Glossary of Hinduism terms

The following list consists of notable concepts that are derived from Hindu culture and associated cultures (Indian, Nepali, Balinese) traditions, which are expressed as words in Sanskrit or other Indic languages and Dravidian languages. The main purpose of this list is to disambiguate multiple spellings, to make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, to define the concept in one or two lines, to make it easy for one to find and pin down specific concepts, and to provide a guide to unique concepts of Hinduism all in one place.

Separating concepts in Hinduism from concepts specific to Indian culture, or from the language itself, can be difficult. Many Sanskrit concepts have an Indian secular meaning as well as a Hindu dharmic meaning. One example is the concept of Dharma. Sanskrit, like all languages, contains words whose meanings differ across various contexts.


  • Arti): Hindu ritual for welcoming someone.
  • Abhisheka : Hindu bathing ritual offered to someone who is worshipped.
  • Acharya : Hindu religious expert in any field.
  • Adharma : Something against Dharma.
  • Adivasis : Indian term for tribal people.
  • Advaita: non-dual, such as in Advaita Vedanta Philosophy.
  • Agastya : Hindu sage.
  • Agni : Fire god.
  • Ahamkara : Sanskrit term for “ego”.
  • Akshaya Tritiya : Annual spring festival for Hindus and Jains.
  • Añjanā : Mother of Hanumana.
  • Antahkarana : Totality of mind.
  • Antyesti : Last death ritual.
  • Ashram : Hindu monastery.
  • Asura : A semi-divine, power-seeking being.
  • Ashvins : Hindu twin gods for medicine, health and science.
  • Ashwatthama : The son of Drona.
  • Aruna) : The charioteer of Surya the Sun God.
  • Aryan : Group of Vedic people.
  • Astika : Orthodox (of Indian religions/schools of thought).
  • Atman): Self or spirit).
  • Aupasana : Yagya performed during Hindu wedding.
  • Avarna : A person not belonging to any class in Varna system).
  • Avatar : Material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth.
  • Ayurveda : A medical system of Indian subcontinent.


  • Bajrang Bali : Other name of Hanumana.
  • Bhagavad Gita : A knowledge of the attaining the supreme told to Arjuna by Krishna on the Kurukshetra battlefield.
  • Bhagavan : Bhagavan is a term used to refer to a god.
  • Bhagavata : Worship of Bhagavat Vishnu.
  • Bhagavati : A word for female Hindu deities.
  • Bhajan : A Hindu devotional song as a spiritual practice.
  • Bhakti : A Hindu word for faith, devotion or love to god.
  • Bharat : India, and also used as a male name.
  • Bharata) : Brother of Rama.
  • Bhargava : The descendants of the great rishi, Bhrigu.
  • Bhasmasura : Ancient legendary character in Hinduism.
  • Bhavana : Sense for calling into existence.
  • Bhumi : Earth goddess
  • Brahma : The Creator God.
  • Brahmaloka : The celestial abode of Brahma.
  • Brahmacharya : The first phase of a person’s life where he goes to live with his guru to learn the different studies.
  • Brahman :The Supreme Transcendental Awareness which pervades and yet transcends the manifest universe. Not to be confused with the god Brahma or the varna Brahmin.
  • Brahmin : The class or varna of people consisting of priests, teachers, sages and gurus.
  • Brahma Sutras : Sanskrit texts attributed by Sage Vyasa.
  • Brahmastra : Supernatural weapon as per Hindu texts.
  • Braj : Region associated with Radha and Krishna.
  • Buddhi : Intelligence or soul.


  • Catur Sloki: Four most important verses among Hindu texts.
  • Chakra : Focal points in body activated during meditation.
  • Charu : Pure and spiritual person.
  • Chyavana : A great Bhargava rishi.
  • Chiranjivi : One who is immortal.
  • Chitta : Mind and its fluctuations.


  • Daitya: A race of Asuras.
  • Dakini : Female spirit of demon as per Hindu mythology.
  • Dāna : Virtue of generosity.
  • Dasharatha : Father of Rama.
  • Dashavatara : The series of 10 Avatars of Vishnu.
  • Deva): Term for deity in Hinduism.
  • Devi : Term for female deity in Hinduism.
  • Dharma : Following the divine and great path.
  • Dharmaśāstra : Hindu theological texts in Sanskrit.
  • Dhritarashtra : Father of Kaurava.
  • Dhyana : Meditation.
  • Dhaumya : A great sage who had three disciples - Aruni, Upamanyu and Veda.
  • Dilīpa : Hindu king of Ikshvaku dynasty.
  • Dhruva : Ascetic devotee of Vishnu.
  • Drona : Guru (or teacher) of Kauravas and Pandavas.
  • Dvaita : A branch of Hindu philosophy, founded by Shri Madhvacharya that advocates dualism) and stresses a strict distinction between God and souls.
  • Dyaus : Rigvedic god of the aether) and sky


  • Ekalavya : Young Nishada prince and character in Mahabharata.
  • Ekayāna : Oneness of god in Hinduism.
  • Elapatra : A character in the Sarpa Satra.


  • Falgun : One of the month as per Hindu calendar.


  • Gandhara : Ancient Indian Mahajanapadas.
  • Gandhari) : Wife of Dhritarashtra and mother of Kaurava.
  • Gandhari people : Ancient Hindu tribes in Mahabharata.
  • Gandharva : Rigvedic tribe.
  • Ganesha : The god of new beginnings, wisdom, and luck, commonly identified for his elephant head.
  • Ganga : A holy river in Northern India, believed to be a goddess by Hindus (see Ganga in Hinduism).
  • Gayatri Mantra : A revered mantra in Hinduism, found in the Yajur Veda.
  • Ghanta : Metal bell used during Hindu worship ritual.
  • Gita: holy text/song/book, typically Bhagavad-gita, and many including Anugita, Ashtavakra Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Devi Gita, The Ganesha Gita, Gita Dhyanam, Gita Govinda, Guru Gita, Hamsa Gita, Yogi Gita.
  • Goloka : Spiritual abode of Radha Krishna.
  • Gopi : Milkmaids of Braj region who are revered as the consorts and devotees of Krishna.
  • Gotra : Ancestral lineage among Hindus.
  • Grahana : Eclipse in Hindu mythology.
  • Grihastha : The second of the four phases (Purushartha) of a man, when a person gets married and settles down in life and begets children.
  • Guru : A spiritual teacher. In contemporary India, the title and term “Guru” is widely used within the general meaning of “wise man”.


  • Hanuman : A vanara who helped Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, in rescuing his wife Sita from the Rakshasa king Ravana.
  • Hindu scripture : Sacred texts of Hinduism mostly written in Sanskrit. Hindu scripture is divided into two categories: Śruti) – that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti – that which is remembered (i.e. tradition, not revelation).
  • Hinduism : A worldwide religious tradition that is based on the Vedas and is the direct descendant of the Vedic religion. It encompasses many religious traditions that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse sects and philosophies.
  • Himalayas : North Indian range of mountains, at least some holy (such as Mt Kailash being said to be Shiva’s abode).


  • Indra : The chief deity of the Rigveda, the god of weather and war as well as Lord of Svargaloka in Hinduism.
  • Ishvara : A Hindu philosophical concept of God referring to the Supreme Being which is the lord and the ruler of everything. Hinduism uses the term Ishvara exclusively to refer to the Supreme God in a monotheistic sense.


  • Janeu : Sacred thread worn by Hindus, especially by Brahmin after the rite of Upanayana.
  • Japa : A spiritual discipline in which a devotee repeats a mantra or the name of God. The repetition can be aloud, just the movement of lips or in the mind.
  • Jiva : A living being.
  • Jivanmukta : A liberated living individual.
  • Jnana : Knowledge.
  • Jnana Yoga : Knowledge Yoga.


  • Kailasha : The celestial abode of the destroyer deity, Shiva.
  • Kali: Kaivalya : Independence (a goal in Yoga Sutra).
  • Kali : A dark, black aspect of the mother-goddess Devi whose consort is Shiva.
  • Kali Purusha) : The demonic and evil personification of Kali Yuga.
  • Kali Yuga : Last of four yugas in Hindu cosmology.
  • Kalki : The tenth avatar of Vishnu who is yet to come and will appear as a man on a horse at the end of Kali Yuga.
  • Kama : Best understood as aesthetics, the definition of Kama involves sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, pleasure of the senses, love, and the ordinary enjoyments of life regarded as one of the four ends of man (purusharthas).
  • Karma : A Sanskrit term that encompasses the entire cycle of cause and effect.
  • Karma Yoga : The practise of disciplining action. Karma yoga focuses on the adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward. It states that one can attain Moksha (salvation) by doing his duties in an unselfish manner.
  • Kartikeya : A god born out of a magical spark created by Shiva, his father. God of war, victory, and knowledge.
  • Krishna : The eighth avatar of Vishnu, one of the most worshipped by many Hindus. Krishna is famous for his lecture to Arjuna written in the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Kshatriya : The class or varna in Hindu tradition, consisting of the warriors, soldiers and rulers of society.
  • Kshira Sagara : The ocean of milk, an abode of Vishnu.
  • Kubera : One of the gods of wealth and riches.
  • Kumbha Mela: a huge Hindu religious pilgrimage/gathering/festival every 12 years at Ganges and other sacred rivers, which many sanyasis (especially sadhus) attend.
  • Kurma : The second avatar of Vishnu where he took the form of a tortoise.


  • Lakshmi : Goddess of prosperity, wealth and good fortune. She is the consort of Vishnu and an aspect of Devi.


  • Mahabharata : One of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Ramayana. The Mahabharata is of religious and philosophical importance in India; in particular, the Bhagavad Gita, which is one of its chapters (Bhishmaparva) and a sacred text of Hinduism.
  • Maharishi : A great enlightened one or seer including ancient gurus/teachers/writers and speakers/poets/singers of sacred literature, especially the Vedas.
  • Manas) : Root for Indo-European words such as mind
  • Mandir : Temple.
  • Manidvipa : Abode of the supreme goddess in Shaktism.
  • Mantra : A religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras are performed through chanting.
  • Mātali : The charioteer of Indra.
  • Matsya : The first avatar of Vishnu, where he came in the form of a fish.
  • Mitra) : One of the Adityas.
  • Moksha : Refers to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In higher Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, of any sense of consciousness of time, space, and causation (karma).
  • Mount Meru : A sacred mountain.


  • Naraka : Realm of punishment, the abode of Yama).
  • Narasimha : The fourth avatar of Vishnu. He is a mixed form of a man and a lion.
  • Nastika : Unorthodox (such as Dharmas which claim anatman).
  • Nirvana : Literally “extinction” and/or “extinguishing”, is the culmination of the yogi’s pursuit of liberation. Hinduism uses the word nirvana to describe the state of moksha, roughly equivalent to heaven.


  • Om: (Also Aum, ) is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism, first coming to light in the Vedic Tradition. The syllable is sometimes referred to as the “Udgitha” or “pranava mantra” (primordial mantra); not only because it is considered to be the primal sound, but also because most mantras begin with it.


  • Paramukta : A supremely liberated living individual
  • Parashurama : The sixth Avatar of Vishnu, where he came in the form of an axe-wielder in order to kill the corrupt kings at the time.
  • Parvati : Goddess of power and devotion, the consort of Shiva and mother of Ganesha.
  • Patala : The netherworld.
  • Pativrata : The conjugal fidelity of a wife towards her husband.
  • Pitrs : The spirits of departed ancestors.
  • Pralaya : Phenomenon of dissolution.
  • Purana: Any of many Hindu legend/mythology texts.
  • Purushartha : The four chief aims of human life. Arranged from lowest to highest, these goals are: sensual pleasures (kama), worldly status and security (artha), personal righteousness and social morality (dharma), and liberation from the cycle of reincarnation (moksha).


  • Radha: Hindu goddess of love and devotion. Radha is the chief consort of god Krishna who resides in Goloka. She is also revered as the avatar of Lakshmi.
  • Rama: The Seventh Avatara of Vishnu. The life and heroic deeds of Rama are written in the Sanskrit epic, The Ramayana.
  • Ramayana : Part of the Hindu smriti, written by Valmiki. This epic of 24,000 verses in seven kandas (chapters or books) tells of a Raghuvamsa prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the rakshasa Ravana.
  • Rishi : An enlightened one or seer.
  • Rudra : A Rigvedic god of the storm, the hunt, death, nature and the wind. Rudra is an early form of Shiva and a name of Shiva in the Shiva sahasranama.
  • Rukmini: The Hindu goddess of fortune. The chief queen consort of the Hindu deity Krishna, an avatar of Lakshmi.
  • Ruru: The son of Pramati and grandson of Chyavana. He married Pramadvara, granddaughter of Vaivasvata Manu).


  • Sadhana: Spiritual exercise by a Sadhu or a Sadhaka to attain moksha, which is liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), or a particular goal such as blessing from a deity).
  • Samadhi : A term used in yogic meditation. Samadhi is also the Hindi word for a structure commemorating the dead.
  • Samkhya : A school of philosophy emphasising a dualism) between Purusha and Prakrti.
  • Samsara : Refers to the concept of reincarnation or rebirth in Indian philosophical traditions.
  • Samudra Manthana : The legend of the churning of the ocean.
  • Sanatana Dharma : The Eternal Order/Truth/Law (An endonym of Hinduism).
  • Sannyasa : Hindu ascetic/monastic (monk or nun) such as a Sanyasi, Sadhvine or Sadhu, Swami.
  • Saraswati : The goddess of education and knowledge, and consort of Brahma.
  • Shakta : A Hindu denomination which follows the Bhagavati/Devi/Shakti (Goddess).
  • Shakti : An aspect of Devi and a personification of God as the Divine Mother who represents the active, dynamic principles of feminine power.
  • Shiva : God of destruction, birth, death, time, and the arts; the Supreme Being/Ultimate Reality in Shaivism. A form of Ishvara or God in Shaivism. Śiva is commonly known as “the destroyer” and is the third god of the Trimurti.
  • Sita : The wife of Vishnu’s seventh avatar Rama.
  • Shudra : The class or varna in Hindu tradition, consisting of farmers, servants and labourers.
  • Sloka : A verse of lines in Sanskrit, typically recited as a prayer.
  • Smarta : A Hindu denomination, which follows Advaita philosophy and considers that all gods are manifestations of Ishvar.
  • Smriti : A newer/secondary canon of Hindu texts/scriptures including auxiliary Vedic texts, epics, Dharma Sutras & Shastras, Artha Shastras, Puranas, poetry, reviews/commentary, digests.
  • Soma) : A ritual drink of importance among Hindus. It is frequently mentioned in the Rigveda, which contains many hymns praising its energizing or intoxicating qualities.
  • Śruti) : A canon of Hindu scriptures. Shruti is believed to have no author; rather a divine recording of the “cosmic sounds of truth”, heard by rishis.
  • Sthala purana : A regional account of a temple legend.
  • Sthala Vriksha : A sacred tree associated with a temple.
  • Stotra : devotional hymn/song/mantras to a deva/devi.
  • Surya : A solar deity who is one of the three main Vedic Gods.
  • Sutra : Refers to an aphorism or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a book or text.
  • Svaha : The goddess of sacrifices and the consort of Agni.
  • Svarga : The celestial abode of the devas).
  • Svayambhu : The concept of self-birth or self-manifestation.


  • Tantra : The esoteric Hindu traditions of rituals and yoga. Tantra can be summarised as a family of voluntary rituals modeled on those of the Vedas, together with their attendant texts and lineages.


  • Upanishad : Part of the Hindu) Śruti) scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy, seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism.


  • Vaikuntha : The celestial abode of the preserver deity, Vishnu.
  • Vaishya : The class or varna in Hindu tradition consisting of merchants, traders, artisans, and landowners.
  • Vamana : The fifth Avatara of Vishnu. He is the first Avatar of Vishnu which had a completely human form, although it was that of a dwarf brahmin.
  • Vanaprastha : A person who is living in the forest as a hermit after giving up material desires.
  • Varaha : The third avatar of Vishnu, who came in the form of a boar.
  • Varna) : Varna, according to Hindu scriptures, refers to the classification of people based on their qualities. The term is derived from the Sanskrit word, vr, which means “to describe,” “to classify” or “to cover.”
  • Varuna : A god of the sky, of rain and of the celestial ocean, as well as a god of law and of the underworld.
  • Vasu : Group of eight deities associated with fire and light.
  • Vayu : The god of air and wind who is also father of Bhima and Hanuman.
  • Veda : Collectively refers to a corpus of ancient Indo Aryan religious literature that are considered by adherents of Hinduism to be revealed knowledge. Many Hindus believe the Vedas existed since the beginning of creation.
  • Vedanta : Vedic Philosophy.
  • Vijnana : Mind or knowing The Divine.
  • Vishnu : God of Preservation. A form of God, to whom many Hindus pray. For Vaishnavas, He is the only Ultimate Reality or God. In Trimurti belief, He is the second aspect of God in the Trimurti (also called the Hindu Trinity), along with Brahma and Shiva. Known as the Preserver, He is most famously identified with His avatars, especially Krishna and Rama.
  • Vrata : Fast.


  • Wamika : God.


  • Yajna : A Vedic ritual of sacrifice performed to please the Devas), or sometimes to the Supreme Spirit Brahman. Often it involves a fire, which represents the god Agni, in the centre of the stage and items are offered into the fire.
  • Yama)) : The lord of death in Hinduism, first recorded in the Vedas.
  • Yamas : A yama (Sanskrit), literally translates as a “restraint”, a rule or code of conduct for living virtuously.
  • Yantra : A geometric picture, typically holy/religious.
  • Yoga : Philosophy of spiritual practices performed primarily as a means to enlightenment) (or bodhi). Traditionally, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga are considered the four main yogas. In the West, yoga has become associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, popular as fitness exercises.
  • Yogamaya : A goddess, regarded to be the embodiment of the divine energy of Vishnu.
  • Yoga Sutra : One of the six darshanas of Hindu or Vedic schools and, alongside the Bhagavad Gita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, are a milestone in the history of Yoga.
  • Yuga: In Hindu philosophy (and in the teachings of Surat Shabd Yoga) the cycle of creation is divided into four yugas (ages or eras).
  • Yuga Dharma : One aspect of Dharma, as understood by Hindus. Yuga dharma is an aspect of dharma that is valid for a Yuga. The other aspect of dharma is Sanatan Dharma, dharma which is valid for eternity.


  • Zaal : Trap.

See also

  • Outline of Hinduism
  • Index of Hinduism-related articles