Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism

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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..

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Kabīr

(5,147 words)

Author(s): Maya Burger
In the 15th–16th centuries, there lived in Benares a poet-singer known as Kabīr (?–1518), weaver by trade and rebel in religious matters, who bequeathed to posterity a living tradition of singing his “truth” about worldly and divine questions and proposing a new, direct practice to experience extraworldly dimensions. For the last five hundred years, his poem-songs have enjoyed tremendous acclaim, locally and internationally, and are a source of inspiration and imitation. For many adherents to his views, he is a spiritual master ( guru ) and founder of a recognized community ( panth); h…

Kabīrpanthīs

(5,507 words)

Author(s): Maya Burger
“Kabīrpanth” designates a religious community having Kabīr, the 15th-/16th-century poet, as its central reference and founding figure. Though usually the term “Kabīrpanth” is used in the singular, there are many branches ( śākhās) and sub-branches ( upaśākhās) that can be very different from one another. The adherents to the Kabīrpanth are known as the Panthīs. The study of the Kabīrpanth bears testimony to the complex and controversial heritage of Kabīr, and some methodological precautions may be useful. Firstly, it is necessary …

Kālī

(14,713 words)

Author(s): June E. McDaniel
Kālī is a Hindu goddess who is understood in many ways. In some areas of India, she is a tribal and village goddess who protects a group of people or a geographical region, an ancestress who grants the desires of her people. She is also a tantric and yogic goddess of death and transcendence who gives the gift of liberation to her followers. She may also be understood as a loving mother who saves her devotees from painful rebirth and gives them protection from harm as well as entrance into her he…

Kāma

(3,616 words)

Author(s): Kenneth Zysk
Traditional Hinduism specifies four principal aims or goals one should strive for in one’s life: conformity to social and religious norms ( dharma ), wealth ( artha ), sensual enjoyment ( kāma ), and final liberation ( mokṣa) from the cycle of rebirths ( saṃsāra ). This fourfold religious prescription typifies the Hindu’s attitude toward life: all human activity is religious and sacred. Although sensual enjoyment includes all kinds of pleasures that delight and fulfil the senses, from the earliest time of the Ṛgveda, the Sanskrit word kāma has been associated more specifically …

Kānphaṭās

(5,225 words)

Author(s): Veronique Bouillier
Kānphaṭā (Split-Ear) yogīs is a popular designation of the Śaiva sectarian tradition of the Nāth yogīs or Gorakhnāthī yogīs alludes to the hallmark of their sect, huge round earrings piercing the ear cartilage. However popularly used, this appellation is considered by the yogīs as derogatory, and they prefer the more prestigious name of “Nāth yogīs,” which links them with the long history of the ancient Śaiva tradition of the Nāth siddhas or Nāth yogīs or “Gorakhnāthī” as disciples of the supposed founder of the sampradāya, Gorakhnāth (also known as Gorakṣa). Although the present yogī…

Kāpālikas

(4,574 words)

Author(s): Judit Törzsök
Although no written works by Kāpālikas are known to us, this antinomian Śaiva movement of skull bearers, who took up the attributes of Śiva’s frightening form, Bhairava, was once very much present from Kashmir and Nepal to the Tamil-speaking south. The earliest mention of Kāpālikas is found perhaps in Hāla’s Saṭṭasaī, datable to the 3rd to 5th centuries CE (Lorenzen, 1991, 13), but most of our sources on them come from the 7th to the 12th centuries CE. Since there are mainly indirect sources about their doctrine and practice, it is often diff…

Karman

(7,616 words)

Author(s): Julius Lipner
Roots of the Belief in Karman and Rebirth In Sanskrit karman means “action,” “deed,” or “work.” This entry is on a derivative meaning of the term, namely, that action of an individual, and the transempirical impression or residue it leaves, which helps consequentially to determine the quality and direction of that individual’s passage through saṃsāra (the flow of transient existence). In this sense, karman is associated with rebirth or transmigration, an idea that has been embedded in Hindu thought and practice from a very early period…

Karnataka

(14,226 words)

Author(s): Heidrun Brückner
Karnataka is one of the southwestern states of the Indian Union, situated between 12⁰ and 18⁰ north latitude and 74⁰ and 78⁰ east longitude. It was formed in 1956 as the successor of the Mysore state when political units were reorganized on the basis of language. Further territorial adjustments were made in 1973. Kannada, a Dravidian language documented from about 500 CE onwards, is the official language of Karnataka. Before India’s Independence in 1947, its territories partly belonged to the pr…

Kashmir

(21,148 words)

Author(s): Alexis Sanderson
Hemmed in by high mountains at the western end of the Himalayas, little more than 129 km in length from southeast to northwest, and no more than 40 in breadth at its widest point, Kashmir (Skt. Kaśmīra, Kaśmīrā, or Kāśmīra), in spite of this isolation and limited territory, proved outstandingly creative in the domain of religion during most of the centuries in which the dominant faiths of the inhabitants were Buddhism or Hinduism, the latter embracing in this region not only the tradition of Bra…

Kashmir Śaivism

(10,263 words)

Author(s): David P. Lawrence
The expression “Kashmir Śaivism” is now commonly used to refer to a group of nondualistic or monistic, tantric Śaiva (Śiva worshipping) traditions, which originated and flourished in Kashmir from the latter centuries of the 1st millennium CE through the early centuries of the 2nd millennium. These traditions must be distinguished from dualistic Śaiva Siddhānta traditions, which also flourished in medieval Kashmir. Though almost disappearing among the Brahmans of Kashmir, the nondualistic (like t…

Kerala

(7,613 words)

Author(s): George Pati
Kerala, the most southwestern state in peninsular India, located between the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, occupies a total area of 38,854 km2 and defines a coastline of 579 km. Its geographical position and abundance of natural plant products add to its natural beauty and serenity, and Malayalis, the inhabitants of Kerala, popularly refer to it as “God’s own country.” The natural coastal ports, which have facilitated international trade relations from ancient times, have contributed towards Kerala’s socioreligious diversity. Kerala’s socioreligious…