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Hinduism

Glossary of Key Terms

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Hinduism Glossary
Ahimsa

Non-injury to living things

Arti

Form of Hindu worship/prayer in which burning lamps are waved before the
statues of the gods to invoke their presence.

Ashramas

The four stages of life

Atman

the individual self or soul

Avatar

The incarnation of a deity, sometime in human form; most commonly used is


Vishnu the Preserver God

Bhakta

Love and devotion (to a personal God)

Bhagavadgita

The Hindu holy book; the Song of the Lord

Bindis

A red sport or mark worn on the forehead of Hindus. Usually the mark is
placed on worshippers forehead after a Puja service

Brahma

The Creator God one of the members of the Trimurti

Brahman

Supreme power in the Universe; ultimate reality; God

Brahmin

The priestly caste

Burfi

Milk sweets often give out during worship

Castes

Social divisions of Hindu society

Diety

A god or goddess

Diwali

Hindu festival of Lights (sometimes Divali or Deepavali)

Diva

A small lamp

Dharma

Religious and moral conduct appropriate to a persons status in Hindu society

Guru

A religious teacher and spiritual guide

Ganesha

The elephant-headed God; god of good beginnings; symbol of luck

Gayatri Mantra

A very important verse from the Vedas which is said each day in particular by
the Brahmins (Priests)

Ghee

Clarified Butter

Hanuman

The monkey God; Hero of the Ramayana, God of strength

Holi

Festival of Colours; also of Fire and Water

Ishtadev

A personally chosen God

Janamashtami

Birthday of Krishna

Janen

Sacred thread worn by Hindus studying under the guru

Jati

Birth or Caste

Karma

Literally actions which determine the nature of future rebirth, ie good


actions bring a good rebirth, bad actions a bad rebirth. A cumulative influence
on the cycle of life and death

Krishna

An avatar of Vishnu which is worshipped widely

Lakshmi

The goddess of prosperity and wife of Vishnu the Preserver God. Popular at
the time of Diwali when lamps are put in windows to attract her attention

Mahabharata

One of the two epic poems of India which includes the Bhagavad Gita

Mahashivratri

The Great Shiva Night. Shiva, one of the most important gods in Hinduism, has
the power to create and to destroy. This is a time of fasting.

Mandir

A Hindu temple or shrine

Mantra

A sacred verse from the ancient scriptures which is repeated before and
during worship; usually written in Sanskrit

Moksha

Freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth; liberation; ultimate union with
God

Murti

The image or statue of a God/Goddess

Namasti

A greeting, usually said with hands clasped in front of the body; literally I bow
to God as you

Om

A sacred syllable; said to be the first word ever lettered; the most sacred
mantra (sometimes Aum)

Prashad

Food offered to the gods and shared with the congregation

Puja

Prayer/worship of the gods; offerings

Puja Tray

A special tray used during worship which carries several symbolic items used
within worship, eg small bell, water pot, diva lamp and incense burner

Puranaa

Ancient books containing stories do the gods/sages

Rama Krishna

A world famous Hindu teacher much influenced by other faiths

Ramayana

One of the two great epics of India which tells the story of Rama

Ravana

The demon king who depicts evil in the Ramayan

Rig Veda

The oldest of the Hindu scriptures, literally royal knowledge

Rishis

Hindu holy man

Samsara

The constant change of the world through a process of dying and being reborn
reincarnation

Samskara

Ceremonies which are rites of passage

Sanskrit

Language of the ancient scriptures

Saraswati

The goddess of music, art and learning and wife of the god Brahma.
Worshipped on the last three days of Navaratri

Satsang

A gathering for devotional singing/worship

Shiva

The most ancient Hindu deity, the Destroyer God a member of the Trimurti

Sita

Wife of Rama and found in the story of the Ramayan which is told at the time
of Diwali

Trimurti

The three major aspects of the Brahman, the Absolute Bing; Brahma the
Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer

Upanishads

Hindu scriptures; final section of the Vedic scriptures

Upanayana

Sacred thread ceremony

Varna

One of the four main groups in traditional Hindu society

Vedas

The oldest Hindu scriptures which reveal knowledge

Vishnu

The Preserver God member of the Trimurti

Yoga

a discipline or path by which a person seeks union with god; the path to
salvation