Abhaya mudrâ : hand symbolic gesture who signifies lack of fear; the right hand in front of the body, at the breast level, open palm turned forward, fingers raised

Advaita : "One without a Second". A definition of the Absolute Non-dual doctrine, the most famous branch of the Vedanta teached by Shankarâchârya. It states that Brahman has the same fundamental nature than Atman

Agni : Deity of the sacrificial Fire, so important in rituals performed by the brahmins. Represented two- or three-headed, sometimes with a halo of flames, He holds a pot and a mâlâ; the ram is His vâhana. Many devotional hymns are adressed to Him in the Veda. He is also one of the eight Dikpâla and He gives protection to the south-east direction.

Ahamkara : Ego, self-consciousness. The development of the man's ego selfishness, during his growth, leads him to believe that he constitutes a separate entity, autonomous and independent from his environment. According to the hindu point of view, as explained in the Sâmkhya or the Vedanta, this certainty originates from an illusion created by the Maya power. This illusion maintains daily and permanently the human beings in the manifested world of sufferings and pleasures

Ahimsa : non-violence. Lack of violence does not exclude, when necessary, to have a resolute attitude, practised with benevolence. Thus, ahimsa does not mean at all indolence or complacency; on the contrary, it's a positive and controlled attitude

Akbar : third Mogol emperor born in 1542, who ruled from 1556 to 1605. He was a son of Humâyûn. He conquered the whole middle valley of the Ganges River, then the Gwalior and Ajmer States, before he progressively stretched his empire all over north India, from the Sind western area (lower Indus valley) to east Bengal. He founded the Fatehpur Sikri city, near Agra, in the 7Os. Then he divided the empire into fifteen provinces and reorganized the administration of this huge whole. He reconciled the hindu and muslim religions and tried to establish a syncretic (unified) religion (the religion of Light). He was a remarkable patron of arts for artists, for instance miniaturists and writters. When he died, his son Salim succeeded to him, as JahângÓr.

Amrita : nectar of the eternal life, obtained when the gods (Deva) and the demons (Asura) churned the Ocean of Milk at the beginning of the world.

Amâlâka†: monolith stone with a flat round striated shape like a myrobolan fruit, placed at the top of the tower temple (northern style = Nagara style)

Amarâvatî : major buddhist archeological site, characterized like Sanchi, by a large stupa and torana, unfortunately badly damaged during the 19th century by stupid british civil servants; only a few remnants can be seen in the Madras (Chennai) Museum

Ananta : meaning "felicity" or "blessedness"; name of the mythical snake on which Vishnu is resting between two periods of the Manifestation (also called Shesha); this Vishnu form, lying asleep on the Serpent of Eternity is named as Shesheya

Ankusha : hook or elephant-goad, a Ganesh attribute

Apsarâ : the apsarâ are celestial beings, celestial female dancers born from sattwa; in the late myths, apsarâ are represented as nymphs young for ever; they display a stunning beauty, with lotus-shaped eyes, tight waist and ample hips

Ardha-mandapa : gallery with colums in the temples, preceding the mandapa (columned hall) which itself gives access to the inner sanctuary ( garbagriha)

Ardhanarishvara : Form of Shiva showing on one side His female aspect, on the other side His male aspect. This representation looks odd, according to the western aesthetic rules, but is nevertheless very beautiful. It symbolizes the union of the male (Consciousness) and female (Energy = Shakti) potentialities in Shiva

Ardhaparyankâsana : sitting posture also called mahârâjalîlâsana. One of the legs is bent to the groin, while the other remains free, with knee raised

Artha : "profit"; set of methods and means useful to bring success and wealth

Ashoka : very important emperor in Indian history. He lived in the 3rd century B.C., converted himself to Buddhism after he conquered and unified a vast empire by war. Many famous edicts form the basic laws governing his empire; these edicts were carved in many places, on stone pillars precisely called "Ashoka pillars", in order that everybody can be informed about these laws

Ashram : Hermitage, place where a spiritual master (Guru) give teachings and provides his guidance to disciples to a spiritual path. An ashram is also a place where everybody can come and get the darshana of a man considered as a saint.

Asura : semi-god. In hinduism (like in buddhism), the different levels of the manifested worlds (Loka), i.e. the relative Reality, are a lot. Asura, or semi-gods, belong, as gods themselves, to the Manifestation. Therefore, they are not immortal, even if they live a very long time. Asura are believed to be violent and martial

Atman : is a concept difficult to define. The translation by the word "soul", often read and proposed, does not seem to be adequate; indeed, it leads the reader to compare with the christian concept of soul, which is a false view. One can say that the atman, is the real man, once the ego and the worldly personality (body, life, thoughts, feelings, emotions) have been purified and dismantled. Atman is an entity, eternal, unalterable and non-contingent. Throughout the successive incarnations, the atman will cloaked with different bodies, in order to live the necessary experiences generated by his karma. Therefore, the real Self, the atman, is quite similar to Brahman, who has no attributes

Avalokiteshvara : the Buddha of the Great Compassion, in the Mahâyâna Buddhism. He is considered as an incarnation of the Buddha Amitâbha. He is very popular and worshipped in Tibet, Corea and Japan. His mantra is "OM Mani Padme Hûm"

Avatâra : literally descent, divine incarnation. A god takes a human form in order to save the humanity of the dangers who threaten to destroy the Dharma. Most famous avatâra are those of god Vishnu

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