals. It is the highest of the four general castes of Hindu society.
Caste Caste comes from a Portuguese word “casta” which was used by early traders to describe India’s complex class structure of varnas. The four major inherited varnas are the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors), vaishyas (merchants), and shudras (craftsmen and servants). The term caste was also used to describe hundreds of sub-castes called jatis, literally birth-groups. The caste system distinctive to India governs religious, social, and economic interactions. This social structure, while hierarchical, is not inflexible; it has changed through time and continues to change today.
Dharma Dharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings of conscience. For the Buddhist tradition, the Dharma (or Dhamma in Pali) refers especially to the teachings of the Buddha. This body of teachings constitutes one element of the “Three Jewels” in which Buddhists take refuge: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the community). For Hindus, dharma means righteous conduct, religious obligation, or religious duty—either the eternal obligations (sanatana dharma) incumbent upon all humankind, or the obligations specific to one’s caste and stage of life (varnashrama dharma).
Guru puja Guru puja is the honoring of the guru or teacher with puja, or ritual devotion.
Guru Purnima Guru Purnima is a yearly observance honoring the guru or teacher. It falls on the full moon day (purnima) of the lunar month of July/August.
Gurukulam  gurukulam is a residential school or training center where a guru teaches; literally, it means the family (kulam) of the guru.
Hatha yoga Hatha yoga is a form of yoga or spiritual/physical discipline giving special attention to the postures and breathing exercises that release and control the energies of the body. The term is often used in the West to refer to the physical-fitness aspects of yoga.
Hinduphobia Hinduphobia is a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors towards Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred.
Hinduphobic rhetoric reduces the entirety of Sanatana Dharma to a rigid, oppressive, and regressive tradition. Prosocial and reflexive aspects of Hindu traditions are ignored or attributed to outside, non-Hindu influences. This discourse actively erases and denies the persecution of Hindus while disproportionately painting Hindus as violent. These stereotypes are used to justify the dissolution, external reformation, and demonization of the range of indigenous Indic knowledge traditions known as Sanatana Dharma.
The complete range of Hinduphobic acts extends from microaggressions to attempts at genocide. Hinduphobic projects include the destruction and desecration of Hindu sacred spaces; aggressive and forced proselytization of Hindu populations; targeted violence towards Hindu people, community institutions, and organizations; and, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Hinduism “Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of life and practice. The Hindu tradition is more an ethos than a set of beliefs. It includes three major streams of Hindu devotion—Vaishnava, Shaiva, and Shakta—and a number of distinctive philosophical traditions. Despite great sectarian diversity, there are Hindu assumptions about life that do have common, although not universal, currency. the universe is permeated with the Divine, a reality often described as Brahman; the Divine can be known in many names and forms; this reality is deeply and fully present within the human soul; the soul’s journey to full self-realization is not accomplished in a single lifetime, but takes many lifetimes; one’s course through life after life is shaped by one’s deeds.
Holi Holi is a Hindu springtime festival, marked by rituals of revelry including “playing” with colored powder which celebrants throw on one another. In some temples Krishna participates by throwing the colors on his devotees. Holi falls on the first day of the waning fortnight of the lunar month of March/April.
Pundit A pandit is a teacher, a scholar, a learned person.
Prashad For the religious traditions of India, prashad or prasadam refers to God’s “grace,” especially as received in return for the gifts that have been offered in puja. In the Hindu tradition, after the offerings of water, fruit, flowers, and the oil lamp have been presented to the deity, the officiating priest then distributes them among the worshippers as forms of prashad. In the Sikh tradition, prashad is most commonly a sweet of wheat flour, sugar, and butter that is distributed in communal worship as the divine gift of the Guru.
Puja For the religious traditions of India, the term puja simply means “worship.. For Hindus, puja is the sequence of hospitality rites through which worshippers honor a deity with offerings such as water, fruit, a coconut, cloth, incense, and an oil lamp, and receive the “grace” of God in return. For Jains, especially Murtipujak Jains, puja may be offered before an image of a Tirthankara or Jina, but Jains do not believe that the beings represented by the images actually receive the offerings made. Instead, the acts of worship are among the ways in which those who perform them purify themselves, emulate the qualities embodied in the Jina, and turn the mind toward liberation.
Pujari A pujari is a brahmin Hindu priest responsible for the daily worship (puja) and care of the deities in the temple
Puranas The Puranas are eighteen collections of “ancient stories” which preserve traditions of myth, legend, and ritual, especially those concerning the Hindu deities Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, and Devi. Beginning in about the 5th century, the Puranas continued to be composed and expanded as late as the 15th century.
Sabha Sabha is a general term for an assembly, a council, or the hall in which such an assembly meets.
Sandhu In the religious traditions of India, a sadhu is a holy man, an ascetic who has renounced the world. In the Jain tradition monks (sadhus) and nuns (sadhvis) are also called munis, literally the “silent” holy ones. Traditionally, they are supposed to move from village to village, accepting only what food someone offers them along the way. They go by foot, for travel by vehicles is seen to be much more damaging to the multitude of tiny life-forms. During the four months of the monsoon season, the monks and nuns settle down in various villages in order to avoid harming the many organisms that emerge in the rain. It is especially during this time that they perform various services, such as teaching, for the lay community.
Sanatana Dharma The word “Sanatan” means eternal or timeless, and “Dharma” translates to duty or righteousness. Therefore, Sanatan Dharma can be understood as the eternal duty or path of righteousness.

The Core Beliefs of Sanatan Dharma
Sanatan Dharma is founded on a set of core beliefs and principles:
Reincarnation and Karma: One of the fundamental beliefs in Sanatan Dharma is the concept of reincarnation. It holds that the soul is eternal and undergoes a cycle of birth and rebirth until it achieves liberation (moksha). Karma, the law of cause and effect, plays a crucial role in determining the nature of these rebirths.
Diverse Deities: Sanatan Dharma recognizes a vast array of deities, with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva being the primary gods of the Hindu trinity. However, there are countless other gods and goddesses who represent various aspects of the divine.
The Four Pursuits of Life: Sanatan Dharma emphasizes the four purusharthas, which are the goals of human life – Dharma (duty), Artha (prosperity), Kama (pleasure), and Moksha (liberation).
Yoga and Meditation: The practice of yoga, including physical postures (asanas) and meditation, is a vital component of Sanatan Dharma. These practices help individuals achieve physical and spiritual balance.

Sacred Texts of Sanatan Dharma
The sacred texts of Sanatan Dharma play a pivotal role in preserving its teachings and traditions. Some of the most significant texts include:
Vedas: The Vedas are considered the oldest and most revered scriptures. There are four Vedas – Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda – each containing hymns, rituals, and philosophical teachings.
Upanishads: These texts expound upon the philosophical and metaphysical ideas found in the Vedas. They explore the nature of reality, the self (Atman), and the ultimate reality (Brahman).
Bhagavad Gita: Part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It addresses the concepts of duty, righteousness, and devotion.
Ramayana and Mahabharata: These epics narrate the stories of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, respectively, and serve as a rich source of moral and ethical guidance.
Satsang Satsang literally means the “community of the good,” and refers to those who gather together in a religious community for chanting, singing devotional songs called bhajans, study, or community worship.
Veda Veda means “wisdom” and specifically refers to the sacred wisdom of the four Vedic collections: Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. Associated with each of these Vedas is literature called Brahmanas, which are concerned especially with rituals, and Upanishads, which explore a deeper philosophical understanding of the universe. In its broadest sense, the term Veda refers to the wisdom and authority to which Hindus turn.
Vedanta Vedanta means the “end of the Veda” and refers to the Upanishads, those teachings which investigate the nature of the soul and ultimate reality and which are the last part of the Vedic corpus. The term also designates the philosophical system of classical Hindu thought that has been primarily based on the exegesis of the Upanishads (along with the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita). Most adherents of Vedanta share the following assumptions: Brahman is the underlying Reality pervading the universe; the transmigration of the soul; and the possibility of moksha or liberation from this cycle of transmigration, through deep insight. Vedantists do not, however, agree upon the relationship between Brahman and Atman (the soul). Some, following Shankara (c. 9th century C.E.), insist upon the ultimate nonduality of the two; others agree with qualified nondualism of Ramanuja (11th century) or with the radical dualism of Madhva (13th century).
Yoga Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature. According to modern scientists, everything in the universe is just a manifestation of the same quantum firmament. One who experiences this oneness of existence is said to be in yoga, and is termed as a yogi, having attained to a state of freedom referred to as mukti, nirvana or moksha. Thus the aim of Yoga is Self-realization, to overcome all kinds of sufferings leading to ‘the state of liberation’ (Moksha) or ‘freedom’ (Kaivalya). Living with freedom in all walks of life, health and harmony shall be the main objectives of Yoga practice. “Yoga” also refers to an inner science comprising of a variety of methods through which human beings can realize this union and achieve mastery over their destiny.