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A.I.C.C. All India Congress Committee that steers most of Indian political agenda. [more]
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Referred as the "Father of India's Missile Technology", Abdul Kalam served as the scientific advisor to the government of India, before becoming the President of India.fore b
Abhidamma Pitaka The 3rd section of the Pali Canon
Abhilashitarthachintamani A twelfth century encyclopedia written by Western Chalukya king Someshwara
Abhimanyu Brave son of Arjuna who fought and died in the war of Mahabharata
Abhishek Bathing of a deity with milk or water; also Coronation
abhisheka Coronation or crowning ceremony
Abul Fazl (1551-1602) Persian scholar and Akbar's biographer. His work Ain-i-Akbari remains a great source of historical reference on the Mogul king Akbar
Acharya Kripalani A freedom fighter and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi
Adhiti The mother of all Gods according to the Vedas; popularity subsided after the rise of Vaishnavism and Shaivism
adhyatma Spirituality of the Self.
Adi Grinth (a.k.a. Adi Granth and Sri Guru Granth Sahib) The holy scripture of Sikhism [more]
Adivasi (aa-di-waa-see) Natives of the land, Tribal (Adi = Origin, Vasi = Dweller) [more]
Advaita Monism. The Hindu school of philosophy which advocates that the soul and god is the same; see also: Shankaracharya [more]
Advaitism (a.k.a. monism) The school of Indian philosophy that claims the the soul (being) and supreme being (paramatma) is same.
Agaria Name of a tribe in central India; also the name of the language spoken by the same tribe.
Agastya The Hindu sage (Rishi) who drank the ocean empty.
Agni The God of Fire; In the Hindu thought, a greatest witness (hence the walking around the fire during Hindu ceremony; also testified to purity of Sita)
Agni Purana A 9th cenututy encyclopedic work encompassing much of the available knowledge of the time on statecraft, elephant lore, medicine, military science, cookery, cosmetics, and religious rites.
Agra City in the state of Uttara Pradesh where the Taj Mahal is located; located also here are Sikandera, the tomb of Mogul emperor Akbar
Ahalya Wife of sage Gowtama who was cursed into becoming a stone
Ahimsa (a-hinmsa), literally means non-violence. Ahimsa has been the doctrine of many a religions in India, especially Jainism. Mahatma Gandhi used it as a powerful means to fight the British. [more]
Ahmedabad Located in Gujarat state, the center of cotton and diamond industries in India.
Ahmednagar City in Maharshtra founded by Ahmed Nizam Shahi, well known for its handicrafts and handlooms.
Ahmednahar Town in the state of Maharashtra founded by Ahmed Nizam Shahi [more]
Ajatashatru Son of Bibisara and heir to the Maghadha dynasty. He patronized Buddhism, then a very early school of philosophy.
Akbar, Jalaluddin (1542-1605), also known as Akbar the Great, built the mighty Mogul empire [more]
Akilan P.V. (1922-1988) Tamil writer and Jnanapeeth award winner. Works include Chittirappavai & Kayalvizhi
Akka Mahadevi (12th century) Great poetess from Karnataka who sang Lord Shiva's glory. Her poetry in Kannada is known as Vachanas
Akkamahadevi (12th century A.D.) A woman saint-poetess of Karnataka who practiced bridal mysticism.
Ali Adil Shah I (1558-1580) A mystic and a cultured ruler of Bijapur.
Ali Barid Shah (1543-1580) Cultured prince of Baridi dynasty who defeated Vijayanagar army in 1565.
Aligarh Seat of a famous Muslim university located in the state of Uttar Pradesh
Allahabad Holy city in Uttar Pradesh where the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati congregate.
Amarnath A popular place of Hindu pilgrimage located in the state of Kashmir
Amartya Sen (1933-) Economist and Nobel Laureate
Amba A character from Hindu epic of Mahabharata, she is transformed into Shikhandi, a male but impotent warrior
Ambareesh A great devotee of in Hindu mythology
Ambedkar B. R. Born as an untouchable in the outcaste community, fought for the downtrodden; a primary contributor to the constitution of India
Ambika Wife of Vichitravirya of Mahabharata' sister of Amba and Ambalika
Amitabha The fourth Dhyani-buddha (Jina) personifying infinite light
Amrita Preetam (1919-) Poetess and novelist. Winner of Jnanapeeth award in 1981
Amritanandamayi Devi (1953-) A woman saint of South India most famous for social work and spiritual discourses. Known among followers as "Ammachi"
Amritraj Vijay & Anand Brothers and Indian tennis players
Amritsar City in the state of Punjab founded by Guru Ram Das; a holy place of Sikhism and home to the Golden temple; location of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 and Operation Blue Star in 1984
Amrut (a.k.a. Amrita) Nectar of immortality
Anand Mulk Raj (1905-) Indian writer and critic. English works include Coolie & Seven Summers
Anand Vishvanathan (1969-) Indian Chess Player
Andal Hindu saintess who sang the glory of Lord Krishna
Angada Son of Vali; prince of Kishkindha
Anjanadevi Mother of Hanuman.
Ankush Metalic goad used to stimulate elephants
Annadurai C.N. (1909-1969) Thinker and Leader of Tamil Nadu. Founder of the D.M.K. Party. Also an eminent Tamil writer [more]
antahpura harem or woman's quarters in a palace
Antakshari (a.k.a Antyakshari) A popular party game in India where the end of one song is continued as the start of another song.
Antyeshti Name of the Hindu sacrament (samskara) involving funeral rites.
Apastambha (2nd century B.C.) Ancient Indian mathematician who experimented with equations to design sacrificial altars
Apsara A heavenly nymph
Arabian Sea The sea to the west of India rich in bio-diversity.
arati A temple ritual where a fire on a plate is respectfully waved in front of a diety in clockwise direction in its glorification
Ardhanarishwara A form of Lord Shiva showing aspects of both man and a woman (see: Half-man, half-woman)
Arjun Dev (1563-1606) Sikh Guru who compiled the sacred text of Adi Grinth.
Arjuna Son of Kunti and Pandu by the blessings of Indra; a great archer in Mahabharat; initiator of the great preaching of Lord Krishna [more]
arrack Inexpensive alcoholic drink popular among the poor people of India.
artha (from Sanskrit) money or worth; also means or meaning
Arthashastra A volume on principles of economics and administration written by Chanakya, a brahmin in the court of Chandragupta Maurya
Arun Shourie (1943-) Leading Indian journalist and columnist
Arunachal Pradesh A state in North-East part of India
Arya Samaj A society founded in 1875 by Dayanand Saraswati to reform Hinduism from its superstitious beliefs.
Aryabhatta (476-520) Indian mathematician and astronomer of Pataliputra. The first Indian satellite is named after him
asafoedita see Hing
Asan Kumaran (1873-1924) Malayalam poet and social worker. Works include Duravastha and Karuna
Ashapurna Devi (1909-) Bengali writer and Jnanapeeth awardee
Ashfaqulla Khan (1900-1927) Muslim revolutionary and freedom fighter associated with the Kakori Holdup; was hanged by the British
Ashoka (273-232 B.C.) The Great Mauryan Emperor who is responsible for globalization of Buddhist faith; [more]
Ashram a retreat for humans and animals, where knowledge and spirituality is pursued; monastery or hermitage
ashramas The four modes or phases of life: brahmacharya (celibate), gruhastha (householder), vanaprustha (retirement), and sanyasa (renunciation)
Ashtadikpala The eight guardians of directions: Kubera, Chandra, Indra, Agni, Yama, Surya, Varuna, and Vayu
Ashwamedha A type of ritual of royals mentioned in Indian mythologies that involved horse sacrifice.
Ashwath (a.k.a. Peepal) a type of large tree (biological name: Ficus religious) that is of significance in Hindu belief [more]
Ashwathama Son of Brahmin teacher Drona, and a close friend/general of Duryodhana; avenged the friends' death by killing the sons of Pandavas; a Chiranjeevi
Assam A state in North-East part of India rich in oils
Asura (a.k.a Rakshasa) Demons that often appear in Hindu classics are collectively known as Asuras
Athapoovidal Elaborate ground decorations made with flowers and colors for the festival of Onam
Atharvanaveda One of the four Vedas forming the origin of Hinduism involving charms and spells.
Atman A rough English translation is soul; in Indian philosophy, it is used as the eternal entity of self.
Aurabindo Ghosh (1872-1950) Indian philosopher and religious thinker. Works include Life Divine and Essays on Geeta [more]
Aurangabad City in the state of Maharashtra well known for the tomb of Mogul emperor Aurangjeb
Aurangjeb (a.k.a. Aurangzeb, 1678-1707) The greatest of Indian emperors in terms of span of kingdom; mostly remembered as a cruel ruler. [more]
Aurangzeb See Aurangjeb
Aurobindo Ghosh (1871-1950) Indian philosopher who showed practical ways to lead a spiritually rich life.
Auroville An international township near Pondichery known as cultural and heritage center
Avalokiteshwara An important Bodhisatwa
Ayodhya Capital city of Kosala which was ruled by Dasharatha, and later by Ramachandra; a 15th century mosque Babri Masjid located here was destroyed during a communal conflict
Ayurveda Ancient Indian method of medicine finding it's roots in the Vedas
Azad Abdul Kalam (1888-1958) Indian freedom fighter and a fierce nationalist.
B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) Indian jurist, social worker and constitutionalist. Born as an *untouchable*, he fought to eradicate caste based bias in Indian society
Babar Zahirudin (1483-1530) Founder of the Mogul dynasty, which ruled India for three centuries [more]
Babhruvahana A prince from Mahabharat epic, son of Arjuna and Chitrangada
Babri Masjid Mosque built in 1528 in honor of the first Moghul emperor Babur in Uttara Pradesh, northern India. Destroyed by the Hindutva crowds on 6 December 1992 while under legal protection.
Babuji A term of respect used often in India (like the English Sir)
Backward Classes Disadvantaged people of India are collectively called Backward Classes. See also: caste
Badarinath A place of pilgrimage in Uttara Pradesh which attracts the devotees of Lord Vishnu
Bahadur Shah Eldest son of Mogul emperor Aurangjeb who inherited India [more]
Bahadur Shah II The last of the Mogul kings; captured by British following the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny
Bakasura The crane demon from Mahabharat epic; Bhima kills him and saves the village; a demon with a great appetite
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) Popular as Lokamanya; Leader of Indian freedom and educator; His vision of non-violent struggle was carried out by Mahatma Gandhi [more]
Bal Thackeray Leader of the Shiv Sena party and champion of Hindu revivalism; also a playwright and established cartoonist
Balaji Rao Peshwa (1740-1761) The third Maratha Peshwa, who fought hard against the British to rebuild the Maratha kingdom established by Shivaji
Balarama Brother of Lord Krishna
Bali The legendary king of Malabar, and grandson of Prahlada. He became so popular and powerful that to check his progress, Vishnu took the avatar of a Brahmin and tricked him into giving up his kingdom and his own head
Bana Indian poet of 7th century in the patronage of king Harsha; famous works are "Harischandra" and "Kadambari"
Banabhatta (7th century) Sanskrit scholar and writer of Harshavadhana's biography, Harsha Charita. Kadambari is another famous work.
Bangalore A city in Karnataka where much of India's high-technology sector is located [more]
Banjara A nomadic trading tribe living throughout India and Eastern Europe with their own culturally unique identity
Banyan tree (Ficus indica) that puts out aerial roots and has religious significance in folk religion; in Hindi, bargad. [more]
Bapuji Fatherly figure. A title affectionately given to Mahatma Gandhi.
Baron Chelmford Governor General of British India from 1916; remembered for the Montego-Chelmsford reform of Indian administration
Basadi (a.k.a. Basti) A Jain shrine or temple
Basaveshwara Saint, Reformer of Hinduism; declared that work was worship; noted Kannada poet who sang Vachana or Promise poems
Baudhayana (apprx 800 B.C.) Ancient mathematician who laid down rules of measurement in his masterpiece Sulva Sutra, which also deals with irrational numbers
Bedi Bishan Singh (1946-) Indian Cricketer and former captain of the national team
Bedi Kiran (1949-) Former Asian Games Women's Tennis Champion; More famous for her work in the Indian Police Service
Beedi (a.k.a. veedi) a hand-rolled cigarette popular in India.
Begum The Muslim female title of honor; the female equivalent of Nawab
Besant Annie (1847-1933) An Irish woman who became an staunch supporter of Indian freedom and started Home Rule League; President of Indian National Congress in 1917
Bhaba Homi Jahangir (1909-1966)Indian scientist often described as the father of Indian nuclear science. The Bhaba atomic center is named after him
Bhagawati Charan (1907-1930) Member of Nav Jawan Bharat Sabha; with wife durga Bhabi engaged in many revolutionary activities against the British to free India; died while testing a bomb;
Bhagiratha The Hindu sage who brought the river Ganga from heaven to earth.
Bhagwan Das (1869-1958) Vedic Scholar and Indian Freedom Fighter.
Bhairava A fierce aspect of Shiva
Bhajans Songs of devotion sung in praise of God, usually in groups.
Bhakti Devotion; In Hindu thought, Bhakti is one of the ways to reach God (Bhaktimarga) [more]
Bhakti Yoga The path of reaching God through devotion.
Bhang hashish; a form of intoxicant used in festivities and rituals
Bharadwaj A sage of Dwaparayuga period; father of teacher Drona
Bharadwaja A sage of the Vedic period--A great seer who attained extraordinary scholarship and power of meditation.
Bharat Son of king Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi; step brother of Ramachandra and a figure in Ramayana; also see Bharata
Bharat Muni (5th Century) Sanskrit scholar and writer of treatise on Dance the Natyashastra
Bharata Son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala; India (Bharatavarsha) is named after him; Also the name of a brother of Ramachandra; Also the name of the sage who wrote Natyashastra
Bharata Ratna Name of the highest civilian honor in India given by the Government for distinguished achievers
Bharatanatyam Most popular form of clasical dance from South India
Bhaskara (b 114 A.D.) Indian mathematician who is considered the father of modern Calculus
Bhaskaracharya (b 1114 A.D.) Indian mathemetician who explained the meaning of zero and infinity through simple division.
Bhatnagar Shanti Swarup (1894-1955) Indian scientist and science administrator. Much of free India's research institutes were his vision
Bhavabhuti 8th Century Sanskrit poet of Vidarbha kingdom who wrote Mahaviracharita, Malatimadhava, and Uttararamacharita
Bhave Vinoba (1895-1982) Disciple of Gandhi who advocated Bhoodan (land donation) and vegetarianism.
Bhikaji Cama (1861-1936) Parsi woman who was an active supporter of India's Freedom Movement; hoisted the first Indian Flag in Germany in 1907 [more]
Bhima Son of Kunti, the second of the Pandavas
Bhimsen Joshi Noted Classical Indian (Hindustani) Vocalist
Bhindranwale, Sant Jarnail Singh (1947 - 1984) Sikh priest and extremist leader; led the campaign for "Khalistan' during the early 1980s, precipitating a bloody conflict in Punjab; was killed by the Indian security forces in the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar [more]
Bhishma Son of Shantanu and the river Ganga; his oath of celibacy in Mahabharat is well known [more]
Bhrigu Son of Manu, a character from Indian mythologies who cursed Nahusha
Bhyrappa S.L. An important novelist of Kannada language. Parva, Vamshavriksha are some of his great works.
Bihar An under developed state in Northern India
Bilhana Medieval poet who wrote Vikramankadeva Charita.
Bimbisara A king of the Magadha empire and a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
Bindusara (298-273 B.C.) Mauryan Emperor who ruled India; son of Chandragupta Maurya
Birbal A witty courier in the palace of emperor Akbar. Akbar and Birbal stories are popular among India's children.
Biriyani A fancy rice casserole, often containing meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables
Bishahari (a.k.a. Manasa Devi) A snake goddess worshipped in Eastern India
Blog (a.k.a. Weblog) an annotated guide to the stories on the Internet compiled by an individual. It is a fashionable new way to share interests, collect opinions, learn, and criticize [more]
Bodh Gaya The place where Lord Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana; located in the state of Bihar, near Gaya
Bodhi Tree The tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
Bodhisatwa A Buddha-to-be; one who has renounced nirvana so others can attain it. [more]
Bollywood Name of the Indian movie industry. India produces more movies than Hollywood, which are very popular in India and Arab countries. [more]
Brahaspati The panet Jupiter; also the name of a wise Hindu sage.
Brahma An important vedic diety with Shiva and Vishnu; no longer popularly worshipped in India
Brahma Samaj See: Brahmo Samaj
Brahmachari one who is celibate; a young disciple; one who practices Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya Literally means practicing conduct that leads one to God. Mostly it is used to describe self-restraint, especially over sexual organs (celibacy); first stage in the fourfold Hindu life cycle scheme of development
Brahmagupta (598 A.D.-660 A.D.) Ancient mathematician who worked with indeterminate equations (Varga Prakriti)
Brahman As per Rig Veda, brahman is the magical force of potency; sometimes used as synonym with brahmin, or Brahma
Brahmaputra A great river of India, running 1800 miles, originating in the Himalayas and joing Bay of Bengal.
Brahmin (a.k.a. brahman) the traditional upper-caste Hindus. Originated from Brahman in in Sanskrit meaning "absolute" or the "infinite spirit" of Lord Brahma. [more]
brahmins (a.k.a. brahmin) the traditional upper-caste Hindus. Originated from Brahman in Sanskrit meaning "absolute" or the "infinite spirit" of Lord Brahma.
Brahmo Samaj Reformist society founded by Rajaram Mohan Roy
Brihannala Warrior Arjuna's name in disguise while in hiding in king Virata's palace
Brihaspati The Hindu Deity of Wisdom; the chief of all the priests
Brihatkathamanjari 11th Century poem written by Kashmiri poet Kshemendra
British Raj (1858-1947) The period of British rule in India subsequent to 1857 war leading up to the Indian freedom,
Buddha Founder of Buddhism [more]
Bukka (1355-1377) Fought the Bahamani kings and expanded the Vijayanagara kingdom
Bukka I (1355-1377) Vijayanagara king who took on the Bahamani rulers.
Bundelkhand Region in central India constituing parts of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh states.
C.V. Raman The first Asian scientist to win the Nobel Prize (Physics)
Canning Governor General of British India from 1856 to 1862; quelled the Sepoy Mutiny
Cariappa K. M. First General of the Indian Army after independence (in 1947)
Caste A social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary in India, especially the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra castes [more]
Chaitanya (1485-1533) Hindu saint who popularized the Vaishnavism or worship of Lord Vishnu and his avatars
Chanakya (3rd century B.C) also known as Kautilya, author of Artha Shastra, an ancient text on administration of Government and Economics. He was Chandragupta Maurya's prime minister [more]
Chanda Shekhar (1927-) Indian politician, briefly Prime Minister of India (Nov 90 to Mar. 91)
Chandala An untouchable; especially someone engaged in the profession of carrying of dead bodies and in the process of cremation.
Chandigarh Name of the city in Punjab designed by a European team of architects led by Le Corbusier. Became a matter of dispute between the states of Punjab and Haryana.
Chandighar Planned city designed by Mont Corbusier bordering Himachal Pradesh and Punjab
Chandragupta Gupta (308 A.D. - 375 A.D..) Founder of the Gupta dynasty during whose reign the Indian arts and culture prospered
Chandragupta Maurya (330-298 B.C.) First documented Indian Emperor; said to belong to same family as Lord Rama of Ramayana; established the Mauryan empire [more]
Chandrashekhar Sharma (1906-1931) Popularly known as Chandrashekhar Azad; Revolutionary activist and associate of Bhagat Singh [more]
Chapati Thin wheat bread roasted on a pan
Charan Singh (1902-1987) Parliamentarian; briefly Prime Minister of India during July 1979-Jan 1980
Charles Wilkins A Civil Servant in the British administration, was fascinated by the culture of India and started Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784; regarded as the father of Indology
Charpai Literally meaning "four legs", it is a lightweight, Indian wooden cot.
Chatarji Bankim Chandra (1838-1894) Great Bengali poet and patriot. Wrote the popular song Vande Mataram
Chatni spicy sauce; condiment
Chattopadhyaya Kamaladevi (1903-1988) Social worker and an authority on Indian art and culture
Chaurapanchasika 11th century poem of fifty verses written by Billana
Chennai Formerly known as Madras, an important city in the southern province of Tamil Nadu
Chennamma Queen of Kittur in Karnataka who fought against General Thakeray
Chhattisgarh The name of the state in India carved out of old Madhya Pradesh
Chikan Embroidery in white cotton thread on muslin cloth
Chiranjeevi A person who does not die. [more]
Chitragupta As per Hindu mythologies, the accountant of the good and bad deeds of individuals.
Chitrangada Son of king Shantanu and Satyavati
Chittaranjan Das (1870-1925) Indian nationalist leader from Bengal. With Motilal Nehru, led the Swaraj faction of Indian National Congress.
Chola A very important dynasty to rule South India (and other parts of South Asia) over along period of 300 B.C. to 1250 A.D.; under Rajaraja Chola I (reigned 985–1014) and Rajendra Chola I (reigned 1014–42), the Chola power reached its zenith
Cholas A very important dynasty to rule South India (and other parts of South Asia) over along period of 300 B.C. to 1250 A.D.; under Rajaraja Chola I (reigned 985–1014) and Rajendra Chola I (reigned 1014–42), the Chola power reached its zenith
choli The small blouse worn by Indian women to go with the drape (saree)
Choultry A dharmashala, ashram, monastery, or community center.
Chowry A fly-whisk; the tail of a horse or yak set in a handle of wood or ivory
Chudidar (a.k.a) Chridar --loose-fitting, drawstring pants that are tight at the ankle and calf.
Cochin An important city in the state of Kerala in south India.
Coorgis The martial race of Kodagu in Karnataka.
Cornwallis Governor General of India; annexed Srirangapattanam; had extreme views on administration
Cowrie (a.k.a. Kavade) a seashell resembling the shape of a Yoni [more]
Crore A unit of measure equal to 100,000,00 or one hundred Lakhs
Cuttack AN old city in the state of Orissa that once served as the capital.
Daal (a.k.a. Dal) A type of legume widely used in Indian cooking
Dadhabhai Navaroji (1825-1917) A great public figure of India before freedom. President of Indian National Congress; educationist and Parsi leader
Dadheechi Hindu sage who sacrificed his backbone so good may triumph over evil
Dadu Dayal (1544-1603) A disciple of Kabir, he was a supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity. His followers were known as Dadu Panthis.
Daitya (a.k.a. Rakshasa) Giants from Indian mythologies who are always in war against Gods.
Daksha A common name in Indian mythologies; one was a son of Brahma, another as father of Sati (who married Shiva); Daksha means efficient or capable in Sanskrit and used as an "Attention" command in RSS.
Dakshinewar Center five miles from Calcutta where Swami Vivekananda was initiated into asceticism by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
Dalai Lama (1935-) Spiritual leader of Tibet. Nobel Laureate (1989), now lives in Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh after fleeing to India in 1959.
Dalal Street Commonly referred name of the Mumbai (Bombay) stock exchange
Dalhousie Governor General of British India from 1848 to 1856
Dalits Economically and socially backward communities of India who were discriminated by the caste system
Danda Punishment; a type of yogic exercise involving punishment of body; a fine imposed in punishment; a stick used to punish or as a walking stick.
Dandaka Great forest which Ramachandra, Sita and Laxman traveled through for ten years of their fourteen year exile.
Dandakaranya The name of the forest between rivers Godavari and Narmada where Rama and Sita spent fourteen years of Vanavasa.
Darshan the visual encounter with god in worship; to do darshan is to go see the image of god in a temple.
Dasharatha A king of the Chandra family and the ruler of Kosala; father of Ramachandra
Dattatraya R. Bendre Kannada Poet and Jnanapeeth award winner [more]
Dattatreya A sage who had elements of all three Vedic Gods (Trimuttis)
Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883) Hindu social reformer, founded the Arya Samaj. Fought against the Hindu social evils of untouchability and Sati.
Dehradun Name of the city in the Himalayn valley that serves as the gateway to the Garhwali Himachal such as Badrinath and Joshimath.
Devadasis Temple women of India; sometimes exploited as prostitutes. [more]
Devaki Mother of Krishna and wife of Vasudeva. She was a sister of Kansa, the king of Mathura
Devanagari Language of the Gods. Hindus believe that Sanskrit, the language of much of their scriptures is the divine language. The Devanagari script (also called Nagari) is used today by several Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi and Marathi.
dhakma The "Tower of Silence" where the dead bodies of people belonging to Parsi community are disposed.
Dhanabad Region in Uttara Pradesh famous for the coal mines and notorious for the "coal mafia"
Dhanurveda Ancient Indian military science
Dharani (a.k.a. Bhoomi, Prithvi) Mother Earth worshiped by Hindus as as diety and an element
Dharma Ethical code, religious practice; it also has a deeper meaning of being righteous, being fair and adhering to nature.
Dharma Shastra Hindu texts of versified instruction on morals and law.
Dharma Sutra Hindu texts in prose form on ethics and code of conduct.
Dharmananda Kosambi (1876-1947) Great Orientalist and Buddhist scholar who taught at Harward and Univ. of Leningrad; an associate of Mahatma Gandhi and an advocate of Ahimsa
Dharmapala A defender of Buddhist teachings
Dharmashala rest house for pilgrims; a choultry
Dharmavijaya A term found on Ashokan incriptions that refers to "Conquest without Annexation"
Dhatu primary ingredient; a mineral; semen
Dhondo Keshav Karve (1858-1962) Indian social worker who championed remarriage of Hindu widows
Dhoti (a.k.a. Dhotar) A loincloth worn by men in India. Typically white, it is made with cotton or silk fabric
Dhrishtadyumna (dhri-shta-dyoom-na) Son of king Drupada who beheaded Drona, and in turn killed by Ashwathama while sleeping.
Dhritarashtra Blind king of Hastinapura and father of the Kauravas; brother of Pandu;
Dhruva A great devotee of God in Hindu mythologies; the North star is named after him
Dhyana A state of deep meditation. The Buddhist school of Zen is originated from this word.
Digambara Literally meaning 'sky-clad', a sect of Jainism that practices nudism.
diya oil lamp typically lit in front of a Hindu deity and during celebration of Diwali festival.
Domingo Paes Portuguese traveler who visited India during Vijayanagar rule.
Dosai (a.k.a. Dose, Dosa) Indian pan-cackes made with different ingredients such as rice, flour, coco-nut etc.
Draupadi Daughter of king Drupada and common wife of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata epic [more]
Drona A brahmin teacher from Mahabharata epic who taught weaponry and warfare to the royalty at Hastinapur; father of Ashwathama
Drupada King of Panchala kingdom; parent of Draupadi of Mahabharat; childhood friend of Drona and father of Shikhandi
Dualism a.k.a Dwatia, The school of Indian thought that claims the soul and matter are independent of each other.
Dundubhi A demon in Ramayana epic, killed by Vali
durbar (from Persian) Royal court
Durvasa An ill tempered sage from Indian mythologies who cursed Shakuntala.
Duryodhana The eldest of the Kouravas and fought the great Mahabharat war with the cousins, the Pandavas
Dushana A character from Ramayana, a friend of Khara and killed by Rama.
Dushasana Second son of Dhritarashra and Gandhari of the 101 children; humilated Draupadi in a court and was killed by Bheema in the Mahabharat war.
Dushyanta Legendary king and lover of Shakuntala; father of Bharata after whom India is named.
Dutavakya A monologue play written by Bhasa on Krishna's ambassadorial role, written about the 2nd-1st Century B.C.
Dvaitism (a.k.a. Dwaitism, Tattvavada) The doctrine of Vedanta that asserts the eternal and immutable difference between the individual soul (atma) and the supreme soul (paramatma)
Dwaparayuga The third era according to Hindu mythologies; the war of Mahabharata is said to have taken place in this period
Dwaraka Believed to be home to Lord Krsihna's miracles, itis one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage; Vajranabh, Krishna's grandson is said to have built the famouse Krishna temple here
Dwarka Place in Gujarat that is said to have submerged in the ocean seven days after Krishna's death.
East India Company The name of the business entity that was established to conduct business in India, and went on to control and rule India.
Ego Surfing Ego Surfing is searching the Internet for mentions of one's own name, discussions of one's own content and opinions.
Ekalavya A devoted student in the story of Mahabharata
Elephanta Caves situated on an island off Mumbai where Shaivite temples are carved in stone
Fakruddin Ali Ahmed (1905-1977) Fifth President of India during 1974-77
Fatehpur Sikri Name of the city built by emperor Akbar in 1569, and served as the capital of Moghuls.
Gada The weighted club weapon of Vishnu, Bhima and Hanuman
Gana The mischievous dwarfs who make up the entourage of Lord Shiva; Ganesh is their captain
Gandeeva The weapon of choice belonging to warrior Arjuna in the Mahabharata war
Gandhara An ancient kingdom of India, roughly corresponding to present day Khandahar in Afghanistan. Gandhari, a queen of Mahabharat was a pricess from Gandhar.; Also name of an important school of Indian art that florished during the Kushanas.
Gandhari Wife of Dhritarashra and the queen of Hastinapur; mother of the Kauravas; [more]
Gandharvas Celestial beings appearing in Hindu mythologies
Gandharvavdea Ancient Indian musical system
Gandhi Mohandas (1869-1948) also known as Mahatma, is one of the greatest leaders of 20th century. Advocated non-violent struggle and equality of humans and lead an open, clean life. [more]
Ganesh the elephant headed son of Shiva widely worshipped for elimination of troubles and evil [more]
Ganga The river Ganges
Gangotri The birthplace of river Ganga (the Ganges)
Garbhagruha Sanctum sanctorium; the innermost spot in a temple.
Garuda (ga-du-da): The king of birds and the mount of Lord Vishnu. [more]
Gaumuka The source of Bhagirati river; the galciers of Gangotri end here.
Gavaskar Sunil (1949-)Cricketer and master batsman. Held many records during his day.
Gaya The town in Bihar where Buddha found enlightenment; a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists.
Gayatri A three line verse of Rig Veda of great sanctity to Hindus.
Gayatri Mantram Ancient Vedic prayer (about 5000 years old) that is recited by Brahmins during the Sandhyavana prayer [more]
Geet Sethi (1962-) World Billiards Champion for several years in 1990s
gesso Paintings created with glue to create reliefs and special effects [more]
ghat Steep and narrow elevations. Typically used to describe mountainous highways or stepped river-fronts.
Ghatotkacha Monstrous sized son of Bhima and Hidimba who was killed by Karna using the most powerful missile that he was saving to use against Arjuna.
Ghee Clarified, semi fluid butter used in Indian cooking
Giri Varahagiri Venkata (1894-1980) A former president of India
Girish Karnad (1938-) Kannada playwright, actor and director; Jnanapeeth awardee
Gita Govinda A classic work of poet Jayadeva of 12th Century A.D.
Gita-Govinda A poem on the love of Krishna and Radha by Jayadeva written in 12th century
Goa A South-Western State in India which was a Portuguese Colony for a long time [more]
Godavari Name of a river in Central India; Lord Rama's hermitage at Panchavati was located on the shores of Godavari
Golconda The capital of Qutub Shahi Sultans who ruled Deccan from 1518 - 1687 A.D.; also name of a famous diamond
Golden Temple (a.k.a Harmandir Sahib) Holy shrine of Sikhs located in Amritsar in Punjab.; Location of bloody fight (Operation Bluestar) between extremists and Indian military
Gomateshwara (a.k.a Bahubali) An important Jain saint whose huge statue is worhipped in Shravanabelagola
Gomateswara Jain saint whose gigantic statue is erected at Sravanabelagola and other places of pilgrimage.
Gopalakrishna Gokhale (1866-1915) Indian statesman whom Gandhi regarded as his mentor. Founded Servants of India Society in 1905
Gopi (a.k.a. Gopika) the female cowherds who are enamored of Krishna; Radha is among them
Gowri The eternal mother of Universe, and Goddess of marital bliss
Gowtama Sage of Ramayana period who cursed his wife Ahalya into becoming a stone for her infidelity
Gruhastha The phase in life of a house-holder. See ashramas
Gupta Maithilisaran (1886-1964) Hindi poet and accomplished writer. Bharata Bharati, Saaket are primary works
Gurmukhi (a.k.a Gurumukhi) Literally meaning "Mouth of Guru", it is the name of the language in which the holy texts of Sikhism are written.
guru a teacher; especially a profound teacher and mentor who has devoted desciples.
Guru Granth Sahib See Adi Granth
Gurukul Traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery [more]
Hakka-Bukka The brothers who established the mighty Vijayanagar empire [more]
Hamsa Royal Geese; a.k.a. Rajahamsa, the bird has mythological significance in Indian art and literature
Happalam (a.k.a. Papad) Spicy lentil wafers
Hara See Lord Shiva
Harappa Ancient archaeological site uncovering a lost civilization.
Hardutt Singh Malik (1894 - ?) Indian pilot who fought in the First World War and said to be the only Indian aviator to survive the war; later served as an Ambassador to France.
Hari See Lord Vishnu
Harihara I (1336-1355) The first of the Vijayanagara rulers; established himself at the capital on the Tungabhadra river
Harihara II (1377-1401) Vijayanagara king who constantly had to fight invasions by Bahamani armies.
Harijans Literally meaning "Children of God", refers to the people of India discriminated as the caste-less or untouchables [more]
Harischandra A king from Hindu mythologies who was tested at the altar of truth
Harshavardhana (606 - 647 A.D.) A celebrated king of India.
Hastinapur The capital of Kuru kingdom; the war of Mahabharat takes place in question to who is heir to Hastinapur
Hastinapura See: Hastinapur
Hayagriva One of the Dharmapalas
Hero-stone Carved memorial stones erected in the honor of a brave man or woman who perished while defending the interests of the village (such as while fighting bandits who attempted to steal cattle, or invaders who abused women).
Hidayatulla Mohammed (1905-1992) A former Chief Justice and a vice-president of India. Brought in many landmark reforms
Hidimba Sister of a powerful monster Hidimba; fell in love with Bhima and married him; bore a brave son Ghatotkacha
Hijras (a.k.a. Hijjira and Hizra) Transexual entertainers in India
Himachal Pradesh A province (state) in Northern India on the foothills of the Himalaya mountains
Himalayas The high peaking mountain range to the north of India where many of the holy rivers take their origin.
Hindi Most predominant language in India
Hindimba A cannibal demon in the story of Mahabharat; brother of Hidimba who eventually married Bhima and bore Ghatotkacha.
Hing A strong smelling resin obtained from roots of medicinal plants.
Howdah The seat and canopy that is balanced on an elephant's back
Humayun Mogul Emperor (1530-1556) ; son of Babar and father of Akbar the great [more]
Hyder Ali a leader (Naik) in the service of Mysore kings, rose to build his own kingdom; father of Tippu Sultan
I.K. Gujral A prime-minister of India during the tumutous times of 1997-98.
Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627) Islamic ruler of mostly Hindu state of Bijapur, called himself the "protector of weak". Lost to Moghul forces in 1597
Ibrahim Lodi (died 1526 A.D.) Son of Sikandar Lodi and the last ruler of Delhi Sutanate.
Ilayaraja (1943-) A very popular music director of film music in India
Indian National Congress The political movement in India that led to democracy and freedom; a major political force since freedom [more]
Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) India's prime minister several times; daughter on J. Nehru and mother of R. Gandhi, also prime ministers of India
Indology The field of academic study of ancient and medieval India
Indra Leader of deities shown in Indian art riding an elephant ( Airawat)
Indra Lal Roy (1898-1918) Indian pilot who died in first world war fighting for the British
Indrajit (a.k.a. Meghanath) Son of Rawana who conquered Indra
Indraprastha (a.k.a. Khandavaprastha) A new kingdom established by Pandavas after buring a large forest.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) Great Indian scholar and reformer; fought against the social evils of child marriage and exploitation of women
ISI Inter Services Intelligence -- the secret service agnecy of Pakistan often blamed in India for sponsoring of terrorism and civil strife.
J.C. Bose Indian biologist who showed that plants, too, can feel in their own way.
Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937) Indian scientist primarily researched in the field of electricity.
Jaggery Traditional Indian supplement for sugar. Liquid brown sugar made from processed sugar cane juice.
Jahangir Mogul king; son of Akbar.
Jaisalmer A remote fortress city in the state of Rajasthan known for its colorful camel fair
Jamadagni A sage from Indian mythologies who is the father of Parashuram.
Jamanlal Bajaj (1886-1942) Industrialist and freedom fighter with the Indian National Congress. He was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi
Jambavan a bear who helped Rama find Sita in the epic story of Ramayana
Jambudwipa Mythical continent sometimes used synonym with India.
Jambuvanta The mighty bear who served as a warrior in the war of Ramayan.
Jammu and Kashmir Northern most State of India
Jamshedji Tata (1904-?) known as JRD, one of the most prominent Indian industrialists
Janaka King of Janaka (a.k.a. Mithila) kingdom during the Ramayana period; found Sita in a furrow
Janamejaya Heir to the Pandava empire; son of king Parikshit; grandson of Arjuna
Janavashya A 15th century Kannada work by Kallarasa on practice of sex as an art and a science form. [more]
jangama A priest belonging to Lingaya community; a wandering ascetic.
Jantar Mantar Name of the astronomical observatory in the city of Jaipur built in 1724 A.D. by Sawai Jai Singh [more]
japa Repetitive chanting of god's glory or a mantra
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale A Sikh priest with extreme views who fought for an independent state Khalistan. Killed during Operation Bluestar
jataka A horoscope
Jatayu The great bird who tried to rescue Sita and was killed by Rawana
Jati (jaa-ti) Literally, means the birth group. Basic endogamous unit of the caste system. There are approximately 3,000 jatis in contemporary Indian society. The word jati is also sometimes used for ethnic, religious, or linguistic groups [more]
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) Indian National Leader and Statesman; First Prime Minister of India; an eminent congressman and an associate of Mahatma Gandhi; father of Indira Gandhi [more]
Jayadeva (12th Century) Sanskrit poet who wrote the masterpiece Geeta-Govinda
Jayadratha King of Sindhu kingdom during Mahabharata; son-in-law of Dhritarashtra
Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-1979) Popularly known as JP, he was instrumental in formation of Janata Party, once a formidable political force against Indira Gandhi; Freedom fighter and social reformer
Jhansi Capital of a small kingdom whose queen Lakshmibai bravely fought the British during the Sepoy Mutiny; also an important railway hub in Uttara Pradesh
Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Queen of a small state Jhansi, fought the powerful British during the 1857 War of Indian Independence [more]
Jijya A tax imposed on non-Muslims by Islamic rulers; In India, Akbar abolished jijya, but his grandson Aurangjeb reimposed it on Hindu citizens.
Jina A conqueror. The term was appropriated by Jains to describe its saviors like Mahavira. Now used in the context of Buddhism as well
Jizya A tax imposed by Muslim kings on non-Muslims of India to coerce them into Islam; Akbar abolished it in 1564 and Aurangjeb reinstated it in 1679
Jnanapeeth (jnana-pee-thha, from Sanskrit, translates to "the seat of knowledge"), the highest literary honor in India, awarded by the Government of India.
Jnaneshwari A commentory on the Bhagawad-Gita written by Saint Poet Jnaneshwar in the 13th century.
Jnaneswar (1275-1296, a.k.a Dnaneswar) Poet wrote Jnaneswari, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita
Jog Falls The highest water fall in India (height 830 feet) formed by the river Sharavati
Johar (jo-hurr): The tradition of Rajput women committing suicide to protect their honor. [more]
jyotisha Ancient Indian astronomy; a practitioner is a Jyotishi
Jyotishi Astrologer or fortune teller
K. B. Hegdewar Founder of the RSS, a powerful social and activist organization in India
K.R. Narayan (1920-2005) President of India during the years 1997-1992; first Dalit President of India.
Kabir (1440-1510) Disciple of Ramananda, he believed in formless God. He was the first to reconcile Hinduism and Islam
Kadambari The name of a famous Sanskrit novel by Bana
Kaikeyi Youngest queen of Dasharatha and the mother of Bharata.
Kakori A town near Lucknow most famous for the decoity conducted by freedom fighters of India.
Kalakachrayakatha A popular illustrated Jain text describing the adventures of Jain monk Kalaka. Apprx 1400 B.C.
Kalidasa (1st Century B.C.? 5th Century A.D. ?) India's greatest poet and a chief figure in Sanskrit literature. Chief works are Meghadoota, Raghuvamsa, Kumarasambhava and Shakuntala
Kaliyuga The age (Yuga) according to Hindu scriptures that began after the demise of Krishna and lasting 432,000 years.
Kalki the avatar of Vishnu yet to come
Kallarasa Kannada writer of 15th century credited with the erotic work Janavashya
Kalpasutra A medieval Jain text on the life of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras.
Kama Sensuous love, emotional feeling of attachment. In ancient Indian thought is recognized as the stimulus of action and personified as the god of erotic love.
Kamadhenu The cow of plenty, capable of granting any desires.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya Gandhian freedom fighter and high priestess of Indian culture; established numerous programs for women in India [more]
Kamaraj Kumaraswami (1903-1975) A leader of Tamil Nadu and a president of Indian National Congress
Kamasutra The book of erotics written by sage Vatsyayana
Kamban South Indian Poet-sage of 11th century A.D. who wrote the masterpiece Ramayana in Tamil
Kamsa Legendary uncle of Krishna, who is killed by the Krishna.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam (1848-1919) Social reformer and literary activist of Andhra Pradesh
Kanishka A great emperor of India (apprx. 2nd century A.D.) of Kushana dynasty. A great patron of arts. The Gandhara school of art flourished during his rule.
Kannada Language spoken by people of the Karnataka State [more]
Kansa See Kamsa
Kanyadana Literally meaning "donation of a virgin", a ritual in Hindu wedding where the parents of the bride handover their daughter to the groom, who promises to honor her.
Kapil Dev (1959-) A popular & exciting cricketer, the best all-round player India produced. Led India to World Cup to World Cup victory in 1983
Kapoor Raj (1924-1988) Indian film actor and director; Main movies are Barsaat, Shri420, Sangam as actor, Ram teri Ganga Maili and Satyam Shivam Sundaram as director
Karma Karma is force of one's actions in determining what one is and will be, to one's role in making one's own destiny.
Karna Son of Surya and Kunti out of wedlock and raised as a charioteer; the tragic hero of Mahabharata epic
Karnataka formerly known as the Mysore state, a province in the Deccan plateau of India [more]
karpoor Camphor crystals used as a fuel during Hindu worship of arati.
Kashmir Disputed territory between India and Pakistan in the Himalayan valley
Kauravas (a.k.a Kouravas) The hundred children of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari are known as Kauravas.
Kausalya The Queen of Dasharatha and the mother of Ramachandra
Kaveri An important river in South India that is cause of dispute between the states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
Kavyamimamsa An important work on poetics by Mammata written 1108 A.D.
Keladi Chennamma (1691-1996) A brave queen in Indian history who fought the Mogul emperor Aurangjeb; sheltered Rajaram, a son of Maratha king Shivaji
Kerala A southern state in India [more]
Keshanta Name of the Hindu sacrament (samskara) observed on the occasion of first time shaving of one's beard.
Khadi rough homespun cotton popularized by Gandhiji [more]
Khajuraho Name of the town famous for its medieval temples depicting erotica. [more]
Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (1890-1988) Popularly known as *the frontier Gandhi* dedicated his life for India; a close associate of Gandhi, organized Khudai Khidmatgar and opposed partition of India.
Khara Brother of Rawana and Shurpanakhi in the epic of Ramayana, who was killed by Rama.
Kharavela A king of Kalinga who ruled during the war of Mahabarata
Kheer a milky, sweet semi-liquid desert
Khudiram Bose A freedom fighter and an associate of Bhagat Singh; bombed the assembly and was hanged by the British
Khushwant Singh (1915-) Leading Indian Journalist and columnist; famous works include The History of the Sikhs, Train to Pakistan, Punjab Tragedy
Kirtana Religious hymns made popular by the followers of Chaitanya
kirtimukha literally meaning "face of glory", the specific decoration used in Indian art to decorate temple motifs.
Kishkindha The kingdom ruled by Sugriva the monkey
Kolam Typically laid with rice powder, Kolam (a.k.a Rangoli) is a women's art in South India with spiritual connections. The art is performed in devotion to goddess Laxmi
Kolkatta (a.k.a. Calcutta) A city in the state of West Bengal, an important trading and cultural center
Kosala Ancient kingdom in North India said to have ruled by king Dasharatha
Kouravas The hundred children of Kuru king Dhritatashtra ; eldest of them was Suyodhana or Duryodhana
Kripacharya A brahmin of Hastinapur and teacher to the first warrior family of Mahabharat
Kripallani Sucheta (1908-1974) Freedom fighter and wife of Acharya Kripalani. Went on to become the Chief Minister of the state of Uttara Pradesh
Krishna One of the most popular avatar of Lord Vishnu. Hero of Mahabharat epic, around whom many legends are woven.
Krishnadevaraya (1509-1530) Most brilliant of Vijayanagara kings. A cultured ruler and a great patron of arts. Defeated the Bahamani kingdom in 1510 A.D.
Krishnamurthy Jiddu (1895-1986) A highly regarded Indian philosopher; headed a new sect called Star of the East
Kritayuga (see Satyayuga)
Kshatriya varna category used loosely to designate a number of caste groups who identify themselves as warrior like or of royal heritage.
Kubera God of wealth and the guardian of the North
Kulcha Tender, pita-like bread cooked in the tandoor oven
Kumarasambhava An epic work by Kalidasa about the marriage of Parvati with Lord Shiva.
Kumbhakarna Brother of king Rawana; known as a great sleeper
Kunti Wife of king Pandu and the mother of the Pandavas
Kurien Verghese (1921-) Mobilized millions of farmers in India to build one of the largest co-operatives in the world to produce dairy products.
Kurta a long, loose-fitting shirt
Kurukshetra The battlefield for the great war of Mahabharat; present day Ambala in the state of Haryana
Kutch (a.k.a. Kachchh) A region in state of Gujarat surrounded by a gulf of Arabian Sea, and Pakistan. The scene of 1965 war between India and Pakistan.
Lakh A unit of measure equal to 100,000
Lakshman Second son of king Dasharatha; accompanied brother Ramachandra to the forest
Lakshmi Hindu goddess of contentment (bhagya); a very popular diety in India worshiped as wife of Lord Vishnu
Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904-1966) Indian freedom fighter and leader who advocated Land donations; Prime Minister of India (June 1964-Jan 1966); Gave the nation the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan [more]
Lala Lajpatrai (1865-1928) Known as Punjab Kesari (the Lion of Punjab), was a prominent leader and freedom fighter. Was killed by British during a peaceful protest; his death was avenged by Bhagat Singh. [more]
Lankesh Patrike A popular Kannada language tabloid started by writer P. Lankesh in 1979. It rediculed Indian caste and political systems.
Lassi A creamy yogurt drink that can be sweet or salty
Lata Mangeshkar (1929-) Indian playback singer for over sixty years; has sung thousands of songs in tens of languages
Lava and Kusha The twin sons of Ramachandra and Sita
Lava-Kusha The twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita
Laxman Brother of Rama; See Lakshman
Laxman R.K. (1927-) India's prominent cartoonist. His You Said It strip is a classic.
Laxmi Hindu Goddess of wealth; Lord Vishnu's wife
Leander Paes Indian tennis Player
Leela divine plays as in Krishna Leela and Rama Leela
Lingam iconic, phallic form of Lord Shiva
Lingayats (a.k.a. Veerashivas) Followers of saint-poet Basavanna practicing a variety of Shaivism.
Lokapalas Guardians of the quarters of the universe.
Lokopakara 11th century encyclopedic work by Jain minister Chavundaraya on home and social sciences.
Lord Irwin Governor General of India; signed a peace pact with Indian National Congress known as Gandhi-Irwin pact
Lucknow Historically important city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, that served as the capital of Awadh kings.
Lumbini The birthplace of Buddha. (In present day Nepal)
Lungi Cotton long cloth wrapped around the waist like a towel or skirt.
M.B.B.S. Name of the four year medical degree awarded in India (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery).
M.S. Golwalkar Known as "Guruji". He was the second Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
Madanlal Dhingra A revolutionary who fought for the freedom of India
Madhuparka A delicious mixture of milk, honey and sweet spices offered to honored guests; especially during weddings in some communities.
Madhvacharaya (1239-1319), Hindu sage who advocated Dvaitism, which emphasized the immutable difference between the individual soul and the supreme soul [more]
Madhya Pradesh meaning Central India, is a large state in the heart of India [more]
Madri Wife of Pandu who went to the funeral pyre with him
Magadha An ancient kingdom of India, founded in apprx. 3rd century B.C.
Mahabali A demon who conquered several worlds; to end his tyranny Lord Vishnu incarnated as a dwarf
Mahabalipuram City in Tamil Nadu famous for the monumental architecture of the Pallava kings
Mahabharat The epic story of Hindus featuring the Pandavas, the Kauravas, Krishna and the war of Kurukshetra, written by sage-poet Vyasa.
Mahadhavala 9th Century commentary on Shatkhandagama by Virasena
Mahalanobis P.C. (1893-1972) Economist and statistician and father of India's Economic Planning infrastructure
Maharashtra A large state in Western part of India
Mahatma Gandhi Indian Spiritual and Political Leader; Advocated non-violent struggle [more]
Mahavira Mahavira Vardhamana (6th century B.C.) Proponent of the Jain religion which emphasizes non-violence and sacrifice.
Mahayana The 'Great Vehicle' of Buddhism which offers a chance of all living beings of attaining nirvana
Makara A mystical crocodile from Indian mythologies
Malabar South-western part of India known today as Kerala [more]
Malaviya Madana Mohan (1861-1946) Founder of Hindu Mahasabha and the Banaras Hindu University. Was a prominent leader and freedom fighter.
Malayalam A prominent South Indian language spoken in the state of Kerala and wherever the people of Kerala have migrated.
Manali Name of a beautiful valley in the Himalayas.
Mandal Commission A report of a study by Bindhyeshwari Prasad Mandal recommending a minimum 27% quota (reservations) in jobs and education for Backward classes and Dalits in India.
Mandala Sacred diagram involving circles and other geometric patterns representing cosmos; often used in Yantra and Tantra
Mandodari The devout wife of Rawana, the king of Sri Lanka; a character from Ramayan
Manmatha (a.k.a. Kama) the deity of Sensuous love and desire
Manthara The name of a maid in Ramayana who conspired with Kaikeyi to send Rama to exile.
Mantra secret, sacred slogan.
Manu (a.k.a Vaivasvata) One of the primeval ancestors of mankind.
Manusmriti The Laws of sage Manu that are often quoted in Indian culture to define man's and woman's role in society.
Mappilai K.C.M. (1873-1953) An eminent journalist and leader from Kerala.
Mappilai Varghese Malayalam writer and litterateur; founder of Malayala Manorama
Marathi Name of the language primarily spoken in Maharashtra State in Western India
Maricha (a.k.a. Mareech) Brother of king Rawana who disguised as a golden deer to aid kidnapping of Sita in the story of Hindu epic Ramayana.
Masti Venkatesh Iyengar Kannada short story writer; Jnanapeeth awardee; works include Madakari Nayaka
maya Illusion or magic; used especially to describe the world we can see as "Illusion of God"
Medha Patkar (1956-) Environmentalist and social activist; launched the Save Narmada project
Medhatithi (6th century A.D.) Indian mathematician who introduced the concept of Logarithmics (powers of 10) and was able to calculate very large numbers precisely
Meerut The location where the 1857 riots first broke out triggering the First War of Indian Independence.
Megasthenes (c.340 - 282 B.C.) Greek historian from Ionia sent to India as an ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. His report about the culture, history and religion of India is an important source of Indian history.
Meghaduta A great Sanskrit work by poet Kalidasa
Meghanad (a.k.a. Indrajit) Son of Rawana who defeated Lord Indra
Menon V.K. Krishna (1896-1974) A distinguished parliamentarian; Writer and orator; represented India at the U.N.
Menon Vallathol Narayana (1878-1958) Malayalam poet and freedom fighter; started Kerala Kala Mandalam [more]
Menon Vappala Pankunni (1894-1966) Indian administrator who worked with Vallabhabhai Patel to organize the Indian states.
Mir Jafir Appointed as Nawab by Siraj-ud-daula, his betrayal allowed British to win the Battle of Plassey and establish themselves in India
Mirabai (1498-1563) A Hindu saintess who sang glories of Lord Krishna
Mirza Ismail (1883-1959) was a Chief Minister (Diwan) of the Kingdom of Mysore.
Mithila An ancient kingdom in India. At the time of Ramayana, it was ruled by king Janaka.
Mizoram A North-Eastern State in India [more]
Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) A president of Muslim League, advocated division of India into Pakistan
Mohammed Rafi (1926-1980) Great playback singer; sang over 20,000 songs in various languages
Moksha (Liberation) -- freedom from birth and death. In Hinduism, liberation from the bondage of worldly action is based on detachment and freedom within oneself. The nearest English equivalent is salvation.
Morarji Desai (1896-1995) Staunch Gandhian, Freedom fighter and a prime minister of India.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) Roman Catholic nun known for her compassionate work on the streets of Calcutta; Nobel Laureate
Motilal Nehru Prominent member of the Indian National Congress before the rise of Mahatma Gandhi; father of Jawaharlal Nehru and grand father of Indira Gandhi
Mount Abu A hill station in Rajasthan and home to the Dilwara Jain Temple
Mountbatten Louis (1900-1979) The last British Viceroy of India.
Mrichchkatika A drama 'Toy Cart' by Sudraka written around the start of the Christian era
Mridangam A form of two faced drum played with hands typically accompanying Carnatic music.
mridanguam A two sided drum played with hands in Indian classical music.
Mudra Different positions of hand in Indian classical dances
Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1300-1351) Sultan of Dehli often rediculed for his grandiose plans that failed.
muhurta An auspicious moment in time that people wait for, to wed, to give birth, or to die.
mukti Liberation -- typeically referring to the liberation that comes from fulfilment of duty.
Mull Fine transparent cloth made with cotton
Mumbai (a.k.a Bombay) Financial capital of India located in the western state of Maharashrta
Munshi Prem Chand (1880-1936) Hindi and Urdu writer; considered as father of modern Hindi social fiction; works include Godan, Nirmala and Sevasadan
Muth (ma-Tha) a Jain or Hindu shrine; monastery
Mysore T. Chowdaiah (1895-1967) A great violinist in the court of Mysore; designed the seven-stringed violin.
Naan Flat, oval bread cooked in the tandoor; similar to Kulcha
Nagaland A North-Eastern State in India
Nagarjuna Konda Sagar Reservoir in Andhra Pradesh named after Buddhist philosopher Acharya Nagarjuna.
Nakula One of the Pandava brothers; twin of Sahadeva; born to Madri from Ashwini Deities
Nalanda Name of the famous ancient unversity in ancient India that attracted scholars from far east Asia.
Namadeva (13th--14th century) One of India's best known saint poets.
Namakarana The naming ceremony of a child, celebrated as an importnt Hindu step to refinement (samskara)
Namaste Indian greeting; see Namaskar
Namboodaripad E.M.S. (1909-) Indian Communist leader and a leader of Kerala state
Namdev A 13th century saint from Maharashtra
Nanak (1469-1538) Indian spiritual leader who founded Sikhism
Nanda Guljarilal (1898-?) Gandhian and twice India's care taker Prime Minister
Nandalal Bose (1883 -1966) A very respected Indian artist who especially portrayed women in his work [more]
Nani Palkhivala (1920-2002) Eminent jurist; served as Indian Ambassador to U.S.A.
Narad Hindu sage and traveler; devotee of Lord Vishnu [more]
Narada A holy personage and celestial musician, always facilitation the good of the world.
Nararaja Another name of Lord Shiva, glorifying his cosmic dance of destruction
Narasimha Rao P.V. (1921-) Prime Minister of India during the years 1991-1996
Narayan K.R. (1921-) An ex-president of India
Narayan R.K. (1906-2001) Indian writer in English; Popular works include Malgudy Days & Swamy and friends; brother of Laxman R.K.
Nargis Dutt (1929-?) Renowned actress of Hindi movies; important roles include Mother India & Raat aur din
Narmada Name of a river in India that flows laterally in Central India; an important river basin; became a source of enviornmental controversy due to the dams built to stop its flow.
Natyashastra Ancient treatise on acting and dancing written by sage Bharata Muni.
Navadwip The place (in Bengal) where saint Chaitanya was born.
Navagraha (a. k.a. Navagruha) meaning the place where the nine satellites are aligned, typically refers to the prayer hall in Hindu temples
Navagrihas (a.k.a. Navagruhas) The nine planets of Ravi, Chandra, Mangala, Budha, Brihaspati, Shukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu
Nawab Muslim title of honor given to courtiers, governors and senators
Nayar Mira (1957-) Indian Film Director; Works include Salam Bombay and Mississippi Masala
Neelakantha (1444-1545 A.D.) Mathematician from Kerala who devised the first known approximation of circular constant, popularly known as *pi*
Neem margosa tree (Melia azadirachta)
New Dehli The capital city of India
Nirvana The state of final bliss
Nivedita A western woman who came under the influence of Swami Vivekananda and took to devotion, and social reform
Oberoi Mohan Singh (1900-?) India's Legendary Hotelier; From humble beginnings developed his own chain of hotels like Rangappa Kamat
Om Name of the sound believed to have cosmic origin, it being the first sound of cosmic creation.
Onam The harvest festival in Kerala
Operation Bluestar Code name of the military operation launched by Government of India to flush terrorists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Orissa (a.k.a. Odissa) A State in Eastern part of India [more]
P.C. Ray Indian scientist and patriot; advocated science education in India
paan Leaf of the betel vine, used as a chewing preparation with betel nuts, spices, and lime.
Padmabhushan Name of a high civilian honor in India given by the Government for distinguished achievers
Padmashri Name of a high civilian honor in India given by the Government for distinguished achievers
Padmavibhushan Name of the second highest civilian honor in India given by the Government for distinguished achievers
Pakoda (a.k.a. Pakora) Fritter dipped in a spicy chickpea batter; can be made with vegetables, cheese, chicken or seafood
palanquin (a.k.a. palki and pallakki) A carryable seat used by noblemen in India. [more]
pallu The throw of the Indian saree typically decorated with designs and patterns.
Pampa (902-975 A.D.) Kannada poet and creator of Adipurana and Vikaramarjuna Vijaya [more]
panchagavya Mixture of five ingredients connected with cow -- milk, curd, ghee, urine, and dung
Panchasheela A five pronged foreign policy advocated by Nehru for India that failed and resulted in Indo-Chinese war of 1962.
Panchavati The name of Rama's hermitage on the banks of Godavari river while living in the forest.
Panchayat a quorum; council of five; village government system in India
Pandavas Half-brothers Yudhishtira, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva all children of Kunti are referred to as Pandavas in Mahabharata
Pandharpur A place of pilgrimage in Maharashtra for devotees of Vithoba.
Pandu Brother of Dhritarastra and father of the Pandavas; husband of Kunti and Madri
Panini Ancient Sanskit scholar of India who wrote Astadhyayi.
Panipat Historical place in Haryana where famous battles were fought in 1526, 1556, and 1761
Paramatman The Supreme Soul or God. (compare with atman)
Parasar a sage who begot Vyasa though Satyavati before she married Shantanu
Parashuram The avatar of Vishnu as the angry Brahman with an axe; teacher to stalwarts like Drona and Bhishma of Mahabharat
Parashurama See Parashuram
Parikshit son of Abhimanyu and an heir to the Pandava kingdom
Parsi The religious school of thought founded by Zoroaster; In India Zoroastrians are known as Parsis and form a formidable business and cultural community
Parvati Lord Shiva's consort; mother of Ganesh, and Subramanya
Parwati Lord Shiva's wife
Pataliputra Modern day Patna, was once a capital of Magadha kingdom as well as a capital of the Guptas.
Patanjali (1300 B.C.) Ancient Indian astronomer who studied space and identified the Northstar (Dhruva)
Pathak Gopal Swarup (1886-1982) Vice-President of India during the years 1969-1974
Pathan Name of a warrior community of Northwesten India, Pakistan and Afghanistan
payasam A type of pudding popular in India
Phalguna The twelfth month of Hindu calendar including the festivals of Holi and Shivaratri.
Phoa (a.k.a. Phua, Avalakki) flaked rice
Pipal The tree of Ficus religiosa
Plassey A village in West Bengal famous for battle of Plassey where Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daul.
Ponna (939-966 A.D.) Among the first great poets of Kannada language; works include Shantipurana and a lost text by name of Bhuvanaikaramabhyudayam [more]
pooja Hindu worhip ritual; see puja
Porbandar The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in the state of Gujarat
Poshak Dress or attire for men that was popular in India during the Mogul rule.
Pradhan village chief; head official
Pradyumna Son of Krishna and Rukmini in the story of Bhagawata.
Prahlada A famous devotee from Hindu mythology; son of Hiranya Kashapu.
Prakash Padukone Badminton player from India
Prakrit Ancient Indian Language of the Vedas
Pranayama Disciplined or controlled breathing techniques of Yoga
Prarabdha Destiny. The part of life over which a living being has no control over.
Prasada Temple food graced by god
Prasadam ritual food offerings; temple food
Prithvi A female deity personifying the earth; (see also: Dharani)
Prithviraj Chauhan (1162-1192 A.D.) Ruler of Delhi at a crucial juncture of India’s history. Known for his bravery, chivalry and kindness, he has been immortalised in Prithvirajaraso, an epic poem composed by one of his associates Chand Bardai.
Puja (a.k.a. Pooja) ritual performed with fire, usually at a designated time.
Pulao (a.k.a. Pilaf, Pulav) Refried aromatic, spiced rice
Punjab A bountiful state in North India bordering Pakistan and homeland of the Sikhs
Puranas Ancient religious texts of Hinduism
Purandaradasa Saint musician who is regarded as the father of South Indian classical (Carnatic) music. [more]
purdah The veil system where the woman had to cover her head and face before appearing in the company of other men.
Puri (a.k.a Poori, Poory) Airy, deep-fried bread
Puru Son of Yayati and an ancestor of Pandavas who traded his youth to become the heir to his father's kingdom.
Purushottam Das Tandon (1882-1962) Prominent figure in the Indian Freedom Struggle [more]
Pushpak Viman Mythical aeroplane appearing in the epic of Ramayan
Puttappa K. V. Popular Kannada poet and writer; Jnanapeeth award winner; works include Sri Ramayana Darshanam, Kanooru Heggaditi [more]
Qasim Barid II (1587-1591) Ruler of Bidar who lost power to the Bijapur kingdom.
Qasin Barid (? - 1504) A prime minister of Turkish origin in Bahamani kingdom, he assumed power in 1492 and started ruling the kingdom
Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1150-1210) Slave dynasty ruler of India.
Qutub Minar Tall minaret (990 feet high --tallest in the world) in New Dehli built by Sultan Iltutmish in 1232 A.D.
R.S.S. See Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian national poet and educator; Nobel Laureate; Founded Shantiniketan (which later beaker Vishwavharati); works include Gitanjali,Kalpana, Sonar Tari [more]
Radha Krishna's consort -- the romance of Radha and Krishna is a favorite topic of Indian poets and artists.
Radhakrishnan S. (1888-1975) Indian scholar, philosopher and statesman; a vice-president and then the president of India; books include Hindu View of Life and Indian Philosophy
Ragas The notes of Indian music
Raghavanka Kannada poet who introduced six-lined stanzas. Important work includes Somanath Charitra dealing with conquest of Veerasaivism over Jainism
Raita A yogurt-based condiment usually containing vegetables
Raja Man Singh A ruler of Gwalior in the beginning of 16th century; also the name of able Rajput General of Amber in the army of emperor Akbar belonging to late 16th century.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1774-1833) Great social reformer, thinker and scholar; worked for abolishment of Sati. Founded Brahma Samaj. [more]
Raja Ramanna (1926-) Indian Nuclear Scientist and Nuclear Policy Maker
Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) Indian artist from a royal family in Kerala; some of most beautiful portraits in Indian museums are done by him
Rajagopalachari C. (1879-1972) Known as Rajaji is the only Governor-General of India; Scholar and political leader; founded the Swatantra Party
Rajaputs people who belong to a martial caste predominant in Rajasthan
Rajarshi Bhagyachandra (1740-1798 A.D.) was an enlightened king of Manipur who left his mark on history by successfully resisting the Burmese invasions.
Rajasthan A state in the North West of India [more]
Rajasuya A sacrifical ritual usually performed during the coronation of a king.
Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963) First President of Indian Republic; a devout Gandhian and a respected statesman
Rajgir Home of the Vipul Parvat where Vadhaman Mahaveer, the founder of Jainism called his first religious ceremony
Rajguru, Shiv Ram Hari (1908-1931) Revolutionary activist and freedom fighter; with Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev, was hanged for treason by British
Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991) Commercial pilot turned politician, became the prime minister of India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, his mother.
Rajput The people of Rajaputana or present day Rajasthan
Rakesh Sharma (1954-) Indian Astronaut who went to space in 1984
Rakshabandan The festival in India that celebrates the love between the brothers and sisters [more]
Rama An avatar of Lord Vishnu as perfect man; See Ramachandra
Ramachandra Son of Dasharatha and the prince of Ayodhya; worshipped by Hindus as the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu; hero of the Hindu epic Ramayan [more]
Ramachandran M.G. (1917-1987) Known as MGR, actor turned politician from Tamil Nadu
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886) Great religious teacher who preached that realization of God is the only purpose of life; chief of his disciples was Swami Vivekananda
Ramamanohar Lohia Freedom fighter and socialist leader in India; parliamentarian
Raman C.V. (1888-1970) Indian Physicist and Nobel Laureate
Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) A great sage of India, who made great inroads into peace and spiritual knowledge [more]
Ramanavami Festival observing the birthday of Ramachandra, the price of Ayodhya.
Ramanujacharya (1017-1137) Chief exponent of the Vishishtadwita school of Vedanta and a Hindu social reformer [more]
Ramanujan Srinivasa (1887-1920) Great Indian Mathematician even though denied of formal education in early life
Ramaprasad Bismal A revolutionary who fought for the freedom of India
Ramashingh Kuka A religious leader who preached purity of body and purity of mind.
Ramayan The Hindu epic of the Life and glory of Ramachandra, the prince of Ayodhya and an avatar of Lord Vishnu
Ranganathan S. R. (1892- 1972) Indian librarian and educator most famously known for "Every reader, his book", and the Colon Classification system
Rangappa Kamat In a classic rags-to-riches story, built the largest chain of vegetarian restaurants in India
Ranna (b 949 A.D.) A great Jain poet of Kannada [more]
Rasam A thin, spicy vegetarian broth
Rasgolla Pluffy, rubbery cheese dipped in thick sugary syrup that is very popular in Eastern parts of India.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) A volunteer organization created in 1924-25 by Baliram Hedgewar to inculcate Hindu ideology and promote disciplined physical training among young Hindu men.
Rati Goddess of love, and consort of Kama
Ratnavali A drama by king Harsha written in the 7th Century
Ravi Varma A great painter from the royal family of Travancore, famous for his depiction of Hindu dieties and Indian women. [more]
Raviverma see: Ravi Varma
Rawana The ten headed king of Sri Lanka during Ramayana; father of Indrajitu; brother of Vibhishana
Razai A quilt of silk wadded with cotton
Razia Sultan (1205-1240) Princess daughter of Shams-ud-din Iltutmush who briefly ruled Delhi.
Razm Nama Persian translation of the Mahabharata made at the command of Akbar in the 16th Century
Rezai A quilt of silk wadded with shreds of cotton used commonly to keep warm during winter in northern India.
Rigveda One of the four Vedas forming the origin of Hinduism involving hymns and invitations.
Rishikesh Meaning the apex of a sage, it is a Hindu pilgrim center.
Rukmini Princess of Vidharba, who in her way to marry Shishupala, eloped with Krishna; mother of Pradyumna.
Rukmini Devi Aundale Parliamentarian and naturalist; championed Indian's National Parks program
Ruma Wife of Sugreeva, later taken in by Vali.
Rupee Name of the Indian currency. One Indian Rupee is approximately 1/50th of the US Dollar (in year 2002)
Sachidevi Wife of Indra
Sachin Tendulkar (1973-) Indian cricketer; exciting batsmen known as the best in his time
Sadhu Holy mendicant who has abandoned the constraints of conventional life
saffron (aka kesar) A highly prized, dried stamens of the flower Crocus sativus; also name of a dye made from the plant.
Sahadeva One of the Pandava brothers; twin of Nakula
sahagamana (a.k.a Sati) Literally meaning "joint-departure", it is the system where a widow commited suicide upon the untimely death of her husband. [more]
Sakhubai Devotee of Panduranga Vittala.
Salim Ali (1897-1987) Famous Indian ornithologist known as The Birdman of India
Samadhi condition of absolute release from worldly constraints; shrines dedicated to those who have achieved this condition
Samartha Ramdas Shivaji's preceptor and guide
Samaveda The Veda of chanting sacred hymns
Sambar An extremely spicy broth popular in southern India
Samosa Flaky, pyramid-shaped pastry stuffed with potatoes or ground meat; a traditional Indian snack
Sampati A character from Ramayana epic, the brother of Jatayu bird, who prompted Hanuman to jump across the sea.
Samskara Refinement of soul. The samskaras are considered stepping stones in shaping a perfect individual in Hindu society. They were meant to be purify the person by observing of which a person became 'susamskrit' (civilized or refined) [more]
Samudragupta (375 A.D. -?) Gupa king who ruled India
Sanatana Dharma What Hindus call their Hindusim. The word Hindu itself is of foreign origin.
Sandhyavandana Hindu ritualistic prayer performed in honor of Surya (the Sun God)
Sanjay Gandhi Younger son of Indira Gandhi; Groomed as her political successor, he engaged in abuse of power during the dark days of emergency (1977) ; died in a plane crash.
Sanjaya Minister of blind Kuru king Dhritarashtra ; the documentor of the Bhagawad-Gita.
Sanjeev Reddy Neelam (1913-1996)President of India during the years 1977-1982
Sanjeevini The mystical plant supposed to have the ability to make dead people alive
Sanskrit Ancient Indian Language of Bhagavad-Gita and many other sacred texts of Hindus
Sanyasa Renunciation [more]
Sanyasi A renouncer or ascetic
saptapadi The symbolic seven steps a couple takes during the Hindu marriage ceremony
Saraswat Name of a Konkani speaking community in India chiefly found in Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala
Saree (a. k.a. Sari, Sadi) An outer garment worn chiefly by women consisting of a length of lightweight cloth with one end wrapped about the waist to form a skirt and the other draped over the shoulder or covering the head.
sarod A classical musical instrument of India.
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) Indian poetess and freedom fighter; went on to become the Governor of Uttara Pradesh. [more]
Sarvajna Pen Name of a great Kannada poet of medieval time
Satrugna see: Shatrugna
Satyagraha Literally meaning a "just demand", the term Gandhiji coined for his non-violent protests.
Satyagrahi Soldier of non-violence (from Satyagraha -- a just demand)
Satyaki (a.k.a. Yayudhana) A Yadava leader in the story of Mahabharat; a relative of Krishna;
Satyayuga (a.k.a. Kritayuga) The age or era of truth according to the Hindu beliefs.
Savithri A perfect wife in Hindu mythology.
Sawai Jai Singh Rajput king of 17th century who built great buildings and astronomical observatories like Jantar Mantar.
Sawai Jai Singh II (1686-1743) Rajput king and astronomer who built Jantar Mantar near Dehli [more]
Scheduled Castes Economically and socially disadvantaged communities of India also known as Harijan or Dalit [more]
Sepoy Mutiny (a.k.a. The First Indian War of Independence) The 1857 riots against the British to free and unite India [more]
Servants of India Society The socio-political institution in Poona started by Gopalakrishna Gokhale in 1905.
Shabari The poor woman who waited long for Rama with berries. It is said that she tasted the berries to make sure they were adequate for consumption by Rama
Shah Jahan The Mogul emperor who built Taj Mahal; son of Akbar; father of Aurangjeb
Shahajahan (a.k.a. Shah Jahan) the Moghul ruler who built Taj Mahal in Agra.
Shaivaites Followers of Lord Shiva
Shaivism Hindu believers who follow the order of Lord Shiva
Shakti The power or force; divine, supernatural energy in female form; Goddess Durga is often referred to and worshipped as Shakti
Shalatura Village near Takshashila where Sanskrit grammarian Panini was born.
Shalya a king from Mahabharata; father of Madri
Shams-ud-din Iltutmush (1180-1236) founder of the Sultanate of Delhi.
Shankar (1902-1989) Indian cartoonist and founder of Shankar's weekly and International Dolls Museum
Shankaracharya (8th century A.D.) also known as Adi Shankara, a great scholar and philosopher who revived Hinduism; founder of the Advaitic school of thought [more]
Shankha Conch-shell; regarded as a sacred symbol and often shown as carried by Lord Vishnu
Shankiniketan Seat of the Vishwa Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore
Shanmuga a.k.a. Karthikeya elder son of Lord Shiva and brother of Ganesh
Shanti (shaan-thi) Peace – tranquility, the absence of desire, the concomitant of joy.
Sharavati A prominent river flowing through Karnataka state and responsible for many a power generating facilities
Shatrugna Half-brother of Rama; son of Sumitra and Dasharatha
Sheik Abdullah (1906-1982) Founder of National Conference Political Party in Kashmir. As the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, held the state together.
Sheriat Islamic personal law governing matters of marriage, divorce, and status of women.
Shikhandi the male form of Amba
Shikhara (she-kha-ra, from Sanskrit) the epitome or peak of a temple or of a mountain [more]
Shirshasana a Yogic position in which the person stands upside down on one's head
Shivaji (1627-1680) Great Maratha leader who fought Mogul emperor Aurangjeb and established a Hindu State [more]
Shivaram Karanth Accomplished writer; dancer, novelist, environmentalist and educator; Jnanapeeth awardee; works include Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, Hucchu Hareyada Hadinaru Mukha [more]
Shivaratri Festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva, by praying all night long.
Shivatatwarantakara A Shilpa text of 17th Century based on Abhilashitarthachintamani
Shudra The worker caste according to the traditional Hindu system of social classification
Sidhhartha Gautama (563 B.C. - 483 B.C.) Founder of Buddhism. A prince who renounced luxury and became an ascetic. Preached non-violence and kindness. [more]
Sikandar Lodi (1488-1517) Ruler of India belonging to Delhi Sultanate who introduced a standard of measurement known as Gazi-Sikandari.
Siraj-ud-daula Grandson of Alivardi Khan; resisted the British at the battle of Plassey
Sita (see-tha): Rama's wife, an reincarnation of goddess Laxmi, represents the ideal Hindu wife. Born to mother earth, she is a key figure in the Hindu mythology of Ramayana.
sitar Fretted string instrument of India with a gourdlike body and a long neck, made popular in the West by Ravi Shankar.
soji (a.k.a sooji) Cream of wheat that is used in Indian cooking.
Somnath Historical temple in Gujarat destroyed by Ghazi Mohamed in 1025 A.D. [more]
Sonia Gandhi Italian born widow of Rajiv Gandhi; mother of Rahul Gandhi, and daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi
Sravanabelagola Jain place of pilgrimage in Karnataka wedged between the two hills of Indragiri and Chandragiri; a great place of learning and Jaina scholarhood, most famous for the colossal statue of Gomateshwara
Sriperumbudur The birth place of Ramanujacharya in the state of Tamil Nadu; this is also where Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated
Stephen Huyler Cultural anthropologist who documented many forms of folk art in rural India [more]
Sthambha (sthu-mbha, from Sanskrit) a stand alone or supporting pillar [more]
Stupa A type of Buddhist monument
Subbulakshmi M.S. (1919-) An very accomplished classical singer
Subhadra Sister of Krishna who marries Pandava prince Arjuna. Mother of Abhimanyu. Worshiped in Jagannath temple at Puri as a diety.
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945) One of India's foremost leaders in freedom struggle. A president of Indian National Congress and later, founder of the Indian National Army [more]
Subhashita Subhashita is an epigram in Sanskrit. A two or four lined verse conveying a thought is Subhashita. It is a good (su), saying (bhashita) conveying a comment on weirdness of human behavior, poetic imagery or an instance of close observation.
Subramanya Bharati (1881-1921) Great Tamil poet and freedom fighter
Sudarshan Name of the wheel weapon of Vishnu
Sufism Islamic mysticim popular in parts of India, Pakistan and Iran.
Sugreev A character from Ramayan; see Sugriva
Sugriva Monkey king of Kishkindha who helped Rama get Sita back after the former helped him regain his kingdom by killing Vali
Sulva Sutra A treatise on geometry and irrational number theory written by Baudhayana (circa 800 B.C.)
Sundarban A large national forest in West bengal famous for its tigers
Sunderban National Park in Bengal with reserved forests to habitat predators like tigers.
supari Dried areca-nut that is chewed with paan as a snack in India.
Surabhi See: Kamadhenu
Surya The Sun God according to the Hindu mythologies, worshipped as the grantor of special favors
Surya Namaskar a form of Sun worship; a type of Yogic exercise
Sushasana (a.k.a. Dushasana) Brother of Duryodhana and the second of the Kaurava brothers
Susheele the only sister of the hundred Kaurava brothers
Sushruta Author of an ancient medical text
Swadeshi A home made product; A preindependence movement to further the use of Indian-made items, particularly cottage-industry products, such as hand-loomed cloth, and to oppose British-made goods.
Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993) Founder of Chinmaya mission that propagated Vedantic philosophy, social work and reinvigorating of India's culture.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) Hindu philosopher and spiritual thinker; one of the first to narrate India's greatness to the world; established Ramakrishna Mission after his guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa [more]
Swaranakumari Debi (1856-1932) Well known Bengali novelist; elder sister of Guru Rabindranath Tagore
Swastika Swastika stands for universal welfare. "Swasti" means well-being of one and all, "ka" means symbol. [more]
Swayamvara Ancient Indian custom of wedding where the bride chose a man through a contest
tabla (a.k.a tabala) Pair of drums, each played with a hand
Taluka An administrative unit in India, equivalent to a town.
tamarind An extremely sour fruit tree common in India; its pulp is used prominently in Indian cooking.
Tandoor A deep, clay oven; Tandoori is any dish cooked in a tandoor
Tara Queen of Kishkindha province during Ramayan; Wife of Vali
Tata J.R.D. (1904-1994) Charismatic leader of Tata Group of Companies, philanthropist and a pioneer of airlines in India.
Tata Jamshedji N. (1839-1904) Industrialist, philantropist of India; Established the Tata Group of Companies.
Tataka A demoness from Ramayan; mother of Mareecha
Tatia Tope A leader of the 1857 revolt against the British
Tawang A place of pilgrimage for Buddhists in the state of Arunachal Pradesh
Tenali Ramakrishna An advisor in the Vijayanagar court, known for his wit and wisdom
Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) As a Sherpa, with Edmund Hillary, was the first to climb the Mount Everest in 1953
Tetrayuga The age or the time period (Yuga) when the Hindu epic of Ramayan is said to have taken place.
Thakazhi Shivashankar Pillai (1915-1999) Malayalam writer and Jnanapeeth awardee; works include Kayar, Chemmeen, Rantitangazhi
Thar Name of the Indian dessert spanning North-western India.
Tippu Sultan (1750-1799) Indian prince; Muslim ruler who ruled in Srirangapattana in Mysore; was killed fighting the invading British [more]
Tirthankara Jain preceptor who have found the way to divinity; there are 24 tirthankaras, the last of whom was Mahavira
Tirthankaras Jain preceptors who have found the way to divinity; there are 24 tirthankaras, the last of whom was Mahavira
Trimurti A composite figure of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva
Trishanku A king from Indian mythologies who got stranded in beween hell and heaven; used as a verb in Indian literature to describe an unstable state.
Trishul The trident weapon of Lord Shiva
Triveni (a.k.a. Sangam) The place where rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati (now dried up) meet; The Kumbh Mela is celebrated here.
Tughalaq, Muhammad bin A cruel and senseless Muslim ruler of India who brought numerous silly reforms like change of capitals and alternate currencies.
Tukaram (1602-1650 A.D.) Hindu saint and poet; devotional songs written by him are popular to this day
Tulasi (a.k.a. Tulsi) the sweet basil plant, sacred to Hindus
Tulasidas (1532-1623) Sanskrit scholar and poet; his Ramacharitamanasa is a masterpiece of work on Ramayana. [more]
Tulsi (a.k.a. Tulasi) the sweet basil plant, sacred to Hindus
Tyaga Relinquishment [more]
Tyagaraja (1767-1847) Great saint of Carnatic music famous for his compositions of keertans.
Uday Shankar (1900-1977) Great Indian dancer who popularized Indian classical and folk dances; brother of Ravi Shankar [more]
Ugrasena King of Mathura and father of Kamsa.
Ujjain A portal of traditional learning and home of Mahakaleswar temple.
Uma (a.k.a. Parvati, Parwati, Durga, Kali) Lord Shiva's wife; mother of Ganesh and Kartikeyan [more]
Untouchability The caste system that was prevalent in India categorized people from lower most classes of the society (Shudras) as not worthy of being touched (untouchables). It took social reforms and laws to eliminate the problem. [more]
Upanayanam The initiation ceremony conducted for Brahmin boys, symbolic of moving from childhood to monkhood
Upanishads Sacred texts of Hinduism created by ancient sages after deep studies of life and metaphysics.
Urmila Wife of Lakshman in the Hindu mythology of Ramayan
Usha P.T. (1964-) Indian track and field athlete; star of 1984 Asian Games [more]
Utpala The Blue Lotus
Uttara The North pole; also a character from Mahabharat -- the cowardly son of king Virata
Uttarakanda The story of Ramayan after Rama returns to Ayodhya, where Rama abandons Sita.
Uttaranchal A new state carved out of Uttar Pradesh
Uttari (a.k.a. Uttare) daughter of king Virata; wife of Abhimanyu
Vachanas The form of literature made popular by Sarvajna and Basaveshwara in Karnataka, for common man to understand God. [more]
Vaishampayana A sage, and a pupil of Vyasa who recited the story of Mahabharat at a sacrifice held by Janamejaya.
Vaishnavism The faith of Hindus who worship Lord Vishnu and his avatars
Vaishya The caste of merchants and tradesmen in Hindu society.
Vajranabh Grandson of Lord Krishna who is said to have built the grand temple at Dwaraka.
Vajrayana A Tantric form of Buddhism that contributed to the development of Tibetan form of Buddhism
Vajrayudha A thunderbolt weapon of Indra said to have been made from the bones of sage Dadhichi.
Vali Monkey cousin of Sugriva who occupied Kishkindha; he was killed by Rama in the mythological story of Ramayan
Vallabhabhai Patel (1875-1950) Popular as *Sardar* or The Iron Man, is credited with unification of India with the many princely states after independence; a close follower of Mahatma Gandhi
Valmiki Hindu sage who is believed to have composed the epic Ramayana.
Vamana The avatar of Lord Vishnu as the dwarf
Vanaprastha The third stage of religious life when one is to relinquish everything and "dwell in the forest" and await death.
Varaha The avatar of Lord Vishnu as a boar.
Varahamita Ancient Indian astronomer
varna Literally meaning 'color', the varna refers to the category into which a person is born. See: caste
Varuna The God of rain
Vasco Da Gama (1460-1524) Portuguese explorer who found the sea route to India [more]
Vasishta A great ascetic. He was the preceptor of great men like Sri Rama and Harischandra.
Vatsyayana Writer of the famous treatise on love, the Kamasutra. 1st Century A.D (?) [more]
Vatu A Brahmin understudy [more]
Vayu The Wind God; father of Hanuman and Bhima
Vedangas Literary works belonging to Vedic period, but not part of the Vedas
Vedanta School of Indian thought that marked the end of Vedic period.
Vedas Ancient Hindu texts believed to be of divine origin. There are four Vedas: Rigveda, Samaveda,Yajurveda, and Atharvanaveda
Veena (a.k.a. Vina) South Indian string musical instrument; Goddess Saraswati is often shown carrying it
Venkataraman R. (1910-) President of India during the years 1987-1992
Verrier Elwin Anthropologist who came to India as a missionary and eventually converted to an Indian religion; his work on tribals of India is unequalled; [more]
Vibhishana Brother of king Rawana and a diplomat in the epic of Ramayan
Vibhuti The ash used for marks on forehead by Shaivaites; as a token of following the lifestyle of Lord Shiva; sacred ashes; power; energy; Lord Shiva's clothing
Vidarbha An ancient kingdom of India, roughly falling in the state of Maharashtra of today.
Vidisha An ancient city in central India.
Vidura Minister of Dhritharashtra in the epic of Mahabarata
vidya Vidya means both learning and knowledge; it is used to indicate acquired skills/experiences both physical and spiritual.
Vidyaranya A famous saint who is known as the founder of Karnataka; he provided inspiration Hakka and Bukka; he adorned the Sharada Peetha of Sringeri.
Vijaya Laxmi Pandit (1900-1990) Sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, a prominent Congresswoman and politician in her own right. Daughter of Motilal Nehru
Vikram Sarabhai Nuclear scientist and father of Indian nuclear program
Vikramaditya (375 A.D.-414 A.D.) Gupta King who ruled India; a great patron of art and literature
Vikramaditya VI A brave and popular king of India; the Hindu Vikramaditya calendar (shaka) is named after him
Vikramarjuna Viajya (a.k.a Pampa Bharat) A 10th century Kannada classic by poet Pampa.
Vimana (ve-maa-na) the tower of a Hindu temple; also an sky transport like an airplane. [more]
Vindhya The range of mountains diving India into northern and southern parts.
Virata The king of Matsya kingdom; the Pandavas took shelter in his palace during their hiding
Vishnu One of the three primary Gods of Hinduism
Vishveshwariah Mokshagundam (1861-1962) One of the founders of modern India; engineer, educationist and statesman in the kingdom of Mysore [more]
Vishwamitra A great Hindu sage and scholar who is referred to as the Brahmarshi; tested truthfulness of Harischandra
Vishwanath Pratap Singh (1931-) Prime Minister of India during Dec 1989- Nov 1990
Viswanatha Satyanarayana (1895-1976) Telugu writer and poet; awardee of Jnanapeeth, known as a writer in rigid classical style.
Vruta (a.k.a. Vrita) A religious observance
Vyasa Ancient Indian sage and writer of the epic Mahabharata; son of Parasar and Satyavati
Wardha Name of the city in Maharashtra most famous for imprisoning Mahatma Gandhi.
Warren Hastings First Governor General (Viceroy) of India [more]
Weblog (a.k.a. Blog) an annotated guide to the stories on the Internet compiled by an individual
William Bentinck First a Governor of Madras, and then as the Governor General of India, made a number of administrative changes
Yadavas Descendants of king Yadu into the community of which Krishna was born.
Yadu Son of king Yayati, and founder of the race Yadavas.
Yajna Sacrifice or sacrificial rite. In the ancient Vedic fire cult, the purpose of sacrifice was to ensure the well-being of the individual and the community by maintaining a ritual relation to the gods.
Yajnavalkya A great Hindu scholar and sage (Brahmarshi), said to have written the Shukla Yajurveda
Yajnopavita (a.k.a. sacred thead) a handspun cotton thread worn (mostly) by brahmins [more]
Yajurveda One of the four Vedas forming the origin of Hinduism; translated as Knowledge of the Sacrifice
Yaksha Yaksha and Yakshini are the celestial spirits from Hindu mythologies
Yama The Hindu God of Death [more]
Yamuna An important river in India flowing parallel to Ganga river. Yamuna flows through New Delhi, and Agra and joins Ganga near Allahabad
Yamunotri The birth place of Yamuna river in the Himalayan glaciers.
Yantra Yogic meditational machines; geometrical patterns of a Hindu cult called Shakta or Shakti
Yashoda Foster mother of Lord Krishna, wife of Nanda, a cowherd.
Yayati A king in Hindu mythologies who traded his old age to the youth of his son Puru.
Yoga it is defined as "equanimity" and "skill in actions"; also referred to the physical exercise involving body and mind [more]
Yogasana Positions in Yogic exercises
Yoni The iconic form of Devi the Goddess, resembling the female generative organ; often shown united with the Lingam [more]
Yudhishtira Eldest of the Pandavas; see Yudhisthira
Yudhisthira a.k.a. Dharmaraya son of Kunti and Pandu, with the blessings of Yama
Yuga Yuga a great span of period or an era; there are four yugas - Kritayuga, Tetrayuga, Dwaparayuga, and Kaliyuga
Yusuf Adil Khan (1490-1510) Governor of Bijapur under the Baridis, and in 1490 proclaimed himself the ruler of Bijapur and established the Adil Shahi dynasty.
Yuyutsu A son of Dhitarashtra who supported the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war; king of Indraprastha
Zail Singh (1916- 1994) President of India during the years 1982-87; a veteran freedom fighter
Zamindar (a.k.a) Jamindar - landlord or landowner
Zoroaster (6th century B.C.) Spiritual leader, founded what is now known as the Parsi religion in India; Zoroaster was Persian and saw the world as a struggle between good and evil [more]


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