Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism

Purchase Access
Subject: Asian Studies

Edited by: Knut A. Jacobsen (Editor-in-Chief), University of Bergen, and Helene Basu, University of Münster, Angelika Malinar, University of Zürich, Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida (Associate Editors)

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism presents the latest research on all the main aspects of the Hindu traditions. Its essays are original work written by the world’s foremost scholars on Hinduism. The encyclopedia presents a balanced and even-handed view of Hinduism, recognizing the divergent perspectives and methods in the academic study of a religion that is both an ancient historical tradition and a flourishing tradition today. The encyclopedia embraces the greatest possible diversity, plurality, and heterogeneity, thus emphasizing that Hinduism encompasses a variety of regional traditions as well as a global world religion. Presenting all essays and research from the heralded printed edition, Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism is now available in a fully searchable, dynamic digital format. The service will include all content from the six printed volumes..

Subscriptions: see


(9,040 words)

Author(s): Richard Barz
Hagiography is the recording of the lives of holy men and women. It has a very long history in the literatures of India. In those literatures hagiographical writing is found in three genres: Purāṇa ("Legend"), Carita ("Biography") and Kathā ("Story"). While all of these genres include hagiographies, none of them is exclusively hagiographic. Although some Indian hagiographies are outstanding works of literature, their main purpose is religious and hagiographies have a place in the spiritual life…


(5,430 words)

Author(s): Patrick Olivelle
Embedded within India’s most ancient text, the Ṛgveda, there is a hymn portraying a conversation of a young girl, Apālā, with the god Indra. She makes this request:  Indra, make these three surfaces grow forth –  the head of my Papa, the field, and this on my belly.  That field of ours, this body of mine,  and my Papa’s head – make all these hairy. ( ṚV. 8.91; trans. Brereton & Jamison; for an examination of this text, see Schmidt, 1987; Vajracharya, 1988) We have in this ancient text a clear link among grass or grain in a field, the hair on a man’s head, and the pubic hair of…

Hans Ji Maharaj and the Divya Sandesh Parishad

(4,373 words)

Author(s): Ron Geaves
Any attempt to document Shri Hans Ji Maharaj (1900–1966) runs into the immediate challenge of the paucity and reliability of available sources. To date four Web sites provide information on his biography and his teachings. In addition to the academic challenge of hagiography, the Web sites, with one exception, represent the viewpoints of religious movements that all claim to be his legitimate successors. In general, there is little disagreement about the content of each source, except where they…


(5,011 words)

Author(s): Philip Lutgendorf
Hanumān is a complex deity who is venerated today throughout the Hindu world. Although he is best known as the prominent vānara or “monkey” hero who reverently serves the human prince Rāma, the seventh avatāra of Viṣṇu, and his wife, Sītā, in the body of epic narratives, visual representations, and performances that collectively comprise the Rāmāyaṇa storytelling tradition, Hanumān is also widely worshipped in diverse mythological roles and religious contexts – for example, as an avatāra of Rudra-Śiva, as an immortal yogin , and as the guardian and intimate companio…

Haridāsī Sampradāya

(6,708 words)

Author(s): Guy L. Beck
The Haridāsī Sampradāya is a Vaiṣṇava lineage that has flourished for nearly five hundred years within the Braj area of northern India, and should not be confused with the Haridāsa movement of western and southern India (see Smārta). It was inaugurated in Vrindavan in the 16th century by Svāmī Haridās (c. 1480–1575 CE), a poet-saint and musician who discovered and established the worship of the Kṛṣṇa deity Śrī Bāṅke Bihārī. Vrindavan (Vṛndāvana), a popular pilgrimage town in Braj, is consi…


(3,276 words)

Author(s): James Lochtefeld
Haridwar is a Hindu pilgrimage site in Uttarakhand state, India. Its holiness arises from the belief that the Gaṅgā leaves the Himalayas there to enter the North Indian plain; since the region above Haridwar is the “Land of the Gods” (Devabhūmi), Haridwar is the place where the Gaṅgā descends to earth. Though one may dismiss this image as poetic fancy, the literal meaning of its various names clearly reveal its identity as a liminal place: Haridvār (“Gateway to Viṣṇu” as the departure point for …
Date: 2016-04-06

Hariharananda Aranya

(5,205 words)

Author(s): Knut A. Jacobsen
Swami Hariharananda Aranya (1869–1947) was a saṃnyāsī , a practitioner of Sāṃkhyayoga (the combined teaching of Sāṃkhya and Pātañjala Yoga), and the founder of the Kāpil Maṭh, a monastic institution in Madhupur, Jharkhand. Hariharananda Aranya’s title is Sāṃkhyayogācārya (“Teacher of Sāṃkhyayoga”), and he and his disciples considered themselves Sāṃkhyayogīs. He was a monk and scholar, and wrote a number of books in Bengali and Sanskrit. The best known are his commentaries on the Yogasūtra and the Vyāsabhāṣỵa, the Kapilāśramīyapātañjalayogadarśana in Bengali (partly transl…


(5,210 words)

Author(s): Brodbeck, Simon
The Harivaṃśa is a series of textual materials at the end of the Sanskrit Mahābhārata, credited, like the larger work, to the sage Vyāsa. The nature of the Harivaṃśa in relation to the Mahābhārata is indicated by the word khila, which is used in the singular to denote the Harivaṃśa as a whole (Vaidya, 1969–1971) and in the plural to label the parvans (books) that constitute it, and which has usually been translated as “supplement” or “appendix” (Couture, 1996; Matchett, 1996). However, the Mahābhārata’s lists of contents show that whatever the nuances of the relationship, the Harivaṃśa is …
Date: 2018-11-19


(3,280 words)

Author(s): William Sax
All cultures are characterized by medical pluralism, that is, by a situation where multiple forms of healing exist side by side. The health system of South Asia is especially pluralistic, with a wide variety of healers and healing traditions. This is partly due to the sheer number of different communities in the subcontinent: not only its many religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Animist) but also its numerous linguistic groups, regional cultures, castes, classes, and tribe…