For the religious traditions of India, prashad or prasadam refers to God’s “grace,” especially as received in return for the gifts that have been offered in puja. In the Hindu tradition, after the offerings of water, fruit, flowers, and the oil lamp have been presented to the deity, the officiating priest then distributes them among the worshippers as forms of prashad. In the Sikh tradition, prashad is most commonly a sweet of wheat flour, sugar, and butter that is distributed in communal worship as the divine gift of the Guru.


The hilltop temple of Sri Venkatesvara at Tirupati in southern Andhra Pradesh is one of the most popular of all Hindu pilgrimage destinations. Several million Hindus come to Tirupati every year and the Tirupati Tirumalai Devasthanams has lent its support to some of the temple-building societies in America


Bhagavan means venerable, illustrious, honored. In some contexts, i. may be the epithet of both the Supreme and personal God. It may also describe a scripture, such as the Bhagavad Gita, or it may be an honorific applied to a person, such as one of the Jain Tirthankaras.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), often referred to as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) who brought his tradition of devotion to Krishna to the United States in 1965. This form of devotion emphasizes the powerful simplicity of chanting the Lord’s name to express and realize love of God. ISKCON communities are strictly vegetarian and observe a rigorous daily schedule of worship and chanting.


The sacred syllable Om, also Aum, is regarded as the supreme mantra, the seed and source of all wisdom. The term “Omkara” also refers to this great seed and source of all.


Sita is the faithful wife of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. Sita followed him into exile in the forest and was abducted by the demon Ravana. Rama’s search for Sita and his battle to retrieve her form much of the epic story of the Ramayana. She is worshipped along with Lord Rama and is significant as the model of a faithful wife in the Hindu tradition.


In the religious traditions of India, an ashram is a retreat center, where the cultivation of religious life takes place under the guidance of a teacher or guru.


Hanuman is Lord Rama’s foremost devotee and servant. In the epic Ramayana, Hanuman plays a key role in the rescue of Rama’s wife, Sita, after she had been abducted by the demon-king, Ravana. In Hindu temples Hanuman is always present, on bended knee, at Rama’s altar. He is, in many ways, worshipped more widely than Rama, for it is common to worship Rama through his closest servant.


Narasimha is the “Man-Lion” avatara, (divine descent), of Vishnu. According to myth, he became manifest in this form in order to rescue his devotee from an evil king who had a boon that he could not be killed by man or beast. By becoming neither fully man nor beast, Vishnu killed him and retrieved the world from the reign of the godless king.


Shankara was the 9th century philosopher who was one of the premier exponents of non-dualistic Vedanta, Advaita Vedanta. His commentaries on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras are well known. He is also credited with organizing Hindu sannyasis (renouncers) into monastic orders.


Andal was a Tamil woman saint and poet of the 9th century, beloved for her poetry called the Tiruppavai. She is honored as one so filled with the love of Vishnu that she is said to have merged into his image as his bride at the great temple of Sri Rangam.

Ganesha Chaturthi

Ganesha Chaturthi is the year’s great festival of Ganesha, celebrated most commonly on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the waning fortnight of the lunar month of August/September. At the Ganesha Temple in Queens, the day includes a procession of the festival image of Ganesha through the streets of Flushing. Many American temples observe Ganesha Chaturthi.


A monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ordained monks are called bhikkhus, those who beg alms, depending upon the laity for their food and support. In the Jain tradition, ordained monks are called sadhus or holy ones; they traditionally live in close interaction with Jain laity, depending upon them for food and sustenance. In the Hindu tradition, a sannyasi is one who renounces... Read more about monk


Dharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings of conscience. For the Buddhist tradition, the Dharma (or Dhamma in Pali) refers especially to the teachings of the Buddha. This body of teachings constitutes one element of the “Three Jewels” in which Buddhists take refuge: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the community). For Hindus, ... Read more about Dharma


The Sanskrit word mandala means circle and, by extension, the whole world. It is used in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions to refer to the symbolic circles that represent the entire world, with all its divine energies, in a microcosm. Especially in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, visualizing the world created in the mandala (called kyinkor) with all its color and detail becomes a powerful and finely-tuned meditation practice.