US university to launch encyclopaedia of Hinduism
An 11-volume Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, outlining the beliefs and traditions of one of the world's major religions, is set to be unveiled at a conference of Indian scholars at the University of South Carolina (USC) on Monday.

Culmination of a 25-year academic effort, the definitive guide is conceived, compiled and produced by the India Heritage Research Foundation and published by Mandala Publishing, according to the University.

Encompassing more than 7,000 articles, the encyclopaedia also covers Indian history, civilization, language and philosophy; architecture, art, music and dance; medicine, sciences and social institutions; and religion, spirituality and the role of Hindu women.

Additionally, more than 1,000 colour illustrations and photographs bring the Hindu traditions and culture alive for readers.

"It has been an ambitious undertaking," said French Hal French, a USC distinguished professor emeritus of religious and associate editor of the encyclopedia.

"The Encyclopaedia of Hinduism is a milestone in research for this culture and religion, reflecting the very best in India and Western scholarship."

French was among nearly 1,000 scholars from India, the United States and Europe who wrote, edited and compiled the encyclopaedia, which provides the first standardized and objective presentation of the panorama that is Indian culture.

Monday's event marks the launch of the international edition of the encyclopaedia. Dalai Lama launched its Indian edition in April 2010 in Rishikesh, India.

The day-long launch conference will feature some of most prominent Indian scholars, who will discuss the significance of the encyclopaedia and the richness and diversity of Indian culture that binds more than one billion people worldwide.

Among the speakers will be Indian social activist Anna Hazare and Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, president of Parmarth Niketan Ashram in India and founder of the India Heritage Research Foundation.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of Divine Shakti Foundation and managing editor of the encyclopedia, said the conference, like the encyclopaedia, aims to deepen a conversation among cultures as part of India's quest for spiritual unity.

At Monday's launch event, the University will announce another India project called "CarolIndia", a celebration of India through a series of fall and spring events.

Led by the College of Arts and Sciences' Walker Institute, CarolIndia aims at elevating campus and community understanding of India's growing importance as the world's largest democracy and a rising global economy, the university said.