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Feeding the City

Sara Roncaglia


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1Sanskrit terms in bold are given according to the IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) transcription standard. The main reference used for this glossary is the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, edited by R. S. McGregor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Agni: the two-headed god of fire and the recipient of daily sacrifice as messenger of the gods. One of his heads signifies immortality, while the other is considered a symbol of life renewal.

ahiṃsā: “the avoidance of violence”, a fundamental ethical virtue of Jainism, also respected in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Āḷandī: a city and a municipal council in Pune district in the state of Maharashtra. Alandi is a place of pilgrimage and is venerated by many Hindus. A temple complex has been built near the spot of Sant Dnyaneshwar’s samadhi. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims, in particular those of the Varkari sect.

anna-dātā: provider of food.

6Annamaya Kosha
anna-maya-kośa: the “food-apparent-sheath”, i.e. the physical body as a receptacle of nutrients in the Vedantic philosophy; the outer, less refined of the five illusory “sheaths” enveloping one’s true self.

7Annapurna Mahila Mandal
Annapūrṇa Mahilā Maṇḍal: an organisation working for the inn-runners since 1975 in Mumbai.

artha: purpose, motive, wealth, economy or gain. The term usually refers to the idea of material prosperity.

9Atharva Veda
Atharva-veda: a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the “fourth Veda”.

avatār: the incarnation of a Hindu deity in human or animal form.

Ayodhyā: an ancient city of India adjacent to Faizabad city in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya is a popular Hindu pilgrim centre, closely associated with Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to the Ramayana, the city was founded by Manu, the law-giver of the Hindus.

Bābrī: a mosque in Ayodhya on Ramkot Hill (“Rama’s fort”). It was destroyed by Hindu pilgrims in 1992 in an outburst of anti-Islamic violence.

bālṭī: bucket.

14Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad-gītā: a 700-verse Dharmic scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, one of the major works in the Indian literary tradition.

Bhagavān: a term used to indicate the Supreme Being or Ultimate Truth in some traditions of Hinduism.

bhāī: brother.

bhaiyā: an endearing term for brother (i.e. “little brother”), also used for friends and acquaintances.

Bhakti: historical South Asian devotional movement, particularly active within Hinduism, that emphasises the love of a devotee for his or her personal god.

19Bharatiya Janata Party (BNP)
Bharatiyā Janatā Pārṭī: a political party in India established in 1980.

Bhīmaśaṅkar Temple: located near Pune, at the source of the river Bhima.

Bohrā: a modern Muslim Shiite sect of western India retaining some Hindu elements.

bhūmi-putra: “son of the soil”, a term used by ethnic-Indians outside India, often with nativist and religious connotations.

Bambaī: the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra, now known as Mumbai.

Brahmā: in the Trimurti (the Hindu trinity), Brahma is the Immense Being, the orbiting force that creates space and time. Brahma is the point of equilibrium between Vishnu, his primarily creative, preserving force, and Shiva, the primarily destructive force. He represents the possibility of existence that arises when the opposing tendencies are coordinated.

brāhmaṇ: a Hindu of the highest caste traditionally assigned to religious priesthood.

cakra: “wheels”, a term denoting any of several key points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy.

cāḷ: a large tenement house, found primarily in the factory cities of India.

kūlī: an unskilled labourer or porter usually in or from the Far East hired for low or subsistence wages.

ḍabbā: “box”; in Mumbai it is the word used for the multi-layered metal container used to transport prepared food by the dabbawalas.

ḍabbāvālā: also spelled as dabbawalla or dabbawallah, the word literally means “box (-carrying) person”, i.e. the “tiffin-box bearers” of Mumbai.

dādā: means elder brother in Bengali and means grandfather in Hindi.

dalit: a group of people traditionally regarded as “untouchable”. Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous castes from all over South Asia.

ḍhābā: popular restaurants that generally serve local cuisine, and also act as truck stops.

dharmśālā: an Indian religious guesthouse.

dharma: “law”, a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion; the proper, pure way to be and act. It also indicates religious orthodoxy and orthopraxis in Hinduism.

ḍholak: a South Asian two-headed hand-drum.

Dīvālī: popularly known as the “festival of lights”; a five-day festival that celebrates the attainment of nirvana by the sage Mahavira in 527 BCE. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November.

dosā o ḍosā: a fermented crêpe or pancake made from rice batter and black lentils.

dvija: “twice-born”, members of the first three higher varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.

Ekanāth (1533–1599): a prominent Marathi saint, scholar and religious poet.

ghī: a kind of clarified semi-fluid butter, used especially in Indian cooking.


43Gujarāt: a state in the Indian Union, located in northwestern India.

guṇa: “string” or “a single thread or strand of a cord or twine”; by extension, it may mean “a subdivision, species, kind, quality”, or an operational principle or tendency.

guru: a personal religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism, but also a teacher and especially intellectual guide more generally.

hindū: an adherent of Hinduism.

hindūtva: “Hinduness”, a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, used today to indicate the many facets of a political movement advocating Hindu nationalism and Hindu religious hegemony in India.

Holi: a religious Spring festival celebrated in Hinduism as the “feast of colours”.

Haidarābād: the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

izzat: the concept of honour prevalent in the culture of North India and Pakistan.

jāti: the caste system (literally “birth”). The term appears in almost all Indian languages and is related to the idea of lineage or kinship group.

Jejurī: a city in Puṇe district.

Jñānadeva (1275–1296): a thirteenth-century Maharashtrian Hindu saint, poet and philosopher.

Jñāneśvarī: a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita completed in 1290.

55Jyoti Ling
jyotirliṅg: “Lingam (pillar) of light”; a sacred symbol that represents the permanent abode of Lord Shiva.

kaccā: uncooked.

kākā: uncle.

karma: a concept which explains causality through a system of rebirth, where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions.

khānāvālā: small restaurants.

khojā: a collective denomination for a group of diverse peoples — originally practitioners of Hinduism — originating from the Indian subcontinent. The word Khoja derives from Khwaja, a Persian/Turkic honorific title.

kīrtan: a kind of call-and-response chanting or “responsory” performed in India’s devotional traditions.

Kolhāpur: a village in Radhanpur Taluk, Patan district, Gujarat.

kolī: historically, an Indo-Aryan ethnic group native to Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states.

koṇkaṇi: an Indo-Aryan language in Western India.

Kṛṣṇa: literally “black, dark blue”, the name of a Hindu deity, an avatar of Vishnu. Krishna is often described and portrayed as an infant or young boy playing a flute, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance.

kṣatriya: “warrior”, one of the four traditional varna, or social orders in ancient India. Kshatriya constituted the military elite of the social system outlined by Hindu law.

kumbī: a prominent community of Karnataka. They can also be found in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and Maharashtra. Traditionally they belong to the fourth of the Hindu varnas, the so-called Sudra Kunbis.

Mahābhārata: a major Sanskrit epic of ancient India, it contains an important conversation between the Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide Krishna on a variety of philosophical, spiritual and devotional subjects.

Mahārāṣṭra: a state in Western India.

māmī: “mother’s brother”, maternal uncle.

manas: “mind”, in the Hindu tradition it is the source of apparent reality (maya), the creator of everything we perceive as real.

72Manomaya Kosha
mano-maya-kośa: “mind-stuff-apparent-sheath”, one of the outer “sheaths” or illusory (“apparent”) layers that enclose one’s true self (or “soul”/atman) according to Vedantic philosophy.

Manu-smṛti: “Laws of Manu”; the most authoritative of the books of the Hindu code (Dharma-shastra) in India. Manu-smrti is the popular name of the work, which is officially known as Manava-dharma-shastra. It is attributed to the legendary first man and lawgiver, Manu. In its present form, it dates from the first century BCE.

marāṭha: an Indian warrior caste, found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra. The term Marāthā has two related usages: within the Marathi-speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste; historically, it describes the Maratha Empire founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century.

masālā: a mixture of spices, popular in Indian cuisine.

mlecch: “foreigner”, “non-Vedic barbarian”; a derogatory term used by native Indians in ancient India for any people of non-Indian extraction.

mokṣa: “liberation”, the final extrication of the soul from samsara and the bringing to an end of all the suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and rebirth (reincarnation).

Mugal: an Islamic empire set up in the Indian subcontinent by descendants of the Mongol conquerors of Asia from about 1526 to 1757.

muqaddam: “leader, chief, head”, i.e. someone that is held in high regard and leads a group.

Mumbaī: capital of the State of Maharashtra; see Bombay.

nāḍī: “channel”, “stream”, or “flow”; in yoga philosophy it refers to the channels of energy linking up the various chakra in the human body.

Nāmadeva (1270–1350): a poet and saint from the Varkari sect of Hinduism.

Nārāyaṇa: another name for Vishnu; see Satyanarayan.

pakkā: “cooked”, also spelled pukkah, sometimes used to indicate genuineness or the “original, proper” way to do things.

Paṇḍharpur: an important pilgrimage city on the banks of Bhimā river in Solāpur district, Maharashtra.

Pārsī: a member of a group of followers in India of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. The Parsees, also spelled Parsis, whose name means “Persians”, are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims.

87Pav Bhaji
pāv bhājī: a fast food dish that originated in Marathi cuisine.


89prāṇa: “exhalation of breath”, i.e. life-force, vital energy.

90Pranamaya kosha
prāṇā-maya-kośa: “air-apparent-sheath”, one of the outer “sheaths” or illusory (“apparent”) layers that enclose one’s true self according to Vedantic philosophy.

prasād: material substance that is first offered to a deity in Hinduism and then consumed.

pūjā: a religious ritual performed by Hindus as an offering to deities.

Puṇe: a city in Maharashtra state; Pune city is the capital of Pune district.

Puruṣa-sūkta: a hymn of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the “Cosmic Being”.

rājas: a class of foods that are bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot, or dry, and are thought to promote sensuality, greed, jealousy, anger, delusion, and irreligious feelings in Ayurvedic philosophy.

Rājgurunagar: a town in Pune district.

Rāma: Rama or Shri Ram (Lord Ram) is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu.

Rāmlīlā: literally “Rama’s play”; a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram.

99Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
Rāṣṭrīya Svayaṁsevak Saṅgh: the National Self-Service Organisation, a group founded in 1925 in opposition to Mohandas Gandhi and dedicated to the propagation of orthodox Hindu religious practices.

Ṛg-veda: an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is counted among the four canonical Vedas.

saṃsāra: the endless cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth.

saṃskāra: a series of sacraments, sacrifices and rituals that serve as rites of passage and mark the various stages of human life.

103Samyukta Maharashtra
Saṃyukt Mahārāṣṭra: “United Maharashtra Committee”; an organisation that spearheaded the demand in the 1950s for the creation of a separate Marathi-speaking state out of the (then-bilingual) state of Bombay in western India, with the city of Bombay as its capital.

sāttvik: a term denoting a class of foods that are fresh, juicy, light, nourishing, and tasty, and thus give necessary energy to the body and help achieve nutritional and energetic balance according to the Ayurvedic tradition.

satya Nārāyaṇa: a term referring to Shri Vishnu (Lord Vishnu) understood in his infinite and all-pervading form.

śakti: the personification of divine feminine creative power and also a term for the manifestation of the creative principle (of a god or goddess). It is the primordial cosmic energy, the interplay of dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism.

Ādi Śaṅkara (circa 788–820 CE): philosopher and theologian, most renowned exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy, from whose doctrines the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived. He wrote commentaries on the Brahmasutra, the principal Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, affirming his belief in one eternal unchanging reality (brahman) and the illusion of plurality and differentiation.

108Shiv Sena
Śiv-senā: an Indian political organisation founded in 1966 by political cartoonist Bal Thackeray. The party originally emerged out of a movement in Mumbai demanding preferential treatment for Maharashtrians over migrants to the city.

Śiv/Rudra: the Destroyer or the Transformer, a major and ancient Hindu deity. In the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity, he is darkness, the centrifugal force, dispersing and destroying all that exists. Shiva is the second of two interrelated and complementary tendencies. Each degree of manifestation of one is reversed with regard to the degree of manifestation of the other. If Vishnu is the centripetal force, Shiva represents the centrifugal: everything that has a beginning must end and Shiva presides over this passage through destruction and disintegration, the return to quiescence and sleep that occurs before any awakening or renewal is possible. As such, Shiva is regarded as a positive force, indispensable to sustain reality and its perpetual change.

śūdra: the fourth and lowest of the traditional varna, or social classes, of India, traditionally artisans and labourers.

Solāpur: a city in Maharashtra state on the Sina River.

svastik: an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise. The swastika as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune is widely distributed throughout the ancient and modern world.

tāmas: a class of foods that are dry, old, foul, or unpalatable, and are thought to promote pessimism, ignorance, laziness, criminal tendencies, and doubt in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Tandūr: an Indian method of cooking over a charcoal fire in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven.

ṭiphin: Anglo-Indian term for “a light meal”.

ṭopī: a white coloured sidecap, pointed in front and back and having a wide band, popular among the dabbawalas.

Trimūrti: the triad of gods consisting of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer as the three highest manifestations of the one ultimate reality.

Tukārām (1608–1645): a prominent Varkari sant and spiritual poet during a Bhakti movement in India.

uṛāna: “upward moving air”, i.e. the upward, transformative movement of the life-energy according to Vedantic philosophy. It governs growth of the body, the ability to stand, the powers of speech, the profusion of effort, enthusiasm and will.

upajāti: “sub-class”, or sub-caste.

Upaniṣad: a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion. They are also known as Vedanta.

uttapam: a thick pancake, made by cooking ingredients in a batter.

123Vada pav
vaṛā pāv: a popular vegetarian fast food dish native to the Indian state of Maharashtra.

vaiśya: the third of four castes in Indian society, made up by merchants.

125Varkari Sampradaya
Vārkarī sampradāya: a Vaishnava religious movement within the bhakti spiritual tradition of Hinduism, geographically associated with the Indian states of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka. Varkaris worship Vithoba (also known as Vitthal), the presiding deity of Pandharpur, regarded as a form of Krishna.

varṇa: “colour” (also: “shade, kind, quality”), used to define the four traditional castes of India in terms of social standing and economic function.

Veda: “knowledge”, a corpus of religious and philosophic texts originating in ancient India.

128Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

129Vijnanamaya Kosha
vijñāna-maya-kośa: “wisdom-apparent-sheath”, one of the inner “sheaths” or illusory (“apparent”) layers that enclose one’s true self according to Vedantic philosophy.

Viṣṇu: Vishnu the Immanent is the centripetal force that creates light; Vishnu is the power of God through whom all things exist. Vishnu constantly re-invents the world and has become a symbol of continuity and eternal life.

131Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
Viśva Hindū Pariṣad: a Hindu organisation founded in India in 1964 to protect, promote and propagate Hindu values of life.

Viṭhobā: a Hindu god, worshipped predominantly in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He is a manifestation of the god Vishnu or his avatar Krishna.

yoni: female reproductive organ.


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