COLUMBIA, USA, August 30, 2013( by Susanne M. Schafer,Associated Press): A comprehensive encyclopedia of one of the world's major religions was unveiled Monday in South Carolina. The 11-volume work covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy, and is the culmination of a 25-year academic effort. The encyclopedia is written in English and includes about 7,000 articles on Hinduism and its practices. The work also deals with Indian history, languages, art, music, dance, architecture, medicine and women's issues. It contains more than 1,000 illustrations and photographs. The set was previously released in India.
"The goal was to have something pretty definitive - not just about Hinduism, but about the whole South Asian tradition," said University of South Carolina professor Hal French, who met with a small group of scholars in 1987 to offer academic support for the project. "This hadn't really been attempted before," said French, 83, a distinguished professor emeritus of religious studies at the school and an associate editor. "It is a milestone of research that brought together both Eastern and Western scholarship."
French, who specializes in the religions of Asia and served as an associate editor of the encyclopedia, said a primary inspiration for the work is one of India's most revered spiritual leaders, Sri Swami Chidanand Saraswati (Muniji) who founded the India Heritage Research Foundation, which became the parent organization behind the encyclopedia effort. The encyclopedia's volumes run from 600 to more than 700 pages. Some 3,000 copies are being issued in the first printing and will be of interest to libraries, religious institutions and those studying Indian culture around the world, French said.
All proceeds from the encyclopedia are going to a charitable organization dedicated to the environmental cleanup of rivers in India.