Hinduism for Schools





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Glossary with Sound

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A ,B , C , D ,F , G , H , I , J , K , L , M , N , P , R , S , T , U , V, Y



Invocation ceremony or a welcoming ceremony. Normally involves waving a lamp gently in front of the deity.


Spiritual teacher who teaches by setting an example.

Advaita Vedanta

Non-dualism. Philosophy of Monism in Vedanta. Teaches that the individual soul and God cannot be different.


Virtue of non-violence. Abstain from harming any living thing. Not to hurt harm or kill by word, deed or even in thought.

Antim Kriya

Cremation of the body. The final rite (Samskar).


Noble one.

Arya Samaj

Hindu reform movement started by Dayananda Saraswati (1825 - 1883). Literally means society of nobles. Believes in formless God. Brought many social reforms. Revived ancient ritual of 'Havan' - worship through fire.


Austere practices to control the mind and body.


Four stages of life. Hermitage or monastery. 'That which is obtained by effort.'


The eight limbs of Raja Yoga. Disciplines for the mind and body.


Ultimate reality manifesting as the 'I' in the individual. The real self. The silent witness. Without any attributes. It is imperishable and eternal. It does not die with the body.


Sacred symbol and the sound representing God.


Literally 'One who descends'. God descends to earth for the good of mankind; to establish religion and destroy evil. Vishnu is said to come to descend ten times.


Popular place of pilgrimage. Rama's birthplace. On bank of river Saryu in North India.

Bhagavad Gita

'Song of the divine'. Contains 700 verses in eighteen chapters. Spiritual dialogue between Krishna and Arjun. Book of authority for Hindus. Teaches renunciation and love of God in the form of Krishna.


Popular Purana. Dealing with the life story of Krishna.


Devotional singing. Normally sung communally.


Strong love for God. Devotional approach to spirituality.

Bhakti Marg

Way to God through devotion. Involves worship and adoration in order to build relationship with the divine.


God viewed as the creator in puranic stories. Has four heads. Holds scriptures. Shown sitting on a white lotus.


Celibate living. 'Acting in a manner to reflect that everything is manifestation of 'Brahman'.

Brahma-charya Ashram

Student life. Celibacy. Concentrate on studies. Respect elders. Begins with Upanayana ceremony at the age of about eight. Kind of Baptism. Introduction to the main prayer in Hinduism called the Gayatri.


Ultimate reality manifesting or projecting itself as the universe and everything. Hence Sanskrit word for the universe is Shrusti (projection). Considered to be without qualities (nirguna). Nearest words to describe Brahman are: -Asti - existence itself. Bhati - consciousness. Priya- blissful. Brahman with qualities (saguna) is described as the personal God.

Brahmo Samaj

Social reform movement started by Rammohun Roy in nineteenth century. Advocates formless God with qualities.


'The enlightened one'. Siddhartha Gautama (~500BC) attained this state. Hindus consider him to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu.


Burnt during Puja ceremony, to signify the burning of the ego.

Caste system

Division of society into groups reflecting and defining division of labour. Degenerated as it was deployed as a hereditary trait. Outlawed by the Government of India.


Psychic nerve centres - mainly along the spinal column.


Absolute celibacy in word deed or thought. It is considered to be desirable for spiritual progress.


Act of giving - charity.


'To catch sight of' - refers to visiting a holy place to see the image of God.


Female form of God.


Form of God being worshipped.

Dharma (sanatan)

Religion of right conduct. Righteous living. That which sustains society and civilization. The intrinsic, innermost quality of everything (including the physical universe). Cosmic order. (Sanatan means:- eternal, everlasting, universal).


One pointed concentration on the object of meditation.


Festival of light. Autumn festival celebrated with lamps to mark the day Rama returned from exile.


'The inaccessible.' Mother goddess in the form of the warrior. Holding divine weapons. Sitting on a tiger (ego) for destruction of evil. Seen wearing a red sari.


Ten day autumn festival honouring Goddess Durga

Dvait Vedanta

Dualistic form of Vedanta. Teaches that the individual soul is essentially different from God.


Total or partial abstinence from food. Austerity practiced for spiritual merit on special dates.


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Elephant headed God originates from the puranic tales. Son of Shiva and Parvati. God of good luck. Remover of obstacles. Shown with mouse as his vehicle. Holding sweets - symbol of the sweet nature of the divine.


Most sacred river for Hindus. Flows from Himalayas. Puranic story of how it washes away the sins of those who bathe in it. The ashes of departed are immersed in it.


Most important prayer in Hinduism. Ascribed to sage Vishwamitra.

"Let us meditate on the glorious effulgence of that supreme being who has created the world. May she enlighten our hearts and direct our understanding"

Grihasta Ashram

Householder stage of life. Graha means house. This stage provided the financial support for all other stages. Teaches righteous living. Looking after the family and society. Begins with the marriage ceremony.


Means qualities. The Universe is considered to be composed of a mixture of these three qualities called 'Gunas'. These three gunas are: Sattva (balance, calmness, knowledge) Rajas (action, passion, forces in the universe) and Tamas (darkness, inertia, ignorance)


Spiritual teacher.


Monkey faced God from story Epic Ramayana. Great devotee of Rama. Personification of strength. Sometimes shown holding mace and sometimes a mountain both symbolic of strength.


Ancient ritual of worshipping God through fire. Relationship built with higher beings by offering ghee and grains to the fire.


Word derived from mispronunciation of name of river Sindhu. (Sindhu means river or ocean).


Spring festival. Celebrated by sprinkling coloured powders and waters. Also related to the puranic story of Prahalad.


Used in Puja ceremony. It burns and gives forth a sweet scent.

Jain (Jin)

One who has conquered. Name of the religion founded by 'The Jins' is called Jainism.


Repetition of God's name (normally using beads).

Jnana marg

Way to God through 'knowledge'. Using discrimination.


Mother Goddess in the role of the all destroyer. She clears the slate to restart the cycle of creation. Shown wearing a necklace of skulls. Shown standing on Shiva - (represents Brahman - her support).


From Puranic tales. The 10th avatar of Vishnu - yet to come.


(law of)

Law of Karma (action) is used to mean the law of cause and effect on personal terms. 'What you sow, is what you will reap.' We have to bear the consequences of all our actions - if not immediately then in later life. Does away with God sitting in judgement. We are responsible for our own destiny. If misunderstood can cause indifference to the suffering of others or can cause fatalistic behavior.

Karma marg

Way to God through 'action'. Path of Selfless action. Action is considered better than 'inaction'.


Eighth incarnation of Vishnu. Author of the Gita - book of authority for Hindus. Teaches selfless action.


The coiled up energy at the base of the spinal column. Through practice of Raja Yoga (meditation) one hopes to awaken this energy to rise up along the spinal column and reach the inner brain. This experience produces super-consciousness. Union with God - called Samadhi.


Consort of Vishnu, goddess of wealth and beauty. Shown wearing red sari and offering gold coins to her devotees.


Epic of Hinduism - 100,000 verses. Story of Pandav and Kaurav brothers. One of the smriti texts dealing with issues of politics, philosophy and spirituality.

Credited to Sage: Ved Vyas.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mahatma means great soul. Gandhi used spiritual tools like satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence) which won independence for India from the British rule. He called his method Satyagraha, Insistence on truth.


Rosary. Beads - turned during Japa.


Geometric shape as symbol of divinity.


'That which leads the mind to God.' Usually a sacred verse. Often name of God.


Book dealing with ethics, morality and codes of conduct written by sage Manu.


Path - a way to God. The four methods used are: Jnana Marga (through intellect), Karma Marga (through selfless deeds), Bhakti Marga (through love and devotion) and Raja Yoga (through meditation).


The power that makes God 'appear' as the universe.


Liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Final union with God.


Advaita philosophy which teaches of one underlying unity hidden under all diversity. Does not differentiate between souls and God.


The image of God being worshipped. Pratima better word - means the image that leads one (Prati-towards) to God.


Salutation meaning: 'Reverence to God as you'


'Lord of the dance'. Shiva shown in dance of creation. Holding drum -symbol of creation. Fire - symbol of destruction. Standing on a dwarf - symbol of ignorance.


Belief that all of reality is in essence divine.


Consort of Shiva. Mother Goddess. Personification of power. Shown as an ordinary woman.


Founder of the Yoga school of philosophy and the practice of meditation called Raja Yoga.


Sanctified food. Food that was offered to the deity at the time of worship.


Symbols of God. (From Prati - 'that which leads to')


Image of God. The image that leads to God.


Prayers Including the Gayatri…..Prayers


Means 'Adoration'. Worship in the home or temple.


Mythological texts of Hinduism (there are 18 maha- puranas).


Place of pilgrimage. City on the East-coast on the Bay of Bengal. Considered to be the abode of Vishnu. Krishna worshipped here as 'Jagganath' -lord of the universe.


Consort of Krishna. Depicts love of the individual soul for the supreme soul - God.


Hero of the epic Ramayana. Considered to be the Ideal man. Ideal son. Ideal King and Ideal personality.

Ramakrishna (1836-1886)

Recent day prophet of Hinduism. Portrayed unity behind different sectarian and religious movements.


One of the two epics of Hinduism. Relates the story of Rama and Sita - ideal man and woman. Written by sage 'Valmiki'


Belief that: - Individual souls are born again and again. Cycle of rebirth.


Comes from Sanskrit Drish (to see). Refers to the founders of Hinduism. Rishis claim first hand spiritual experience. They hold authority in spiritual matters.


(Rituals) Outward signs of inward spiritual progress. Samskars. Rites of passage.


Name given to wife after marriage ceremony - meaning companion for spiritual progress.


'Stream of existence'. Cycle of birth and death. Theory of reincarnation.


Rites of passage - religious ceremonies to mark entry into different stages of life. 16 main ones. Literally means 'Purification ceremony'.

Sanatan Dharma

Another name given to Hinduism. Sanatan means 'eternal or universal'. Dharma means: Righteous living; That which sustains (society and civilization); The intrinsic nature of everything - external and internal.

Sannyas Ashram

The final stage of life as an ascetic. Renounce individual family as the whole world has become your family. Give up trivial things in order to gain something majestic.


'One who renounces'. Monk. One who enters the final stage in life. Can begin when one has strong urge to find God. Aims of sannyas - personal salvation and for the good of mankind.


Ancient language of India. Considered to be the basis of all Indo- European languages. Means - polished.


Final stage in life. Complete renunciation - time spent in search of God. Treating whole mankind as the real family.


Seven steps taken during the marriage ceremony.


Mother Goddess as the mother of all learning, art and music. Shown wearing a white sari - holding Veena and scriptures.


Sanskrit word for 'truth'.


Writing believed to be divinely inspired.


Approach to God in the form of Shiva.


'Energy' - depicted as mother goddess, the consort of Shiva.


Philosopher-teacher of the Advaita school of philosophy.

Shiv Purana

Puranic tales to do with Lord Shiva.


One of the forms of God in Hinduism. Shown in meditation with a snake curled round his neck. Smeared in ashes. Shown with three eyes.


'That which is heard' - The books of authority for Hindus. Consists of the four Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva).


Ideal wife of Rama. Depicts patience, calmness and grace. Ideal role model for Hindu women.


'In Memory' - Books written by men - has less authority. Contain the mythological texts (puranas), epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata). Manu smriti -the text on ethics and codes of conduct for society.


Studying scriptures.

Lord Swaminarayan

Head of the 'Swami Narayan movement'. Set up by Sahajananda Swami (1781-1830).


'Master'. Term for holy man or monk.


Symbol of auspiciousness from the four corners of the world. Swasti - means well being.


Systematic formulation of beliefs.


Mark on the forehead - to awaken spirituality.


'Crossing over place'. Name applied to places of pilgrimage, place to cross over to a spiritual plane. Places chosen for geographic, historic or mythological reasons.


One of the Samskars. Sacred thread ceremony. Involves rite of initiation. Introduction to Gayatri. Begin first stage of life as a celibate.


The texts normally found in the end portion of the Vedas dealing with the philosophy of Hinduism. Means to 'Sit near to destroy ignorance'. 108 main upanishads.


'Forest dweller'. Third stage of life (retirement). Withdraw from worldly desires. Spend time in prayers and meditation.


(Kashi) Most holy place of pilgrimage for Hindus. In North India, on the bank of river Ganges. Considered to be the abode of Shiva. Place of learning. Temples of Shiva and mother goddess (Annapurna).


From Sanskrit word 'Vid' - to know. Books of knowledge. Books of authority in Hinduism. Divided into four texts.(Rig, Sama, Yajur, Atharva)


The conclusion of the Vedas. The philosophy of contemporary Hinduism. Explores the essential nature of man, God and the universe.


God in the form of the preserver of the universe. Normally shown with four arms holding discus, shell, mace and a lotus. He is said to descend to earth ten times as the 'Avatars' for the good of mankind.


Marriage ceremony. Taking on responsibility.

Vivekananda (1863-1902)

Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Major advocate of Hinduism to the West. Emphasizes on divinity in all living things and rational approach to spirituality.


Place of pilgrimage, where Krishna sported as a child. On bank of Jamuna river in north India. Near Govardhan mountain.


Spiritual journey.


Literally means: 'To be one with'. Means: Path to God through meditation (psychic control).





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