Glossary

Indic_Script_Texts

The above are examples of ancient texts written in Indic scripts. The left-hand picture is a prasasti written in an early Nagari script on a stone tablet dated Saka 700 (778 CE) found at Candi Kalasan describing the building of the temple dedicated to Devi Tara. The centre picture is part of a Sanskrit manuscript of the Buddhist script Ajātaśatruparidāpitāvadāna of the Kalpadrumāvadānamālā. The right-hand picture is Kawi text on copper sheet from Central Java dated Saka 814 (892 CE), attributed to the Library of the University of Leiden, Netherlands.

Glossary
Note:  In the following text there are words written in Indic and other scripts and certain Roman letters with diacritics, which may display incorrectly or as blanks on computers without the appropriate fonts and on most mobile devices. This glossary will be updated as time permits.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

abhayamudra (Sanskrit: अ a  no, not + भय bhaya fear, danger). The mudra expelling danger and fear.

ahimsa (Sanskrit: अ a  no, not + हिंसा hiṃsā harm, violence). Not harming or injuring; non-violence.

akshamala (Sanskrit:  अक्षमाला akṣamālā)  A string or rosary of rudraksha q.v..

akshara (Sanskrit:  अक्षर akṣara  letter, syllable).  The name given to the individual letters or sounds in the scripts, derived from Indic scripts, used to write Javanese and Balinese languages.

Akshobhya (Sanskrit:  अक्षोभ्य, Akṣobhya, “Immovable or imperturbable). One of the Dhyani or Meditation Buddhas. He is compared to a mirror, which remains imperturbable from what it reflects. He makes the bhumisparsha mudra.

alloy  A mixture of two or more elements, at least one of which is a metal.

Ambika (Sanskrit:  अम्बिका, Ambikā  “Mother”) or Ambika Devi (Sanskrit: अम्बिका देवी Ambikā Devī “The Goddess-Mother”).  In Jainism, Ambika is a Yakṣi q.v. “attendant deity”.  In the Mahabharata, Ambika was the daughter of Kashya, the King of Kashi.

Amitabha (Sanskrit:  अमिताभ amitābha  immeasurable splendour or infinite light)  One of the Dhyani or Meditation Buddhas.

Amoghasiddhi (Sanskrit:  अमोघ amogha accomplishment, सिद्धि siddhi the absence of delusion or stupidity).   One of the Dhyani or Meditation Buddhas.

amshumala (Sanskrit:  अंशुमाला aṃśumālā  literally:  garland of light).  Nimbus or halo.

antimony (Latin:  stibium, symbol Sb). This element is the 62nd most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a metalloid often found with arsenic in early bronzes.

apsara (Sanskrit:  अप्सरा apsarāḥ[1]; Kawi: apsri apsarî; Pali: accharā).  Apsaras are nymphs described as beautiful, youthful, supernatural female beings, who excel at dancing. They are associated with clouds and waters and may be portrayed as if in flight.

arahant (Pali:  अरर्हन्त arahanta, Sanskrit: अर्हत् arhat worthy). Used to describe someone who has attained the last and highest stage of the path to enlightenment and attained nibbana (Sanskrit: nirvana q.v.).

arsenic (Latin:  arsenicum, symbol As). This element is the 55th most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a transition metal often found in early bronzes.  Its use was mostly discontinued after tin was discovered to be a more suitable alloying metal.

asana (Sanskrit:  आसन āsana sitting down, seated) The term asana is used with the description of the particular seated posture of images.

Ashoka Maurya (Sanskrit: अशोक मौर्य Aśoka Maurya) 304–232 BCE, also known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled most of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 – 232 BCE.

ashtadhatu (Sanskrit:  अष्ट aṣṭa eight, धातु dhātu element).  Ashtadhatu is a combination of eight metals: gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury.

ashtaloha (Sanskrit:  अष्ट aṣṭa eight, लोह lohá metal).  Same as ashtadhatu.

asuras (Sanskrit:  असुर āsura) Literally non-suras.  A group of deities, sometimes considered demons.  They are half-brothers of the suras, they constantly seek power and make trouble.

avakashamudra (Sanskrit:  अवकाश avakȧśa rest) The mudra with the hands at rest in the lap)

avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit:  अवलोकितेश्वर avalokiteśvara The Lord who looks down)  A widely revered bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, who wishes to help all without distinction.  For information about the earlier alternative spelling avalokitasvara, see the introductory discussion:  Bodhisattva Images on the Collection page.

avatar (Sanskrit:  अवतार avatāra descent).  The manifestation of a deity on earth.

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B

Bactria (Bactrian:  Βακτρα  Baktra).  A region west of Ghandara in present Afghanistan. The language was known as αρια, arya and was written in a script based on the Greek alphabet.

Bali (Balinese: ᬩᬮᬶ Bali; Sanskrit:  बलि bali, द्वीप dvīpa island, Bali Island; old accounts also refer to wali dwipa). An island to the east of Java that has had connections with India since the 1st century CE and adherents to both the Hindu and Buddhist religions over the centuries. The earliest inscription found, dated 914 CE, was authored in both Sanskrit and Old Balinese by Sri Kesari Warmadewa, a Shailendra King, who had led an expedition from Java to form a Buddhist Kingdom in Bali. The Hindu Majapahit Empire founded a colony in Bali in 1343. A mass Javanese immigration to Bali occurred in the early part of the 16th century after the Majapahit Empire fell in 1526.

Ban Chiang, archaeological site, Thailand (Thai: แหล่งโบราณคดี บ้านเชียง)  One of the earliest bronze-age sites in Southeast Asia.

Batara (Kawi:bqr bathara)  Lord.

Bedhaya (J)  A women’s dance consisting of nine female dancers with no dialogue, performed at the Javanese royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta.

bhadrasana (Sanskrit:  भद्र bhadra auspicious, prosperous) The asana or seated position on a chair or throne often used by kings and the usual asana of the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

Bhaishajya (Sanskrit:  भैषज्य bhaiṣajya medicine, remedy). In Northern Buddhism, the name given to the Buddha who assists in healing and ceremonies to cure sickness.

bhaya (Sanskrit:  भय bhaya danger, fear), cf. bahaya (I, M) danger.

bhikhshu (Sanskrit: भिक्षु bhikhṣu, Pali: bhikkhu)  A Buddhist monk.  The Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions use the Sanskrit word and the Theravada tradition uses the Pali word.

bhikhshuni (Sanskrit: भिक्षुणी bhikṣuṇī, Pali: bhikkuni) A Buddhist nun. The Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions use the Sanskrit word and the Theravada tradition uses the Pali word.

bhumisparsha (Sanskrit:  भूमिस्पर्श bhūmisparśa earth touching). This gesture recalls the incident just before Buddha’s enlightenment, when he was challenged by Mara, the personification of evil.

bidadari (M)  See vidyadhari.

bidri (Kannada:  ಬಿದ್ರಿ)  An alloy of zinc and copper in a ratio 16:1 that originated in Bidar, Karnataka, in the 14th century and used to make metal handicrafts.

Blambangan  The name of a kingdom located at the eastern tip of the Island of Java.  At the time of the collapse of Majapahit in 1527, Blambangan was the only Hindu kingdom left in Java and remained so, at least until the end of the 16th century.

bodhisattva (Sanskrit:  बोधि bodhi enlightened, सत्त्व sattva being); or bodhisatta (Pali: सत्त satta being).  The term is more frequently encountered in Mahayana or Tantrayana Buddhism.

bronze  An alloy of copper with other metals or elements. When used to make statues and figurines in ancient times, the main secondary alloying metal used was tin. From the French bronze, from the Latin bronzium from the 11th century CE Byzantine Greek βροντησίον (brontēsíon), perhaps from Βρεντήσιον (Brentḗsion), a Greek Settlement in 1600 BCE, later Latin Brundisium (Brindisi, Italy), known for the manufacture of bronze.

buddha (Sanskrit and Pali:  बुद्ध enlightened). The appellation given to Siddhattha Gotama (Pali), Siddhartha Gautama (Sanskrit), who became the fully enlightened one, The Buddha.

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C

candi (I, J, M) (Kawi:  cnDi candhi)  A temple or burial place.  Note pronunciation in Javanese, Malay and Indonesian is chandi.

Candi Borobudur  A 9th Century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia completed in the year 825 CE.

Candi Kalasan  An 8th century Buddhist temple also known as Candi Kalibening, located between Yogyakarta and Surakarta, Central Java.

Candi Kidal  A 13th century Hindu temple located near Malang, East Java.

Candi Plaosan  A 9th century CE Buddhist temple near Prambanan.  The temple consists of two separate temples: Plaosan Lor (J) north and Plaosan Kidul (J) south.

Candi Rara Jonggrang  A 9th CE century Hindu temple 18 kilometres east of the city of Yogyakarta in an area known as Prambanan.

chakra (Sanskrit: चक्र cakra, Pali: cakka wheel, discus) A wheel or discus.

chakravartin (Sanskrit:  चक्रवर्तिन् cakravartin supreme ruler, world sovereign). A universal temporal and spiritual ruler.

Chalcolithic (Greek:  χαλκός khalkos copper + λίθος lithos stone) Period. The Copper Age

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.  The new name of the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India in Mumbai.

chintamani (Sanskrit:  चिन्ता cintā thought, मणि maṇi precious stone, gem).  A fabulous gem, perhaps used to encapsulate the idea of the gem of thought. In Eastern Buddhism the gem is often in the form of a pearl.

chivara (Sanskrit: चीवर cīvara rags). Robe worn by a a Buddhist or Jain monk.

Chola dynasty (Tamil:  சோழர்)  A Tamil dynasty reigning from 850 to 1279 CE in southern India, producing the finest bronze castings of Hindu statues.

cire-perdu  The French term for the lost-wax process used in casting bronzes.

copper (Latin:  cuprum, symbol Cu). This element is the 26th most abundant in the earth’s crust.  It is a transition metal and the principal constituent metal used in making bronze alloy.

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D

Daibutsu (Japanese:  大仏)  Great Buddha

dakini (Sanskrit: डाकिनी ḍākinī female spirit). A female spirit found in Hinduism and Tibetan Tantric Buddhism.

Damarwulan (Javanese:  damar lamp, light; wulan moon) Moonlight, usually translated as radiance of the moon.  Damarwulan was the name of a prince, who was sent from the Majapahit kingdom to fight Prabhu Menak Jingga q.v. of Blambangan.

deva (Sanskrit:  देव deva, deity).  The feminine term is devi. Devas maintain the realms as ordained by the Trimurti and are considered benevolent. They may be referred to as suras.

Devanagari (Sanskrit:  देवनागरी from देव deva and नागरी nāgarī).  The script used to write Sanskrit and Pali. Originally called Nāgarī meaning city or state, the word devá god, was possibly added after it became the most popular script for writing Sanskrit texts.

dharma (Sanskrit:  धर्म dharma, Pāli: dhamma).  Dharma, the Law that governs the order of the universe in Indic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

dharmachakramudra (Sanskrit:  धर्म dharma, + चक्र cakra + wheel मुद्रा mudra); (Pāli: dhammacakkamudra).  The mudra of the wheel of dharma. This mudra symbolizes the occasion when the Buddha preached the first sermon to his companions after his enlightenment in the Deer Park at Sarnath. It thus denotes the setting into motion of the wheel of the teaching of the Dharma.

dyana (Sanskrit:  ध्यान dhyāna meditation)

Dhyani Buddhas (Sanskrit:  dhyāni meditative)  A term used by Western scholars to denote the ‘Meditation Buddhas’ of Mahayana or Vajrayana Buddhism, seen in meditation or used as a subject of meditation.

dipadana (Sanskrit:  दीप dīpa lamp, light + दान dāna giving).  Giving light.

Đông Sơn, Việt Nam Dong Son, Vietnam  A Bronze Age culture in Vietnam located in the Red River Valley, northern Vietnam, which influenced other cultures in Southeast Asia from about 1000 BCE to 1 BCE.

Durga (Sanskrit:  दुर्गा durga) meaning inaccessible or invincible.  The Hindu goddess, wife of Shiva.

dvara (Sanskrit: द्वार dvāra door, gate)

dvipa (Sanskrit: द्वीप dvīpa island)

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E

No entries for words beginning with this letter.

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F

No entries for words beginning with this letter.
 

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G

gada (Sanskrit: गदा gadā) An ancient Indian weapon with a spherical or ellipsoidal head mounted on a shaft, sometimes referred to as a mace. Various versions of differing shapes are seen used by temple guardians, which can be described as a large clubs or cudgels.

gaja (Sanskrit:  गज gaja elephant). Also (J, M, I) gaja.

gamelan (J)  A traditional musical ensemble from Indonesia in Java or Bali with instruments such as metallophones, drums, gongs and other instruments. The metallic parts are usually made of bronze. From the Javanese word gamel, referring to striking with a type of mallet or hammer used, when playing the instruments.

Gandhara (Sanskrit:  गन्धार Gandhāra)  An ancient kingdom, located in what is now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.

Ganesha (Sanskrit:  गणेश Gaṇeśa)  Ganesha is revered as the remover of obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom.

gangsa (M, J) bronze.  In Java is also the name of a gong or metallophone made of bronze used in the gamelan.

Garuda (Sanskrit:  गरुड garuḍa eagle).  The vahana of Vishnu.

ghanta (Sanskrit; घण्टा ghaṇṭā bell), cf. gentha (J), genta (I) bell.

gold (Latin: aurum, symbol Au). This element is the 72nd most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a transition metal sometimes incorporated in small quantities into bronze alloys such as panchadhatu and ashtadhatu q.v. in India as it was considered to convey auspicious properties to the object. It is used in the gilding of bronzes and other metallic objects.

gong (Javanese: gong)  A gong is a musical percussion instrument found in Southeast and East Asia, probably originating in China. It is in the form of a flat or shaped metal disc, which is hit with a mallet.

gouache  A method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance.

Guanshiyin (Chinese:  觀世音 Guānshìyīn He who perceives the world’s lamentations). Usually shortened to Guanyin. The translation of Avalokitasvara, the original spelling of Avalokitesvara.

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H

hamsa (Sanskrit:  हंस haṃsa)  Goose, swan, cf. hangsa (J), angsa (I) goose, and the Latin and Spanish anser. In fact all are derived from the Proto-Indo-European root ghans- from which goose and the more easily recognisable English gander is derived, also the Spanish ganso and Filipino gansa.

Hanacaraka or Carakan. The name given to to the script use to write Javanese. Originally, the Kawi script was developed over several centuries from the Indian Brahmic Pallava script to write Sanskrit and Old Javanese. After the Hindu Buddhist Period, additional letters called rekan were added for foreign sounds. A similar script to the old Kawi was retained in Bali and is known as Aksara Bali. Examples are provided this glossary, but may not display on some  phones or computer screens, unless the font is installed.

I

iron (Latin:  ferrum, symbol Fe). This element is the 4th most abundant in the earth’s crust and forms about 5%.  The first of the transition metals, it is found in small quantities in some bronze alloys.

ishvara (Sanskrit:  ईश्वर īśvara).  Lord.

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J

Jambhala (Sanskrit:  जम्भला).  Another manifestation of Kuvera or Kubera q.v. as Vessavana (Pāli:  वेस्सवण Vessavaṇa) or Vaishravana (Sanskrit:  वैश्रवण Vaiśravaṇa) especially in Northern Buddhism. To distinguish from Kuvera, he is shown holding a citron or lemon (Sanskrit: जम्बिर jambīra), which may explain the origin of this name.

janvakna (Sanskrit:  जान्वाक्न jānvākna having the knees bent).

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K

kakkhara (Sanskrit:  खक्खर khakkhara beggar’s staff).  The staff or sistrum used by a monk.

Kala (Sanskrit:  काल kāla).  In Sanskrit, the word can mean time or black and is also the name of a deity, otherwise known as Yama, the god of death. In Java and Bali, may be referred to as Bathara Kala, the god of the underworld. Bathara Kala may be found as statues, figurines or carved on Javanese Hindu and Buddhist temples such as Candi Borubodur, Candi Plaosan and Candi Rara Jonggrang.

kamandalu (Sanskrit:  कमण्डलु  kamaṇḍalu  pitcher, water pot).  The kamandulu is carried by ascetics and by various gods and bodhisattavas. The River Ganges is considered to have started from Brahma’s kamandalu, cf. kundika.

kankana (Sanskrit: कङ्कण kaṅkaṇa bangle).

karnikara (Sanskrit: कर्णिकार karṇikāra earrings).

kashaya (Sanskrit: काषाय kāṣāya yellowish-red to brownish red colour). The colour, such as saffron, used to dye Buddhist monks robes, see chivara.

katakamudra (Sanskrit:  खटक kaṭaka) The mudra of the partly closed hand, as when holding an attribute.

Kaurava (Sanskrit: कौरव kaurava) The descendants of Kuru in the Mahabharata epic.

Kawi (Kawi: kwi, Sanskrit:  कवि kavi).  The name of the Old Javanese language. Kawi or kavi can mean poet or sage and here, applied to the language, it implies knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment, i.e. the language of a wise man or sage. It was written in a script based on the Indian Pallava script, with the earliest record found in Java dating back to the mid 9th century.

Kediri   A Javanese Hindu Kingdom located in eastern Java from about 1042 to1222 CE.

keshabhandha (Sanskrit:  केशबन्ध keśabandha literally: hair-band). The type of crown shaped, when the hair is banded high above the head

ketumala (Sanskrit:  केतु ketu flame + माला mālā garland)  The finial, which emanates from the ushnisha on the head of the Buddha. It may be in the form of a cone or flame often seen on Thai images and represents the fiery spiritual energy of the Buddha. Not found on Buddha images from the Buddhist period in Java, nor on most recent images from Java.

khadga (Sanskrit:  खड्ग kāḍga sword).  A sword.

Kharavela (Sanskrit: खारवेल Khāravela) was a Jaina emperor ca. 193 BCE – 170 BCE of the Mahameghavahana dynasty of Kaḷinga. The original Kalinga kingdom was situated in what is now part of Orissa, recently renamed Odisha. He restored the power of Kalinga after it had been defeated in the war with the Maurya Empire.

Khmer Empire  Perhaps the most powerful ancient empire in Southeast Asia, it ruled over parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand and southern Vietnam. It had cultural, political and trade relations with Javanese kingdoms and with the Srivijaya empire in Sumatra. The empire’s official religions included Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism, until Theravada Buddhism prevailed in the 13th century CE. The country is now known as Cambodia from its ancient name in Sanskrit: कंबुज Kambuja.

Kshitigarbha (Sanskrit:  क्षितिगर्भ kṣitigarbha Earth Matrix).  One of the four main Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism.

Kubera (Sanskrit:  कुबेर Kubera and in Pali and later Sanskrit: कुवेर Kuvera).  The Lord of Wealth and the god-king of the semi-divine Yakshas in Hindu mythology.

kumbha (Sanskrit:  कुम्भ kumbha jar, pot).  A small pot or jar.

kundika (Sanskrit:   कुण्डिका  kuṇḍikā).  A pitcher, water pot often with a spout, cf. kamandalu.

kuningan (I) brass.  Kuning in Javanese, Indonesian and Malay means yellow.

Kurukshetra War  A war described in the Indian epic Mahabharata. The conflict arose from a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura in a kingdom called Kuru. The location of the battle was Kurukshetra (Sanskrit: कुरुक्षेत्र kurukṣetra, field of the Kurus) and is said to have happened in 3102 BCE.

Kuvera  see Kubera.

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L

laddu (Sanskrit:  लड्डु laḍḍu sweetmeat, confection). 

lead (Latin: plumbum, symbol Pb). This element is the 37th most abundant in the earth’s crust.  It is a soft, malleable post-transition metal. Found in small quantities in some bronze alloys.

loyang (M)  brass.

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M

Madhucchishtha vidhana (Sanskritमधूच्छिष्ट beeswax from मधु madhu honey, + उच्छिष्टित ūcchiṣṭa remains, + विधान vidhāna method).  The Sanskrit name for the cire perdue or lost-wax technique of bronze casting using beeswax.

Magadha (Sanskrit:  मगध)  A language of one of the kingdoms in ancient India and possibly the spoken language of the Buddha.

Mahabharata (Sanskrit:  महा mahā great +‎ भारत bhārata, descendents of भरत Bharata, an Indian Emperor).  The Great Bharata dynasty is a Sanskrit epic of ancient India, containing sacred and philosophical texts. The origins of the stories perhaps fell between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE with the oldest extant texts about 400 BCE and reaching its final form about the 4th century. The texts include the Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: भगवद् Bhagavad, गीत divine, holy; gītā song).  The Song of the Bhagavan or Supreme Spirit, the most holy text of Hinduism.

Mahakala (sanskrit:  महत् mahā great, + काल kāla black).  In Hinduism, Mahakala is a name of Shiva and in Vajrayana Buddhism is a Dharmapala (protector of dharma).

mahapurusa (Sanskrit:  महापूरुष  mahāpūruṣa supreme spirit).  A great sage.

Mahayana (Sanskrit:  महा mahā great, + यान yāna vehicle).  The Mahāyāna or Great Vehicle tradition is the largest tradition of Buddhism today. The teachings of Mahāyāna also called Bodhisattvayāna, points to the path of seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The following commentary puts the subject into perspective: “There is a significant difference between the Theravada and the Mahayana with regard to the Bodhisattva ideal. The Theravada, although it holds the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest and the noblest, does not provide a separate literature devoted to the subject. The teachings about the Bodhisattva ideal and the Bodhisattva career are to be found scattered in their due places in Pali literature. The Mahayana by definition is dedicated to the Bodhisattva ideal, and they have not only produced a remarkable literature on the subject but also created a fascinating class of mythical Bodhisattvas”.[2]

Mahotkata (perhaps Sanskrit: महोत्साह mahotsāha having great power or strength). Part of the epithet of Ganesha:  Mahotkata Vinayaka.

Maitreya (Sanskrit:  मैत्रेय Maitreya from maitri or Pali:  Metteyya from metta loving kindness) is a bodhisattva or bodhisatta, who in the Buddhist tradition, is to appear on earth and achieve complete enlightenment as a future Buddha and teach the dharma. In early doctrine he was the first and only bodhisattva or bodhisatta. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be the successor of the historic Sakyamuni Buddha. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana).

Majapahit Empire  This Empire covering most of the Indonesian archipelago had its capital located in present Trowulan, East Java from 1293 to around 1500 CE. The name may come from that of the fruit of the Maja tree, which had bitter fruit. Pahit (J, I) means bitter. If this is the tree, the Latin name is Aegle marmelos known as Bengal quince, stone apple or wood apple. In Hinduism, it is a sacred tree, native to India and is found in Java.

makara (Sanskrit:  मकर makara crocodile).  In mythology a sea-serpent or sea-monster.

makuta (Sanskrit:  मकुट mahkuṭa crown, diadem or crest), cf. makutha (J), mahkota (I, M) crown.

mala (Sanskrit:  माला mālā).  A garland, necklace or string of beads.  See aksamala.

Manjushri (Sanskrit: मञ्जुश्री mañjuśrī). one of the four main Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism.

mantra (Sanskrit:  मन्त्र mantra from मन्त्र manas mind, consciousness, soul + त्रायते trāyate to free).  A sacred verse addressed to any individual deity or boddhisattva. This practice goes back to Vedic times and the mantra will usually be in Sanskrit.

Maricha (Sanskrit:  मारीच Mārīca).  Maricha is a rakshasa (demon), who kidnapped Sita and was eventually killed by Rama in the epic Ramayana.

Mathura (Sanskrit: माथुर Mathurā). A city in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

mercury (Latin: hydragyrum, symbol Hg). This element is the 66th most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a transition metal sometimes incorporated in small quantities into the bronze alloy ashtadhatu q.v. in India, as it was considered to convey auspicious properties to the object. It is the only metal, which is liquid at ambient temperatures and was known as quicksilver.

metalloids  Elements including silicon, arsenic and antimony are generally brittle and poor conductors of electricity. They generally behave as non-metals, but can form alloys with metals

mithuna (Sanskrit: मिथुन mithuna couple, pair, copulation).

Mohenjo-daro  An archaeological site in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. It was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Built around 2600 BCE and abandoned in 2000 BCE, perhaps caused by the diversion or drying up of the Saraswati river owing to tectonic or other climate-changing events.

mudra (Sanskrit:  मुद्रा seal, gesture).  A symbolic or ritual gesture usually performed with the hands and fingers.

murti (Sanskrit:  मूर्ति mūrti).  A murti is a statue, figurine or image, which is considered the embodiment of a Hindu or Mahayana Buddhist divine spirit.

mushika (Sanskrit:  मूषिक mūṣika).  Rat, mouse.

mushti (Sanskrit:  मुष्टि muṣṭi fist, clenched hand).

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N

naga (Sanskrit:  नाग nāga snake).

Nandi (Sanskrit:  नन्दी nāndī joy, happiness). The name of the white bull which is the vahana of Shiva. The name originates from the shortening of Nandikeshvara q.v..

Nandikeshvara (Sanskrit: नान्दीक nāndīka doorpost of joy + ईश्वर īśvara lord). The zoöanthropomorphic god with a bull’s head, who was the guardian of Shiva’s door.

Nara (Japanese:  奈良市 Nara-shi).  The capital of Japan from 710 to 784 CE and now the capital of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan.

nara (Sanskrit:  नार nāra man)

narayana (Sanskrit:  नरयाण narayāṇa carriage drawn by men).  The vahana of Kuvera (Kubera).

Narayana (Sanskrit:  नारायण nārāyaṇa).  Narayana a name of Vishnu sometimes translated as “The one who rests on water”, because of his association with water.

nidhi (Sanskrit:  निधि  nidhi).  Treasure.

nirvana (Sanskrit: निर्वाण nirvana, Pali: nibbana).  Absolute extinction or annihilation of individual existence or of all desires and passions.

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O

Om (Sanskrit: ओं oṃ), or Aum (Sanskrit: औं auṃ). Om is a mantra and mystical sound originating in Hinduism and used in other Dharmic religions.  It is often used as a seed syllable in mantras and is especially holy in esoteric Buddhism.  It may also be written ओ३म् (ō̄m [õːːm]), where ३ is pluta (protracted) indicating a length of three morae (the time it takes to say three syllables).  The universal symbol is ॐ, which is Devanagari script written with a ligature.

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P

padma (Sanskrit:  पद्म   padma).  The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).

padmapani (Sanskrit:  पद्मपाणि  padmapāṇi).  Holding a lotus.

padmasana (Sanskrit:  पद्मासन  padmāsana sitting on a lotus).  The lotus posture).

pala (Sanskrit:  पाल pāla guardian, protector).

Pali (Sanskrit:  पाऴि Pāḷi)  The name of the language used to record the Theravada Buddhist texts known as the Pali Canon.  The word itself means “line” or “text” and the actual language would be called Pāḷi bhasa.  The spoken languages were Prakrit and perhaps most commonly Magadha.

Pallava script  This script was developed in southern India during the Pallava dynasty ca. 3rd – 5th centuries CE. It was brought to Java as early as the 4th century CE and can be found used for inscriptions in Sanskrit on prasasti (S, K,), which are inscriptions on stones dated from 5th century CE in West Java and 8th century CE in Central Java and East Java[3].

panchadhatu (Sanskrit:  पञ्च pañca, धातु dhātu element).  Same as panchaloha, although the Sanskrit dhatu means element.

panchaloha (Sanskrit:  पञ्च pañca five, लोह lohá metal, literally five metals).  The term for quinary metal alloys used for making Hindu sacred temple icons (murti). The original metals may have been gold, silver, copper, iron and tin, lead or zinc.

panchasila (Sanskrit: Pali:  पञ्च pañca five, शिल śila precepts).  The five precepts or moral rules to which adherents to Buddhism subscribe.

Pandava (Sanskrit: पाण्डव pāṇḍava). One of the 5 sons of Pandu in the Mahabharata epic. The name may also be applied to their followers.

parashu (Sanskrit:  परशु  paraśu)  An Axe.

parinirvana (Sanskrit:  परिनिर्वाण parinirvāṇa, Pali: परिनिब्बान parinibbāna).  Literally complete freedom from craving. The final release from transmigration occuring with death after the last lifespan of an Arahant.

patina  A patina forms on the surface of copper, bronze and similar metals and is caused by atmospheric oxidation together with corrosive action by other airborne chemicals. It can also be produced by the chemical treatment of newly cast metals. The patina may provide a protective layer reducing further corrosion

perunggu (I)  bronze.  Possibly originating from Persian پرنگ (piring) copper.

pewter  A casting alloy usually composed of 85–99% tin. The other metals may include copper, antimony, bismuth, lead or silver. Antimony or copper is used to produce a harder alloy. Up to 15% lead was often used in the past to produce a less expensive alloy, but is now avoided because of health issues.  It has a low melting point between 170–230 °C, depending on the mixture of metals used.

post-transition metals  The post-transition metals are elements, which are generally softer, have lower melting points and are poorer conductors of heat and electricity than transition metals

Prabhu Menak Jingga (Sanskrit:  प्रभु prabhu powerful; Javanese: menak lord, jingga: red).  The modern Javanese spelling and pronunciation would be Prabu Minak Jinggo.  He was called jingga (red) because his face looked red with anger.  He was the king of Blambangan at the easternmost end of Java, who challenged the Majapahit kingdom.

prasasti (J, I) (Kawi:  pRssTi, Sanskrit:  प्रशस्ति praśasti praise, glorification).  The name given to an ancient inscription usually on stone.  During the Hindu-Buddhist period, they would be inscribed in early Nagari, Pallava or Javanese script in the Sanskrit or Kawi language. Note that in Sanskrit the ś is a palatal sibilant, thus the pronunciation would be prashasti.

pratyalidha (Sanskrit:  प्रत्यालीढ pratyālīḍha extending the left leg).  A stance sometimes taken by an archer.

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Q

Qilin (Chinese:  麒麟 Qílín, or Ch’i-lin) A mythical Chinese chimerical creature usually shown with fire coming from its body.

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R

rajalilasana (Sanskrit:  राज rāja king; + लीला līlā grace, ease; + आसन āsana sitting). The posture of sitting at ease like a king.

rakshasa (Sanskrit:  राक्षस rākṣasa demon).  An ogre or demon often very large in size, cf. raksasa (I, M, J) a giant.

Raktabīja (Sanskrit:  रक्त rakta blood, red + बीज bīja seed).  Raktabīja was an asura (demon), who had a boon that when any drop of his blood fell on the ground, another Raktabīja would be born at that spot.  It also is the name for the pomegranate fruit, which has red seeds.

Rama (Sanskrit:  राम Rāma). Rama is the seventh avatar of the God Vishnu and hero of the Ramayana epic.

Ramayana (Sanskrit:  रामायणम्, Rāmāyaṇam).  One of the great Vedic epics ascribed to the Indian Hindu sage Valmiki.

Ratnasambhava (Sanskrit:  रत्न ratna jewel) means born from the jewel.  One of the Dhyani or Meditation Buddhas.

Ravana (Sanskrit:  रवण Ravaṇa).  Ravana was the rakshasa (demon) king of Lanka and the main antagonist in the epic Ramayana.  He kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita, but was killed by Rama in the final battle.

Rigveda (Sanskrit:  ऋग्वेद ṛgveda, from ṛc verse and veda knowledge).  The Rigveda is an ancient sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns.

rudraksha (Sanskrit:  रुद्राक्ष rudrākṣa eyes of Rudra from रुद्र Rudra + अक्ष akṣa eye).  The rudraksha tree [Elaeocarpus ganitrus] or its berry used to make rosaries.  Usually referred to as the tears of Shiva, which is the euphemistic appellation of Rudra, whose usual epithet is terrible.  The original story refers to the tears from the eyes of Rudra, which fell to earth after meditation and from which grew the tree.

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S

Saka  The name of official civil calendar in use in India and is also used with by those practising Hinduism in Java and Bali. The Saka Era starts its year 0 in the year 78 CE.

sampada (Sanskrit:  सम्पद sampada) standing with both feet together or even).  A posture of some standing images.

Sanskrit (Sanskrit:  संस्कृत saṃskṛtá, perfected, refined).  The name given to the ancient language used to record ancient Indian Vedic texts

Sangha (Sanskrit:  सङ्घ saṅgha group, assembly).  The Sangha is the name given to the Community of Buddhist Monks.

Sanxingdui Culture (Chinese:  三星堆 Sānxīngduī, literally “three stars mound” in Guanghan, Sichuan Province, China.  It is the name of an archaeological site believed to be the site of a Bronze Age city with artefacts dating from the 12th to 11th centuries BCE.

Sarasvati (Sanskrit:  सरस्वती Sarasvatī).   The Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science.

schist  A metamorphic rock.  In the Gandhara region, it was used at least as early as the 1st century CE to make sculptures, including many of the Buddha.

Shailendra (Sanskrit: Śailēndra from शैल śaila mountain, इन्द्र indra lord). The name of a Javanese dynasty in the 7th to the middle of the 9th century CE in Central Java and into and beyond the end of the 10th century CE in Sriwijaya, Sumatra. Although originally Shivaist, converted to Mahayana Buddhism during the reign 760-775 C.E. Note that in Sanskrit the ‘ś’ is a palatal sibilant, but in Indonesian it is usually written Sailendra, although sometimes the alternative spelling Syailendra may be found.

shanti (Sanskrit: शान्ति śānti peace, calmness of mind). This word is often heard in the Hindu peace mantra Om shanti shanti shanti.

shika (Sanskrit: शिखा śikhā tuft or lock of hair on the crown of the head). Topknot.

Shilpa Shastras (Sanskrit:  शिल्प śilpa skill in arts or crafts, शास्त्र śāstra treatise, book).  An inclusive term for numerous Hindu texts that describe manual arts, the standards for religious Hindu iconography, prescribing among other things, the proportions of a sculptured figure, as well as rules of Hindu architecture.

Shiva (Sanskrit:  शिव Śiva meaning “auspicious one”).  A Hindu deity, considered the Supreme God within Shaivism.  He is the Destroyer or the Transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the divine.

Shivaism  The worship of Shiva.

Shivaist  A worshipper of Shiva, or pertaining to to the worship of Shiva.

shramanamudra (Sanskrit:  श्रमण śramaṇa performing acts of austerity).  The mudra of striving for austerity. The mudra of an ascetic.

Siddham (Sanskrit: सिद्धं siddhaṃ accomplished, perfected). A north Indian script descended from Brahmi and Gupta scripts and used for used for writing Sanskrit during the period 600 – 1200 CE. Often written with a brush, it entered Korea and Japan from China and is still used for writing mantras in Japan, although with some changes in the script.

silicon (Symbol: Hg). This element is the 2nd most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a metalloid making up more than 27% of the earth’s crust. It is used in modern bronze alloys and produces excellent physical proprties.

silver (Latin: argentum, symbol Ag). This element is the 65th most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is a transition metal sometimes incorporated in small quantities into bronze alloys such as panchadhatu and ashtadhatu q.v. in India, as it was considered to convey auspicious properties to the object. It is used in the plating of bronzes and other metallic objects.

simhasana (Sanskrit: सिंहासन siṁhāsana lion throne).  The seat or throne of kings.  Not to be confused with the yoga posture.

Singhasari  A Hindu kingdom located in eastern Java between 1222 and 1292 CE.  The capital was at Tumapel, later called Kutaraja.  It was located near to the present town of Malang, East Java.

Sita (Sanskrit:  सीता Sītā).  The central female character of the Vedic epic Ramayana.  She is the consort of Rama, who is an avatar of Vishnu; and is an avatar of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and wife of Vishnu. She was given the name, which in Sanskrit means furrow as left by a plough. She was found, when ploughing, by the man, who then adopted her.

Srikandi (Sanskrit:  शिकण्ढी; Śikhaṇḍī).  Srikandi is the Javanese counterpart of Shikhandi in the Indian Mahabharata epic. The Javanese and Indian versions differ and would require too much space here for an explanation.

Srivijaya (I,M), (Sanskrit: श्री śrī meaning spendid and विजय vijaya victory). Shrivijaya is the name of a powerful ancient Malay empire in Sumatra, which had influence in Southeast Asia.  It was an important centre for Buddhist expansion in the 8th to 12th centuries CE.  Note that in Sanskrit the ‘ś’ is a palatal sibilant, but in Indonesian it is written and pronounced as an ‘s’.

Sumer (AkkadianŠumeru).  A historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic period and Early Bronze Age, possibly settled between 4500 and 4000 BCE, with the earliest historical record going back to ca. 2900 BCE.

Sunda (Sanskrit:  सुन्‍द Sunda).  An asura prince and brother of Upasunda in the Mahabharata epic

Sung-tse (Chinese:  送子娘娘 Songzi Niangniang, literally: send child goddess, or the Godess Sender of Children).  In China, Hariti was not popular and instead the Chinese goddess Miao Chen, who was already considered a female manifestation of Avalokitesvara became known as Sung-tse, a particular manifestation of Guānshìyīn or Guānyīn.

Sura (Sanskrit:  सुर sura).  A minor deity also known as a deva and usually benevolent. The suras are the half-brothers of the asuras.

Surya (K, J) (Sanskrit:  सूर्य Sūrya, “the Supreme Light”).  The principal Hindu solar deity.  Surya in Javanese means the sun.

suvarna (Sanskrit: सुवर्ण suvarṇa gold)

svara (Sanskrit:  स्वर svara sound, voice).  cf. swara (J) and suara (I) (M)  voice.

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T

Tara (Sanskrit:  तारा Tārā).  Tara probably originated as a Hindu goddess and today is worshipped in Mahayana and especially Tantrayana Buddhism as well as in some traditions of Hinduism.

Theravada (Sanskrit: स्थविर sthavira elders + वाद vāda teaching).  Literally “the teachings of the elders”.  The Theravada tradition is the oldest branch of Buddhism primarily practiced in South and Southeast Asia, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.

theriomorphic (Greek: θηρίον theríon, wild animal + μορφή morphé, shape, form).  A term that may be applied to deities having the form of an animal.

Tilottama (Sanskrit: तिलोत्तमा Tilottamā from तिल tila, sesame + उत्तमा uttama, best, highest).  The name means one whose smallest part is composed of the best and highest qualities.  She is an apsara in the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

tin (Latin: stannum, symbol Sn) is a post-transition metal.  Tin is the 49th most abundant element and the main secondary metal alloyed with copper to make bronze as used in old statues, figurines and bells.

Tōdai-ji (Japanese: 東大寺 Eastern Great Temple). The Great Buddhist Temple in Nara, Japan.

torana (Sanskrit:  तोरण toraṇa decoration on an entrance).

transition metals  The transition metals are elements that are hard and tough and can be hammered or bent into shape.  They generally have high melting points, except for mercury, which is a liquid at room temperature.  They are good conductors of heat and electricity.

Trimurti (Sanskrit:  त्रि tri three, मूर्तिः mūrti embodiment).  Three embodiments in one statue or figurine of the triad composed of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Shiva, with three faces and the respective attributes of each.

trisharana (Sanskrit: त्रिशरण triśaraṇa; Pali: tisarana, three refuges). The threefold refuge in which every adherent to Buddhism puts his trust: The Buddha, the Dharma (Pali: Dhamma) and the Sangha.

trishula (Sanskrit: त्रिशूल triśūla trident).  The weapon of Shiva.

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U

Uma (Sanskrit:  उमा umā) Uma also known as Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva.

Upasunda (Sanskrit:  उपसुन्‍द Upasunda)  An asura prince and brother of Sunda in the Mahabharata epic.

urna (Sanskrit:  ūrṇā, Pāli:  uṇṇā).  A spiral or circular dot placed on the forehead of Buddhist images.  It is generally thought to be a whorl of hair and a sign of the Buddha as a mahāpuruṣa or great being.

ushnisha (Sanskrit:  उष्णीष uṣṇīṣa).  A protuberance the top of the head of the Buddha.  The ushnisha was not described initially in the physical characteristics of the Buddha described in the Buddhist canon, which mentions a topknot like a crown.  See images from Mathura and Gandhara. The interpretation of the ushnisha as a supernatural cranial protuberance happened at a later time, when the original meaning was lost and the representation of the topknot became more symbolized.

utpala (Sanskrit:  उत्पल utpala).  The blue lotus blossom (Nymphaea caerulea).

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V

vahana (Sanskrit:  वाहन vāhana bearing, carrying).  The mount or vehicle as used by or associated with a deity.

Vairochana Buddha (Sanskrit:  वैरोचन vairocana coming from the sun, i.e. cosmic).  The primordial Buddha and one of the five Dhyani Buddhas or Meditation Buddhas of Mahayana or Vajrayana Buddhism representing the wisdom of emptiness.

Vaishnavism (Sanskrit:  वैष्णव vaiṣṇava, related to Vishnu, धर्म dharma devotion).  The veneration of Vishnu.  Vaishnavites consider Lord Vishnu and His ten incarnations to be the Supreme Lord.

Vajrayana (Sanskrit:  वज्र vajra thunderbolt or diamond, यान yāna vehicle).  Vajrayana teachings may be considered an offshoot of Mahāyāna and include tantric teachings. Although originating in India the tradition is now mostly followed in Tibet and East Asia.

Vandana (Pali, Sanskrit:  वन्दन vandana salutation).  One of the steps in paying homage to the Buddha.

varadamudra (Sanskrit:  वरद varada granting wishes or conferring boons).  The mudra of granting wishes or conferring boons.

Vasudhara (Sanskrit: वसुधार vasudhāra stream of wealth or gifts).  The name of the female bodhisattva of wealth and abundance.

verdigris (Middle French:  verte grez, originally vert de Grèce or green of Greece).  An artist’s green pigment made from copper, originally used in Greece.  The green patina found on bronze and brass.

vidyadhari (Sanskrit:  विद्या vidyā knowledge, धरी dharī bearing) (I, M,) bidadari; (J) widadari)  A heavenly or celestial nymph, an apsara.

vinayaka (Sanskrit:  विनायक vināyaka remover).  Remover of obstacles, the epithet of Ganesha.

virasana (Sanskrit:  वीरासन vīrāsana brave posture).  Guarding posture, usually kneeling on one knee.

Vishnu (Sanskrit:  विष्णु viṣṇu).  The Hindu God,  venerated as the Supreme Being in Vaishnavism.

vishvapadma (Sanskrit:  विश्वपद्म viśvapadma).  A throne or pedestal with the lotus facing up and down.

vitarka (Sanskrit:  वितर्क argument, reasoning, deliberation).  One of the mudras indicating teaching or deliberation.

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W

widadari. (J, Kawi:  widdri) See vidyadhari.

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X

No entries for words beginning with this letter.

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Y

yaksha (Sanskrit:  यक्ष yakṣa) also yakka in Pali.  The yakshas were originally nature-spirits, usually benevolent and caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots.  Their importance developed over time and they appear as attendants or guardians. They are mentioned in both Hindu and Buddhist literature.

yakshi (Sanskrit:  यक्षी yakṣī, or याक्षिणि yakshini), also yakkhini in Pali).  The female form of yakṣa or yakkaYakshi are spiritual beings of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology, often taking the form of voluptuous women. They are said to attend Kuvera the Hindu god of wealth together with the yakshas.

yana (Sanskrit:  यान yāna riding, vehicle, method of arriving).

yava (Sanskrit: यव yava barley).

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Z

zinc, (Latin: zincum, symbol Zn). This element is the 24th most abundant in the earth’s crust. It is the main secondary alloying metal in brass, used since at least the 10th century BCE and may be present in small quantities in bronze.

zoöanthropomorphic  Having partly the form of an animal and partly human form such as Ganesha and Nandikitesvara q.v..


1.  apsarāḥ is the nominative, अप्सरस् apsaras is the root.
2. Ven. Dr. W. Rahula, Buddhist Missionary Society, Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism, Gems of Buddhist Wisdom, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1996.
3. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, History of Indian and Indonesian Art, 1927, Dover Ed. 1985 p 201.


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