Cover image for Handbook of Hindu mythology
Handbook of Hindu mythology
Williams, George M. (George Mason), 1940-
Publication Information:
Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, [2003]

Physical Description:
xx, 372 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm.
Introduction -- Mythic time, space, and causality -- Characters, theme, and concepts -- Selected print and nonprint resources.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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BL1111.4 .W55 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A guide to Hinduism through the ages, offering readers an accessible way of exploring its complex deities, mythological characters, and ideas.

* A chronology of the mythological universe and the history of Hinduism, explaining the working and purpose of time and mythic time within the culture

* An illustrated A-Z section with entries on major deities, characters, themes, rituals, and beliefs of Hinduism in cultural context

Author Notes

George M. Williams , PhD, is professor emeritus of religious studies at California State University Chico, Chico, CA.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Williams has compiled a learned text based on sound knowledge of the Hindu religion. His methodical coverage of variant spellings, pronunciation, and capitalization in the preface is a valuable guide to writers and researchers. The division of the subject into periods and themes in the introduction simplifies the task of comprehending beliefs and rituals that evolved over five millennia. The text is meticulously compiled, with ample cross-referencing. Attractive illustrations contribute to the understanding of Indian lore in art. A-Z entries on Characters, Themes, and Concepts, among them Brahma, Mahabharata, Parvati, Vishnu, and Yoga, make up the bulk of the text. An appendix charts Vedic gods by periods as a handy guide to development of the Hindu pantheon. A summary of resources suggests readings at various levels, including children's books. The annotated bibliography lists works as old asames Hastings' revered Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (1908-1929) and as recent as online Sanskrit dictionaries. A seven-page glossary offers uncomplicated definitions of 246 pivotal terms. The work concludes with a detailed index containing numerous cross-references for maximum accuracy. Overall, the handbook is a prize catch for public, church, temple, school, and college libraries. In the style of a patient, respectful teacher, Williams has introduced one of the world's long-lived belief systems. -- RBB Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Williams (Univ. of California, Chico) here profiles the cast of characters, locations, themes, and core meanings of Hindu mythology. He has spent nearly three decades studying and writing on religion in modern Asia, and his work defines the cultural context of Hindu myth throughout the ages and explains what is required of devotees. Divided into four major sections, this compelling academic account covers all aspects of this major world religion. Entries include geographic, historic, scriptural, and biographic references (e.g., Ravana, Kala, and Suddhi). After an excellent introduction, the author evaluates mythic time, space, characters, and themes, before closing with an extensive bibliographic essay reviewing available print and nonprint resources (including web sites). The rituals and ascetic myths are arranged alphabetically and identified within their cultural context. Part of the "Handbooks of World Mythology" series, this elegantly crafted work is designed for the general reader and will be a reliable reference standard for all library collections.-Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Ashkenazi's engaging and informative guidebook begins with 100 pages of context. He emphasizes the historical, religious, and social ground for, and provides an overview of, both Shinto and Buddhist myths. This wonderfully vivid and compact introduction tells the core stories and provides key anthropological data explaining the role(s) of myths. The author's lucid, accessible, and even humorous style lightens the impressive scholarship. His account ranges widely over history and culture, without losing its coherence or relevance to mythology. Shinto stories are linked in a comprehensive narrative; Ashkenazi also includes Ryukyu and Ainu myths. The final two-thirds of the volume is comprised of detailed alphabetical entries for major figures and concepts (with some overlap), annotated print and nonprint sources, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography of primary sources. Individual entries are much more detailed than those in Jeremy Roberts's Japanese Mythology A to Z (Facts On File, 2003) or David Leeming's A Dictionary of Asian Mythology (Oxford, 2001). Japanese art enriches the cultural context. Williams's volume follows the same format, and includes the same scholarly helps (e.g., major entries have references, further readings, and cross-references). There is no primary-sources list, but the annotated print and nonprint section is larger. The introductory essays are half the length of Ashkenazi's and avoid contested issues. Williams is not a graceful stylist. Unclear antecedents, misused words, nonparallel or awkward constructions, and other writing lapses are off-putting and sometimes obscure meaning. Despite the writer's obvious erudition, this presentation of Hindu mythology is unlikely to draw students to the field.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Both Iyengar and Williams treat Hindu mythology as an evolving phenomenon and chart changes in conceptions of the deities. It is a credit to both that Hindu mythology is successfully depicted as a living tradition rather than a fossilized remnant of the past. Iyengar covers a greater number of deities than Williams, with entries that link deities to specific texts, at times quoting at length, providing not only information about a deity but a glimpse into associated poetic traditions. The strengths of Iyengar's book are its breadth of coverage and the depth of the individual entries; its weaknesses are redressed by Williams. Iyengar's index lists Sanskrit names but lacks cross-references, making it inaccessible to beginners. Unlike Williams, who also covers themes, concepts, and texts, Iyengar assumes a background in these matters. Most importantly, Iyengar obscures the tension between the brahmanical "orthoprax" and various "heteroprax" traditions. The entry for KalI, for example, condemns heteroprax without explaining the history of conflict and co-optation between the traditions. Williams explicitly discusses the tension between these currents in Hindu thought and practice, conveying both elite and folk practices. Besides covering mythological figures, Williams includes essays on time, space, and the Indian conception of causality, and appends an excellent annotated bibliography, a glossary of Sanskrit words, and a cross-referenced index. Finally, Williams's introduction is an extraordinary piece that should be recommended to any student first approaching Hindu mythology. It analyzes the historical context of the mythic traditions and the ways Hindus approach mythology and introduces general mythological concepts (e.g., anthropogony, theomachy) and specific Hindu concepts that are central to Hindu myths (e.g., dharma, maya). Williams is recommended without reservation to all libraries, Iyengar for institutions that support high-level scholarship in Indian religion or culture. ^BSumming Up: Williams, highly recommended; general and academic readers. Iyengar, recommended; graduate students and faculty. G. J. Reece American University