Glossary
Chapter 6
amalaka In Hindu temple design, the large flat disk with ribbed edges surmounting the beehive-shaped tower.
arch A curved structural member that spans an opening and is generally composed of wedge-shaped blocks (voussoirs) that transmit the downward pressure laterally.See also thrust.
asceticism Self-discipline and self-denial.
avatar A manifestation of a deity incarnated in some visible form in which the deity performs a sacred function on earth. In Hinduism, an incarnation of a god.
barays The large reservoirs laid out around Cambodian wats that served as means of transportation as well as irrigation. The reservoirs were connected by a network of canals.
bodhisattva In Buddhist thought, one of the host of divinities provided to the Buddha to help him save humanity. A potential Buddha.
canon A rule, for example, of proportion. The ancient Greeks considered beauty to be a matter of “correct” proportion and sought a canon of proportion, for the human figure and for buildings.
chaitya hall An Indian rockcut temple hall having a votive stupa at one end.
chakra The Buddha’s wheel, set in motion at Sarnath.
chakravartin In India, the ideal king, the Universal Lord who ruled through goodness.
chatra See yasti.
circumambulation In Buddhist worship, walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction.
darshan In Hindu worship, seeing images of the divinity and being seen by the divinity.
dharma In Buddhism, moral law based on the Buddha’s teaching.
facade Usually, the front of a building; also, the other sides when they are emphasized architecturally.
garbha griha Hindi, “womb chamber.” In Hindu temples, the cella, the holy inner sanctum, for the cult image or symbol.
harmika In Buddhist architecture, a stone fence or railing that encloses an area surmounting the dome of a stupa that represents one of the Buddhist heavens; from the center arises the yasti.
iconography Greek, the “writing of images.” The term refers both to the content, or subject, of an artwork and to the study of content in art. It also includes the study of the symbolic, often religious, meaning of objects, persons, or events depicted in works of art.
jataka Tales of the past lives of the Buddha. See also sutra.
karma In Vedic religions, the ethical consequences of a person’s life, which determine his or her fate.
lakshana(s) Distinguishing marks of the Buddha. They include the urna and ushnisha.
lalitasana In Buddhist iconography, the body pose with one leg folded and the other hanging down, indicating relaxation.
linga In Hindu art, the depiction of Shiva as a phallus or cosmic pillar.
mandala Sacred diagram of the universe.
mandapa Pillared hall of a Hindu temple.
moksha See nirvana.
mudra In Buddhist and Hindu iconography, a stylized and symbolic hand gesture.
nimbus A halo or aureole appearing around the head of a holy figure to signify divinity.
nirvana In Buddhism and Hinduism, a blissful state brought about by absorption of the individual soul or consciousness into the supreme spirit. Also called moksha.
parapet A low, protective wall along the edge of a balcony or roof.
parinirvana Image of the reclining Buddha, often viewed as representing his death.
plinth The square slab at the base of a column.
prasada In Hindu worship, food that becomes sacred by first being given to a god.
ratha Small, freestanding Hindu temple carved from a huge boulder.
samsara In Hindu belief, the rebirth of the soul into a succession of lives.
shikara The beehive-shaped tower of a Hindu temple.
stupa A large, mound-shaped Buddhist shrine.
torana Gateway in the stone fence around a stupa, located at the cardinal points of the compass.
trefoil A cloverlike ornament or symbol with stylized leaves in groups of three.
ushnisha A knot of hair on the top of the head; one of the lakshanas of the Buddha.
veda Sanskrit, “knowledge.”
vihara A Buddhist monastery, often cut into a hill.
vimana A pyramidal tower over the garbha griha of a Hindu temple of the southern, or Dravida, style.
wat A Buddhist monastery in Cambodia.
yaksha/yakshi Lesser local male and female Buddhist and Hindu divinities. Yakshis are goddesses associated with fertility and vegetation. Yakshas, the male equivalent of yakshis, are often represented as corpulent, powerful males.
yasti In Buddhist architecture, the mast or pole that arises from the dome of the stupa and its harmika and symbolizes the axis of the universe; it is adorned with a series of chatras (stone disks).
yoga See nihonga.