India is so vast that each of its regions is a land in its own right, with its own particular language, customs, religion and cultural traditions. Yet shared social systems, firmly grounded in religious beliefs, provide the cohesive force that unites over a billion people of different backgrounds. This volume takes the main religion of India and provides an insight into all aspects of Hindu life, both past and present. Some thousand entries act as a key to topics including the history of Hinduism, its mythology, art, architecture, religion, laws and folklore. Based on scholarly research, the development of Hinduism is presented from its ancient manifestations in local cults and epic poems to modern-day festivals and customs worldwide. The complex relationship between the multitude of gods, goddesses and semi-divine beings is brought to light in the articles on religion and mythology, while its rich imagery is revealed in the entries on architecture, sculpture, painting, dance and theatre. Food and etiquette, the caste system, Ayrvedic medicine, love and marriage and contemporary practices are a few of the topics explored.
The maps and entries on the principal cities and places of pilgrimage in India contained in this volume, as well as the concise chronology and list of principal dynasties, allow the reader to gain a clear overview of the geography, history, languages and continuing vibrant religious and cultural traditions of the Hindu heritage.