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Gurus and Ācāryas

(6,171 words)

Author(s): Axel Jacobsen, Knut
The words guru and ācārya refer to one of the most prestigious roles in Hindu society and one of the most important institutions in Hinduism. The meaning of the words is “spiritual master” and “teacher,” and they are used almost as synonyms and have been used interchangeably, but there is also a difference in meaning. The guru or ācārya is a religious and spiritual leader, a teacher of salvific knowledge, a sacred person who initiates disciples ( śiṣyas) and is often considered a divinity, sometimes identified with the highest god and the ultimate reality itself. They a…
Date: 2019-01-30

Town and City

(6,446 words)

Author(s): Axel Jacobsen, Knut
Hindu traditions have flourished in the tens of thousands of villages in India, and Hinduism has often been identified as a religion of the village; South Asia, however, has had a number of urban civilizations and several periods of urbanization and de-urbanization since the emergence of the first cities in the Indus civilization in the 3rd millennium BCE. Urbanization, de-urbanization, and a rural–urban dichotomy have been formative forces in the history of Hinduism.The study of urbanization in India was until recently, with the exception of the Indus civilization,…
Date: 2019-01-30

Sacred Animals

(5,599 words)

Author(s): Axel Jacobsen, Knut
A sacred animal in Hinduism is a divine being in animal form or with animal features, or a living animal that is worshipped and religiously valued. Most of the animals that are worshipped are divinities in animal form or with animal features pictured in stone or other material or embodied in statues ( mūrtis), but in some cases the animals worshipped are living animals. However, the divine beings in animal form do not become completely separated from the living species they represent. The sacredness of the divinity in animal form spills over to th…
Date: 2019-01-30