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11 volumes to detail Hinduism, South Asia

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A comprehensive encyclopedia of one of the world's major religions is set to debut this week in South Carolina.

The 11-volume work covers Hindu spiritual beliefs, practices and philosophy. It is the culmination of a 25-year academic effort.

The encyclopedia is written in English and includes 7,000 articles on Hinduism. The work includes Indian history, languages, art, music, dance, architecture, medicine and women's issues. The encyclopedia contains more than 1,000 illustrations and photographs.

Brightly colored images of Hinduism's deities fill entire pages, with foot-noted explanations of the forms and powers God can take in the religion.

“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.

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, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, who is going to the conference that will celebrate the work's debut.

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