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Shiva's Fire
by Suzanne Fisher Staples


Champakam blossom, pink at the base of white blossom. Delicate smell.

Small silver disk with the likeness of elepant-headed Ganesha, good luck charm

Purple-blossomed jacaranda tree


Glossary

  • abhinaya: Combined expressive movements of the head and arms
  • achkan: Fitted, knee-length coat with a short, stand-up collar worn by men
  • alarippu: Opening sequence in a bharata natyam dance ritual
  • amma: Mother.
  • arangetram: Dance student's first performance in honor of the guru and the student's parents
  • auto rickshaw: A three-wheeled taxi with a seat for a driver and a passenger seat behind; usually painted black and yellow.
  • ayah: Maidservant; often a child's caretaker.
  • bharata natyam: Sacred Hindu classical dance that originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
  • Bhuma Devi: Hindu goddess; mother of the earth.
  • bungalow: Single-story house with veranda.
  • champakam: White, pink, and yellow blossoms often used as offerings.
  • churidar: Trousers with a drawstring waist, cut on the bias to fit calves and ankles slowly.
  • dacoit: Member of a band of robbers.
  • devadasi: A servant of the gods; one entirely devoted to the sacred art of classical dance.
  • dharma: Natural law; duty; universal law that holds all life together.
  • dhobi: Washerman.
  • dhoom-dam: Noise and pomp surrounding former Indian royalty.
  • dhoti: Plain white cloth worn by men wrapped around the waist.
  • dhurrie: Woven cotton or wool rug.
  • drongo: Black crowlike bird with long, graceful tail plumes
  • durbar: Ceremonial reception hall, in former times for the Raja's court officials.
  • Dusshera: Ten-day Hindu festival celebrating the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura.
  • Ganesh: Elephant-headed Hindu god of good fortune; remover of obstacles; son of Shiva.
  • ghat: Rock or cement platform on a riverbank; used for doing laundry or performing religious rituals such as burning the dead and consigning them to the river.
  • gulmohar: Large tree with brilliant red blossoms.
  • guru: Master, teacher.
  • gurukalam: School where students live and study with the guru.
  • howdah: Platform seat, often with a canopy, on which passengers ride on an elephant.
  • idli: Steamed bread of a fermented mix of water and rice and lentil flower.
  • jatisvaram: Second movement in a bharata natyam.
  • jatka Horse-drawn cart.
  • ji: Affectionate term of respect when added to the end of a name or title; also, a positive response or term showing agreement.
  • jibba: Long cotton shirt pulled over the head; usually collarless.
  • kajal: Black oil worn around the eyes to enhance them.
  • Kathkali: Classical dance drama from Kerala in South India.
  • khadi: Hand-loomed cotton cloth.
  • Krishna: Playful, blue-skinned Hindu god.
  • lakh: One hundred thousand.
  • lassi: Drink made by whisking water into yogurt, with sugar or salt.
  • machan: Enclosed, elevated shelter used to hunt or view wildlife.
  • maharaja: "Great ruler"; a high-ranking Indian ruler.
  • maharani: Queen, wife of the maharaja.
  • mahatma: Great spiritual leader; popular title of Mohandas Gandhi.
  • Mahishasura: A powerful demon in Hindu mythology.
  • mahout: Driver and keeper of elephants.
  • masali dosai: Flavored potato and onion mixture wrapped in thin skillet-fried bread made from fermented lentil and rice flour.
  • mridangam: Melodic drum with a leather head at each end.
  • mudra: Hand and arm movements in a bharata natyam classical dance.
  • namaskaram: Greeting among Hindus in South India in which the hands are pressed together in front of the face and the head is bowed.
  • Nandi: "The Joyful"; the sacred bull of Lord Shiva; shown kneeling, he is the symbol of the perfect devotee.
  • Nataraja: Dancing incarnation of Lord Shiva.
  • Natya Shastra: Ancient treatise on Indian classical dance.
  • neem: Large deciduous tree thought to have medicinal properties.
  • nritta: Pure dance form, rhythm and motion not intended dramatization.
  • Odissi: Classical dance form the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
  • paan: Mixture of of betel nut and spices; wrapped in a betel leaf and eaten as a digestive aid.
  • palanquin: Seat on poles carried by bearers or on a platform by an animal; now used mainly for ceremonial purposes.
  • pandal: Bright colored tent used for festivals and celebrations.
  • peepul: Sacred tree of the ficus, or fig, family with small, brilliant green leaves.
  • peon: Low-ranking office worker who does errands.
  • puja: Worship or devotion paid to a Hindu god at a temple or before a shrine at home.
  • punka: Fan, often made from a palm leaf.
  • Pruanas: Ancient folktales that have a strong influence on the lives of Hindus.
  • puri: Fried puffed bread.
  • raja: Ruler of one of India's former princely states.
  • rani: Queen of one of India's former princely states.
  • samhar: Thin peppery soup poured over rice.
  • sari: Long piece of cloth wrapped at the waist and drawn over one shoulder, worn by women on the Indian subcontinent.
  • shalwar kameez: Loose trousers with a tunic worn over the top.
  • shikar: Organized hunt.
  • shikari: Someone who participates in a shikar.
  • Shiva: Hindu god of destruction and re-creation; Lord of the dance; one of the three major Hindu gods (with Brahma and Vishnu).
  • Shiva Purana: Ancient Hindu texts about Lord Shiva.
  • thali South Indian meal served on a round metal tray with helpings of rice, pickles, soups, spiced vegetables, relishes, and puri.
  • toddy palm: Palm tree tapped for liquid that is fermented and used to make an alcoholic beverage.
  • topee: Light hard hat worn especially by Westerners to protect the head from the sun.
  • upanayana: Hindu ceremony in which upper-caste boys receive sacred threads to symbolize spiritual rebirth.
  • uppama: Stir-fried snack made of ground wheat or semolina.
  • vadai: Salty doughnut.
  • varnam: Highly complex dance sequence that serves as the centerpiece of a bharata natyam performance.
  • veena: long, wooden stringed instrument.
  • yuvaraja: Son and heir of the raja.