[puhn-dit; spelling pron. pan-dit]
Pandit, Vijaya Lakshmi, 1900-1990, Indian diplomat, sister of Jawaharlal Nehru. She played an active role in the Indian National Congress before Indian independence and was several times imprisoned. She was leader of the Indian delegation to the United Nations (1946-51), ambassador to the Soviet Union (1947-49) and to the United States (1949-51), president of the UN General Assembly (1953-54), and India's high commissioner to Great Britain (1955-61). From 1962 to 1964 she was governor of Maharashtra.

See her autobiography The Scope of Happiness (1979).

A paṇḍit or pundit (Devanagari: पण्डित) is a scholar, a teacher, particularly one skilled in Sanskrit and Hindu law, religion, music or philosophy.


In the original usage of the word, 'Pandit' refers to a Hindu, almost always a Brahmin, who has memorized a substantial portion of the Vedas, along with the corresponding rhythms and melodies for chanting or singing them. In some regions of Bihar(India) the people who make things out of clay are also called "Pandit". In hindi they are called "Kumhar".

Pundits or pujaris are hired to chant Vedic verses at yagyas and other events, both public and private. The chanting is meant to be listened to with a quiet mind for the purpose of spiritual development for the listener as well as enlivening of the atmosphere at an event. Most pundits are vegetarians for spiritual reasons. They are supposed to maintain purity of body and mind.


In India today, 'Pandit' is an honorific conferred on an expert of any subject or field, especially Indian classical music. Its usage is confined to Hindu male exponents. Muslim male musicians are bestowed with the title 'Ustad', and the terms 'Vidushi' and 'Begum' are used for Hindu and Muslim female exponents respectively.

The term 'Pandit' (always capitalised) is prefixed to the person's name, similarly to the way the term 'Maestro' is used occasionally. Examples include Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit D. V. Paluskar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, and Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur.

Other uses

Pandits, or locals learned in the dharmasastra, were also employed as court advisors during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Initially, British judges had very little knowledge of Hindu customs and oral traditions, and they could seek information from them on particular questions. The Supreme Court of India had a law officer styled the Pundit of the Supreme Court, who advised the English judges on points of Hindu law. The practice was abandoned by 1864, as judges had acquired some experience in dealing with Hindu law, and applied the increasing volume of case law that had developed. Further, the institution of the High Courts, two years earlier, in 1862 further diminished their official use.

See also


Vedic Pandits & Yagya

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