Hindoostan Glossary

A Glossary of Terms

Ahadi: Elite cavalryman not yet allocated mansab officer rank.
Aranyakas: One of the Vedas, an ancient Hindu religious text.
Ashram: A heritage or place where any group with shared religious or social aims live together.
Ashrama: One of the four stages in the life of a Hindu man.
Baksheesh: tipping, charitable giving, and certain forms of political corruption and bribery in Hindoostan.
Bakhshi: Mughal military paymaster.
Bhadralok: *the “respectable people” in Bengal; mainly but not exclusively from the higher Hindu literate castes.
*Bhakti: *In Hinduism, religious devotion or piety as a means of salvation, as opposed to the performance of rituals or the quest for knowledge; devotion to a personal god, especially Krishna.
*Bhikkus:
Buddhist monks.
Bodhisattva: In Mahayana Buddhism, a being who in reward for living an exemplary life has the power to grant salvation.
Brahman: In Hindu philosophy, the substance from which all things in the universe emerged.
Brahmacharya: *Studentship; the first classical stages of Hindu life.
*Bumi:
Auxiliary levy, mostly Hindu and mostly infantry.
Caravanserai: a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey; a building with a square or rectangular walled exterior, with a single portal wide enough to permit large or heavily laden beasts such as camels to enter. The courtyard was almost always open to the sky, and the inside walls of the enclosure were outfitted with a number of identical stalls, bays, niches, or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise.
Chaitya: A shrine; in Buddhism, a place or object of reverence.
Charan: a caste in central Hindoostan, revered for their unflinching readiness for martyrdom, bravery in war, high literary sense and deep loyalty to patrons.
Choli: Short, tight blouse worn by Hindu women.
Dakhili: Mughal professional soldier, paid directly by the state.
Darwar: A palace.
Dharma: The Hindu religion; laws regarding human conduct.
Dhimmi: Follower of a non-Islamic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism) that Muslims recognize as a legitimate faith, in return for payment of the Jizya.
Dhoti: A length of cotton or silk cloth that a man wraps around his body, the end being passed between the legs and tucked into the waist so that a festoon hangs down to the knees.
Durga, durg: A fortress or castle.
Durga-pati: The commandant of a fortress.
Fauj: District.
Faujdar: District governor.
Feringhi: A westerner.
Granth Sahib (Adi Granth): The holy book of Sikhism.
Gurdwara: A Sikh temple; “the door to the Guru.”
Guru: A teacher; Nanak and his successors as spiritual leaders of Sikhism.
Hadith: Collection of stories about the Prophet Muhammad, which serve to guide the behavior of Muslims.
Haj: Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hinayana: The form of Buddhism that looks to ethical conduct and meditation for salvation (see also Mahayana and Vajrayana).
Iqta: The right to keep taxes from a specific region, used by the Sultans to pay their officials (similiar to a Jagir). A person who has an iqta is called a Muqta.
Imam: Leader of mosque prayers, or the leader of the Muslim community.
Irtidad: Abandonment of Islam by a Muslim; apostasy.
Jagir: The right to keep taxes from a specified region, used by the Mughal emperors to pay their officials (similar to an Iqta).
Jat: A Hindu caste of northern Hindoostan.
Jihad: Sacred war or Muslims against non-Muslims, hence the notion of a vigorous campaign or crusade in some cause; also a spiritual struggle against one’s baser instincts.
Jizya: Tax paid by Dhimmis.
Kafir: a person who rejects God or who hides, denies, or “covers” the truth (an apostate).
Karma: In Hinduism, deeds that determine the nature of our rebirth.
Khalsa: “Pure ones,” the body of Sikh men initiated according to the rituals devised by Gobind Singh.
Kotwal: Urban police chief.
Linga: Sacred object constituting the symbol of the god, Shiva; specifically a phallic emblem.
Mahayana: The form of Buddhism that looks to a Bodhisattva for salvation (also see Hinayana and Vajrayana); the great vehicle of Buddhist philosophy.
Madhi: “He who is rightly guided”, the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world, the title of a messianic leader, the awaited descendent of the Prophet Muhammad who will purify Islam.
Mandala: A symbolic circular figure, usually with symmetrical divisions and figures of deities in the center, used to represent the universe.
Mandir; mandira: a house, palace, temple or hall
Mardana: men’s apartments in a palace.
Mansab: Mughal officer rank.
Mansabdar: An official in Mughal military or civil service, graded according to rank.
Maratha: A member of the Marathi-speaking agricultural castes of Maharashtra; collectively the families and clans who, through land-control and military service, establish the Maratha kingdoms in the mid-17th century.
Masjid: A mosque.
Mir: Senior official, from Arabic amir.
Muqta: The holder of an Iqta.
Nama: Book or story.
Nirvana: A state of being attained by Buddhists.
Omerah: The holder of a Jagir, similar to a Muqta.
Palanquin: A covered litter, formerly used in the Orient, carried on the shoulders of four men.
Patel: The headman of a village, who has general control of village affairs and forms the channel of communication with government officials.
Pirs: In Sufism, the title for a Sufi master; a teacher for one (or more) Tariqahs (paths to enlightenment).
Puja: Hindu ceremonies; offerings and worship before the image of a deity; Hindu worship.
Puranas: Collections of Hindu myths and legends.
Qu’ran: The holy book of Islam, containing the revelations received from God by the Prophet Muhammad; the actual word of God.
Rajput: Hindu caste of northern Hindoostan.
Ridda: Muslim law: the rejection of the religion of Islam by a Muslim.
Rita: In the Hindu religion, the law that keeps order in the universe.
Rowzinder: Mughal cavalryman.
Ryot: A tenant of the soil, an individual occupying land as a farmer or cultivator.
Sadhu: Hindu holy man.
Sari: *A seamless cloth that constitutes the main part of a woman’s dress in much of Hindoostan, wrapped around the body and then thrown over the head.
*Sawar:
Mughal rank, indicating specific military obligation.
Serai: A building for the accommodation of travelers with their pack animals, consisting of an enclosed yard with chambers around it.
Shaikh: A Sufi holy man.
Shangum Literature: Ancient Tamil heroic poems.
Sharia: The revealed law of Islam relating to human conduct as distinct from religious belief. The law is contained in the Qu’ran and in the Hadiths, and other rules for social behavior are inferred through analogy.
Shia: The branch of Islam that believes that the correct interpretation of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad was entrusted exclusively to Ali idn Abi Talid, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, and then to a line of divinely inspired Imams, all descended from Ali. Shi’ism itself subsequently divided into three main groups each accepting the legitimacy of a different line of Imams.
Stupa: A circular dome, surmounted by an umbrella (chattri) to enshrine the remains of relics of the Buddha or of a Buddhist saint. A stupa may be a small portable object or a massive building.
Suba: A province of the Mughal empire.
Subahdar: the designations of a governor of a Subah (province) in the Mughal empire, who was alternately designated as Sahib-i-Subah or Nazim.
Sunni: The majority religious group of Muslims, commonly referred to as orthodox, who hold as authoritative the Qu’ran and a body of traditions attributed to Muhammad; they reject the claim that Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, to be the first true and exclusive successor and interpreter of the Prophet.
Suwar: A Hindoostani cavalry soldier, also numerically ranking denoting the number of armed heavy cavalrymen each Mughal officer was required to bring to muster.
Tabinan: Ordinary Mughal cavalry trooper.
Tuman: Large cavalry unit, originally a Mughal term.
Ulama: Interpreters of Islamic law.
Upanishads: A group of Sanskrit texts, composed between 800 BC and 300 AD, containing religious and philosophical treasties and instructions about rituals.
Vaishnava: A devotee of Vishnu.
Vajrayana: The form of Buddhism that looks to magic for salvation (also see Hinayana and Mahayana).
Varna: *Literally appearance, aspect, color; Hindu society was divided into four varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. This is the foundation for the Hindu caste system.
*Yogi:
A practitioner of asceticism and meditation designed to achieve union of self with the supreme being.
Zamindar: One holding land on which he pays revenue directly to the government and not to any intermediary; loosely, and technically incorrect, used to mean a large landholder or landlord.
Zat: Personal numerical rank held by a Mughal officer.
Zenana: Women’s apartments in a palace.

Hindoostan Glossary

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