US varsity launches celebration of India

Washington, Aug 27 (IANS) The University of South Carolina launched CarolIndia, a year-long celebration of India, as it unveiled the international edition of the Encyclopaedia of Hinduism at a conference on one of the world's oldest major religions.

Hundreds of Hindu families travelled to Columbia in South Carolina, to watch Indian social activist Anna Hazare, Hindu spiritual leader Swami Chidanand Saraswati and university President Harris Pastides unveil the 11-volume encyclopaedia Monday.

Culmination of a 25-year academic effort, the definitive guide is conceived, compiled and produced by the India Heritage Research Foundation and published by Mandala Publishing, according to the university.

"This is a remarkable work of scholarship and research. I hope that many in academia and in everyday life will turn to it as a resource to better understand the characters, the tenets and the impact that Hinduism has had, and is having in the world," said Pastides.

Hal French, professor emeritus of religious studies, who served as associate editor of the encyclopaedia since its inception in 1987, called the 25-year quest to document Hinduism a privilege.

The conference also marked the beginning of CarolIndia, a year-long celebration of India as part of the university' expanding internationalisation programme that would focus on a single country every year.

Robert Cox, director of the university's Walker Institute for International and Area Studies, said the university chose India for its first year because of the university's and state's increasing ties with the country and for its importance as the world's largest democracy and rising economic power.

Cox said his greatest hope is that university students come to think of India as familiar place, not an exotic one.

CarolIndia will feature film festival, lectures, concerts and exhibits. Among the many visitors to campus will be filmmaker Mira Nair. Students also will have the opportunity to engage with faculty with Indian research and teaching interests.

More than 1,000 scholars have contributed to the seminal work documenting one of the world's oldest living traditions.

Encompassing more than 7,000 articles with over 1,000 colour illustrations and photographs, the encyclopaedia also covers Indian history, civilisation, language and philosophy; architecture, art, music and dance; medicine, sciences and social institutions; and religion, spirituality and the role of Hindu women.

The Dalai Lama introduced the Indian edition in April 2010 in Rishikesh, India.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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