Partial Glossary of
Ahalya Name of Sage Gautama's wife, in the Ramayana. Described as an extremely beautiful woman, she was suppossedly tricked into being seduced by Indra. When Gautama found this out, he cast her out with a curse which turned her into stone until Ramchandra freed her from the curse and reunited the couple.
Alaka The kingdom of Kuvera, the god of wealth.
Anchal A corner of a dress, usually of a sari (or saree).
Aparajita Name of a flower—blue, sometime, white—meaning undefeated (fem).
Ardhanarishwar A deity whose right half of the body is that of Shiva and the left half is that of Durga; comparable to the Greek notion of androgyny (andro—male, gyn—female), the harmonious principle of Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine, contained within each other in unity.
Ashok Name of a flower—fiery red, late spring and summer flower—meaning bliss due to an absence of grief.
Balaram Krishna's brother whose weapon was the plough.
Baishakhi A northwester during Baishakh, the first month of Bengali calendar, a month of the arid season and northwesters.
Bedouin An Arab of the nomadic North African, Arabian or Syrian tribes.
Bhairabi An Indian musical raga associated with dawn, a pensive and melodic invocation of Goddess Durga (Shakti or Power).
Bheel An aboriginal tribe of the Indo-Bangladesh subcontinent.
Bheehsma In the Mahabharata, Shantanu's son.
Bholanath Shiva—the forgetful, one of Shiva's numerous manifestations.
Bhrigu According to Hindu mythology, Bhrigu, a sage, was sent by some sages to find out who was the greatest among Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. First he went to Brahma, who was displeased with Bhrigu because (in fact, intentionally—to test Brahma) he had approached him without proper respect. Bhrigu made amends for it and then went on to see Shiva, subjected him to the same test, and displeased him too for the same reason. Bhrigu made amends for that too and then went on to see Vishnu. Vishnu was sleeping. Bhrigu was angry and kicked Vishnu on his chest to protest it because Vishnu is supposed to sustain the creation, which was in chaos and suffering. Vishnu woke up and, instead of getting angry at Bhrigu, asked him if his foot was hurt. Bhrigu thereby decided that Vishnu was the greatest among the gods.
Bina, also spelled vina or veena, is a lute-like instrument, considered the principal source of all Indian stringed instruments.
Borrak The celestial horse which carried Prophet Mohammad on a tour of Heaven (Islam).
Brindaban A site of pilgrimage for Hindus, associated with Krishna's leela (activities).
Budh-Gaya A site of pilgrimage for Buddhists where the Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha attained his enlightenment, is located.
Byomkesh Shiva. This name derived from byom (sky or air) and kesh (hair). In order to break Ganga'a fall, Shiva spread his matted hair like a net in the air. See Ganga.
Chakorini Female of chakor, a bird said to enjoy drinking moonbeams; attracted by the moon, it flies toward the moon.
Chakra A circular disc-shaped weapon in the hand of Vishnu.
Chandi A Hindu deity, a manifestation of Durga, who severed her own head and drank the blood; symbolic of a furious woman.
Chatokini Female of chatok, a swallow-type bird, said to drink only raindrops.
Chenghis Khan Mongol conqueror (1162-1227). Also spelled Genghis Khan.
Chhayanat An evening raga—serene, though lilting.
Dance-king Shiva, the Nataraj—the master performing the dance of creation, sustenance and destruction.
Darling of Arabia The Prophet Mohammad.
Dhurjati Shiva, with reference to his matted hair.
Dhutura Name of a poisonous shrub, its flowers sometimes garlanding Shiva.
Drona The master archer of the Mahabharata.
Durbasa A Hindu mythological saint notorious for his quick temper.
Durga The Hindu Goddess Durga, also called Shakti (Power); the wife of Shiva and the chief of female deities and a slayer of demons; she presides over prosperity, fame and victory of humankind. Durga has 108 names or manifestations.
Eid One of the chief Muslim festivals.
Eidgah A place or a building where Muslims gather for Eid prayers.
Eid-ul-Fitr The Eid of almsgiving (or fitra) to the poor, in money or food or goods, following a month of fasting, Ramadan.
Fakir A Muslim religious mendicant.
Ganga Sacred river in northern India. Originally a heavenly river, she was sent to earth in response to the prayers of saint Bhagiratha. To protect the earth from the shock of her fall from heaven, Shiva caught her with his matted hair and channelled her course. Also called the Bahagirathi.
Garo An aboriginal tribe of the Indo-Bangladesh subcontinent.
Geeta "Song of God," a Hindu scripture. In the form of a dialogue, Krishna advises and instructs Arjuna during the battle of Kurukshetra between the Kauravas and Pandavas, in the Mahabharata.
Ghazni Mahmud An Afghan king who invaded India several times (10th-11th cen.).
Ghritachi A female attendant in heaven.
Girijaya The wife of the Himalayas, also the mother of Durga.
Grantha Saheb The holy book of the Sikhs.
Great Conch A conch is a shell which can be blown like a horn. The Great Conch refers to the conch in the hand of Vishnu, signifying power and victory.
Habia The seventh and the worst of the hells in Islamic faith. Hindu myth also describes Hell as having tiers—Seven Hells. Nazrul refers to both.
Hambeer A pensive, evening raga.
Harishchandra A generous king of Ayodhya who gave his entire kingdom and possessions as a gift to Sage Vishwamitra. He is also revered for his truthfulness.
Hindol A lilting, late-hour raga.
Holi The festival of colors. A Hindu celebration of spring and fertility, noted for its playful throwing of liquid dye at each other.
Hossain Imam Hossain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and a martyr during the battle of Karbala, in Iraq, against Yazid, the conspiring ruler of Damascus. Yazid's army surrounded
Hossain, his family and his army, cutting off their water supply from the river Euphrates, there by killing them.
Indra In Hinduism, the king of gods and godessess.
Indrani The wife of Indra.
Ishan Shiva; also the northeast direction.
Israfil's trumpet In Islam, upon God's command Israfil will blow his trumpet to announce the end of the world.
Jaban To Hindus, a heretic; initially a Greek intruder in India, later a Muslim, particularly from the west or central Asia.
Jain A follower of Jainism.
Jakat A specified percentage of one's annual income is to be given to the needy.
Jerusalem The spiritual capital of the Jews, also a major pilgrimage for Muslims and Christians.
Jhumur A kind of love-song accompanied by dance.
Ka'aba The "House of Allah" in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The site of the greatest annual assembly of Muslim pilgrims throughout the world.
Kabir The 16th century Indian poet-weaver with the stature of sainthood.
Kachha The folded frontal portion of a dhuti, a men's wear wrapped around the lower half of the body.
Kafir An infidel, according to Muslims.
Kalapahar A Brahmin who, upon embracing Islam, became a staunch decrier of idolatry.
Kali Goddess Kali, an awe-inspiring manifestation of Goddess Durga.
Kalki The tenth and the final incarnation of Vishnu, expected to take place in the Dark Age, kalijoog.
Karbala See Hossain.
Kashi A site of pilgrimage for Hindus in India; Benaras or Varanasi.
Karna The son of the maiden Kunti and Surya, in Mahabharata.
Keya The screwpine flower or its tree.
Krishna The principal incarnation of Vishnu. Depicted in a number of popular forms, such as a handsome young man playing a flute, a child stealing milk balls, a lover of Radha, a cowherdess. The love between Krishna and Radha symbolizes the love between the Divine and the human.
Krishnachura Name of a flaming red flower.
Kumbhakarna One who sleeps much too much and through everything; from the name of the monstrous second brother of Ravana, as in the Ramayana, who used to keep awake only for a day after sleeping for six months at a stretch.
Kusha Older son of Rama; brother of Lava.
Lakshmi The Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, goodness, and happiness. Wife of Vishnu.
Lava The second son of Rama; brother of Kusha.
Madrasa A center or school for Islamic religious and cultural studies.
Mahabharata The great Sanskrit ancient epic poem of the Hindus composed by Sage Vedavyasa, also Vyasdeva, suppossedly written after Ramayana.
Mahashsheta Another name of Saraswati (see Saraswati).
Mahdi An Islamic leader to assume the messianic role of establishing a reign of peace and justice.
Mantra A sacred Hindu formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power.
Mathura A site of pilgrimage in India for Hindus, associated with Krishna's leela (activities).
Medina A city in Saudi Arabia; a site of pilgrimage for Muslims.
Nanak Guru Nanak (1469-1538), the founder of the Sikh religion.
Narayan A manifestation of Vishnu, the sustainer in the supreme Hindu trinity.
Neelachal A site of pilgrimage for Hindus in India.
Neelkantha In Indian mythology, the ocean became polluted and needed to be churned—separating the nectar and the poison in the water. Gods took the nectar, but what to do with the poison? If not removed, it would poison the Earth. Shiva came forward and drank it, saving the Earth. Henceforth, Shiva became known as Neelkantha, "Blue-necked," ("Neel" meaning blue, "kantha" meaning neck) from drinking the poison. See Shiva.
Neem The margosa, an extremely virtuous tree with small leaves, sweet-smelling flowers and small fruits—with a range of medicinal and environmental properties.
OM The mystic sound denoting the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; the origin or root of all sounds; the symbol of the Supreme Being.
Orpheus In Greek mythology, a Thracian musician and poet whose flute music had the power to move inanimate objects and charm all.
Palash Name of a fiery red spring flower.
Parashuram The sixth of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, with his battle-axe (parashu) who exterminated the Kshatriyas, the ruling warrior caste, from the face of the earth 31 times.
Parsee A descendant of the Zorastrians who emigrated from Persia to India in the 8th century.
Pir or Peer A Muslim saint.
Polui, from palo, a pail-shaped wicker basket for catching fish.
Puranas The Hindu mythologies.
Quran The holy book of Muslims.
Rabi Literally, the sun; here it refers to Rabindranath Tagore.
Rakhi A piece of colored thread which one ties around another's wrist to safeguard the latter from all evils.
Rama or Ramchandra The hero of the Indian epic, Ramayana, composed by Sage Valmiki; "Rama hoi" refers to singing of the epic.
Rangan Name of a clustered red flower blooming from spring through late monsoon.
Ravana The villain of the Ramayana, who was the king of present day Sri Lanka and who abducted Seeta, until she was rescued by Hanuman, the monkey god, and his army of monkeys.
Rishi A Hindu saint, sage or ascetic.
Sadka A charitable giving, especially as an expression of gratitude.
Shakya Muni Gautama Buddha. Gautama hailed from the Shakya tribe, the ruling Kshatriya caste; muni means a saint.
Santal An aboriginal tribe in the northeast Indo-Bangladesh subcontinent.
Saraswati The Hindu goddess of speech, learning, fine arts and wisdom.
Seeta Wife of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, and the epitome of the chaste woman.
Shah Jahan (1592-1666) The Mughal emperor in India who had the Taj Mahal built in memory of his wife, Momtaz.
Shehnai A flute-type wooden wind-instrument capable of creating a deeply joyous as well as melancholic tune.
Shantanu Father of Bheeshma, in Mahabharata.
Shefali or Shefalika Name of a fragrant flower with white petals and a yellow stem blooming from late monsoon through fall.
Shimul Red flower of the cotton wool tree which begins blooming in spring before the leaves are out, on dry thorny branches.
Shiva One of the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Simultaneously he is the god of creation as well as destruction, annihilation as well as regeneration, barrenness as well as fertility, eroticism as well as asceticism. The apparent paradox signifies the underlying potentialities of his power, manifested in many ways. Shiva is depicted in many forms. One of the most popular forms is that of Nataraj, the Dance-king or the Lord of the Dance; the dance position is that of harmony or balancing between creation and destruction, between the opposing forces, between the polarities of Nature. His consorts are Durga and Kali. His abode is the Himalayan peak, Kailasa.
Shyam Krishna, when depicted in black, dark blue or green complexion.
Snake-king The Snake-king Vasuki, in Hindu mythology.
Taj Mahal The all white-marble mausoleum in Agra, India, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Momtaz.
Teep A dotted decorative mark on the forehead.
Thakoor God or a god; also refers to the guardian deity of the family.
Tiki A tuft of uncut hair kept on the back of the head to maintain personal holiness by Hindus.
Tripitaka The holy book of the Buddhists.
Tulshi-tala The compound surrounded by a tulshi plant or a shrub; tulshi, an aromatic basel-like plant or a shrub, is considered sacred by the Hindus and its leaves serve as an offering in worship.
Uchchaisraba Indra's celestial horse.
Upanishad Sanskrit philosophical treatises giving an exposition of the Vedas, the oldest sacred writings of Hinduism.
Vedas The oldest sacred writings of Hinduism, in four books.
Vishnu One of the supreme Hindu trinity which also includes Brahma and Shiva; Vishnu is the sustainer of the creation.
Vishwamitra In the Ramayana, a Hindu sage who acquired miraculous powers through meditation. Also the guardian and instructor of Rama and Lakshman during their youth.
Yamadagni A saint, the father of Parashuram (see Parashuram).
Zend-Avesta or Zendavesta The holy book of the Parsees.