Monday June 23 marked a historic moment in the cultural history of India: the official presentation of the international edition of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism to HE President Pranab Mukherjee at an interfaith event featuring leaders from the Hindu, Catholic, Muslim, Jain and Sikh communities. A project of India Heritage Research Foundation, founded, guided and led by one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, The Encyclopedia of Hinduism is a colossal product of more than 1000 esteemed scholars from around the world, totaling 11-volumes and approximately 7000 entries.
The presentation of the gorgeous, 7000 entry, 11-volume compendium of the depth and breadth of the Indian spiritual and cultural tradition to the Honourable President took place in the main auditorium at Rastrapati Bhavan (President House) and was graced also by the presence of the following revered spiritual leaders and dignitaries:
- Shri Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Founder/chairman of India Heritage Research Foundation and Founder of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism project
- Shri LK Advani, MP and Senior Leader of BJP
- Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law & Justice, Communications & Technology, Government of India
- Sadhvi Uma Bharati, Minister of Water Resources and River Development, Government of India
- Dr. Karan Singh, Chairman, Auroville Foundation
- Shri Giani Gurubachan Singh, Chief Jathedar, Akal Takat [Golden Temple]
- Maulanna Dr. Kalbe Sadiq Sahib, Vice President, Muslim Personal Law Board
- Shri Rameshbhai Oza (Bhaishri), Renowned Kathakar
- Anil José Tomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi
- Dr. Acharya Lokesh Muni, Ahimsa Vishwa Bharati
- Dr. RK Pachauri, Nobel Laureate and Chairman of IPCC
- Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Managing Editor, Encyclopedia of Hinduism
Additionally Bollywood celebrities Sonu Nigam, Kailash Kher, Vivek Oberoi and Suresh Oberoi also graced the event with their presence. The national anthem at the beginning and end of the event was sung gloriously by Sonu Nigam.
The honourable President congratulated Pujya Swamiji for undertaking and completing such a mammoth project. He said, “Hindu religious philosophy identifies Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksh, as the foremost objectives of a human being. Striking a balance in human behaviour in working towards these objectives has been prescribed as a key aim of human existence. Quoting, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, he said that Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced.”
The President further stated that the basic tenet of Hinduism is happiness, health and enlightenment for everyone and suffering, pain and agony for none. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi and said “If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth… Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.”
Other quotations are below:
Shri LK Advaniji said “This Encyclopedia is a huge undertaking and monumental task, and especially to have it presented to a great leader like our Honourable President is testimony to the historic mile-stone of this achievement. The reason that India has been able to sustain itself as a successful democracy for so many years with such a large population is the core Hindu values of living in unity and peace amongst the diversity. This beautiful function is only half complete because the other half has to be done in Rishikesh, at Parmarth Niketan Ashram with the sacred Ganga Aarti ceremony which Pujya Swamiji leads each evening! That is such a pure experience of the purity and divinity of our Hindu tradition.”
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasadji said: “Tenets of Hinduism are faith and dedication. The Encyclopedia is a testament to the faith and dedication of over 1000 scholars coming together from all over the world, under the leadership of Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji.”
Sadhvi Uma Bharatiji said “I am so proud to be here and I am so proud to be a Hindu. Hinduism teaches us how to live in harmony and oneness with each other. That is why Hindus are such great neighbors and India is such a great neighboring country.”
Pujya Shri Rameshbhai Ozaji said: “A temple of bricks can be completed in 4-5 years but this Temple of Knowledge took 25 years! Pujya Swamiji is a Maha Kalpana Purush; he had a vision, took a pledge and fulfilled that pledge. The fruit of that sankalp is this Encyclopedia.”
Acharya Lokesh Muniji said: “The Encyclopedia is a much needed bridge between science and spirituality.”
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, founder/chairman of India Heritage Research Foundation and of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism project explains: “The wisdom, truths, teachings and insights of Indian and Hindu culture are not limited to or applicable to only Hindus or Indians. Rather they belong to the world and can deeply benefit the world. It is, therefore, our aim that the richness of this ancient yet timeless culture and heritage should be made available to the entire world, in a way that is authentic, academic, comprehensive and illuminating. However, of course, the teachings, truths, tenets and insights of Sanatan Dharma took birth in India. Therefore, to have the religious leaders of India present the Encyclopedia to the Honourable President is a beautiful and most-fitting symbol of the ‘Unity in Diversity’ which is our Mother India.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia explains: “This is a great moment in history. The depth and breadth of the world’s oldest living culture, civilization, philosophy and theology has finally, for the first time, been encapsulated in encyclopedic form. This launch is such a great symbol of the diversity of India, in which for thousands of years all the major faiths of the world including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and Jainism have co-existed peacefully and harmoniously together.”
Also, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji presented the Hon’ble President with a sacred rudraksh tree sapling and a shawl woven with love by the women left widowed, homeless and hopeless by the tragic floods last year in the Kedarnath valley now where under Pujya Swamiji’s leadership, Ganga Action Parivar has sponsored the opening of 3 centers providing vocational skills to over 500 ladies.
All of the speakers, politicians Shri LK Advaniji, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasadji, Sadhvi Uma Bhartiji and Dr. Karan Singhji, the religious leaders, Shri Chief Jathedar Sahib, Maulanna Dr. Kalbe Sadiq, Pujya Shri Rameshbhai Oza, Archbishop Father Cuoto, Acharya Lokesh Muniji and Nobel Laureate Dr. RK Pachauriji all deeply appreciated the great vision of Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji for conceiving of the project and His great Shakti and tapasya for carrying it through to fruition. All speakers emphasized the crucial and universal nature of Hinduism and the great benefit that this wisdom provides to the whole world.
The Encyclopedia has been nearly twenty-five years in the making and it is the first time in history that the depth and breadth of India’s great spiritual culture is made available in authentic, academic and scholastic form. It is truly a compendium of thousands of years of history, science, art, architecture, polity, religion, philosophy and culture. Further, the Encyclopedia is not limited to Hinduism as a religion, but rather provides thorough treatment of all of India’s indigenous faiths, including Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, as well as coverage of the role of the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) in the culture, civilization, history and history of India.