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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(5,666 words)

Author(s): Laurie Ann Cozad
Rituals devoted to the propitiation and supplication of snakes, nāgas, have been practiced on the South Asian subcontinent for more than two millennia and have spread far beyond India to such places as Tibet, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Moreover, these ritual practices remain relevant for people up to the present day. During nāgapañcamī, the annual festival devoted to the deified snakes in Banaras, for example, thousands of people crowd into the area around Naga Kuan (“Snake Pool”), which is situated in the northwestern sector. At this festival, wh…
Date: 2016-04-06


(5,163 words)

Author(s): Christian Lee Novetzke
Nāmdev (also, Nāmadeva, Nāmdeo, Bhagat Nāmdev, Nāma) was born around 1270 CE in the area of modern-day Maharashtra and possibly in the vicinity of Narsi Bamani in the Hingoli district. He is commonly thought to have died in 1350, though the place and time of his death vary according to the religious and cultural groups that remember him. He is recalled in Marathi sources to have been born within a relatively low caste of tailors (Śiṃpī) and in North Indian sources to have been born to a family o…

Narasiṃha Mehtā

(4,994 words)

Author(s): Neelima Shukla-Bhatt
Narasiṃha Mehtā (also known as Narasinha Mehtā; c. 1414–1481 CE) is the most popular devotional poet of Gujarat in western India. He is known for his exquisite pads (lyrics) of bhakti (devotion) in Gujarati, the language of Gujarat. He is also widely honored in India as an ardent devotee of Kṛṣṇa and a saint with deep sympathies for the marginalized of his society. Narasiṃha is a major figure among the Hindu poet-saints whose songs and sacred biographies in vernacular languages have circulate…

Narayana Guru

(4,530 words)

Author(s): George Pati
Sree Narayana Guru (1856?-1928), or Nanu (a contracted form of Narayana), a member of the Īzhava caste in Kerala, and a product of the colonial period in Kerala, was deeply influenced by the renaissance movement in India. As a result, he critiqued some of the customary practices within the caste-oriented society of early 20th-century Kerala and pioneered a socioreligious reform movement based on his manifesto, “One caste, one religion, one God for mankind.” People in the community recognized thi…


(4,219 words)

Author(s): Jürgen Neuß
The Narmadā is the fifth-largest river of India with a total length of 1,312 km. Flowing from east to west, it originates in Amarkantak in the Maikal hills on the eastern border of present Madhya Pradesh and joins the Arabian Sea near Bharuch in Gujarat. For almost its entire length, the river and the valley adjoining its banks are enclosed by massive rock formations, the Vindhya range in the north and the Satpura in the south, forming a natural border between North India and the Deccan. The Nar…
Date: 2016-04-06

Nāth Sampradāya

(13,745 words)

Author(s): James Mallinson
The Nāth Sampradāya today comprises an order of renunciate ascetics and a householder caste, both of which trace their lineages to a group of nine Nāth gurus headed by Ādinātha (“First Nāth”), who is identified with the god Śiva. Next in most lists of nine Nāths comes Matsyendranātha, followed by Gorakṣanātha (or Gorakhnāth), who is said to have founded the Nāth order of ascetics. The earliest references to the Nāth ascetic order as an organized entity date to the beginning of the 17th century, but its first historical gurus, Matsyendranātha and Gorakṣanātha, lived much earlier, probably in the 9th and 12th centuries, respectively, and during the intermediate pe…


(6,837 words)

Author(s): Chetan Bhatt
“Hindu nationalism” refers to social, cultural, and ideological tendencies as well as political movements and parties that want their particular conception of Hinduism to be a normative and defining characteristic of Indian nationalism. This can mean a replacement of post-Independence secular Indian nationalism (see secularism) by Hindu nationalism. While the term “Hindu nationalism” represents an older and broader set of political tendencies, in the post-Independence period, its meaning has become largely synonymous with that of an early 20th-century ideology of

Navagrahas (Sūrya, Candra/Soma, etc.)

(4,977 words)

Author(s): Martin Gansten
The term navagraha is usually translated as “the nine planets.” In Hindu astrology, the word graha (seizer) is used to refer, primarily, to any heavenly body apparently traversing the sky against the background of the fixed constellations, and, secondarily, to certain mathematically derived points. The sun and moon are therefore, in this sense of the word, grahas or planets, and will be referred to as such in this article. (This accords with older usage of the word planet, originally Greek for wandering [s…


(17,594 words)

Author(s): Layne Little
Nāyaṉār literally means “leader” (its plural form is Nāyaṉmār) and is a title or epithet for the 63 canonized saints of Tamil Śaivism, with its concomitant philosophical system, Śaiva Siddhānta. Though not formally canonized as saints until the middle part of 12th century, most of the Nāyaṉmār lived between the 6th and 11th centuries. Among these 63 saints, some were poets who composed devotional songs to Śiva (Tam. Civaṉ), and some were important family figures linked to these aforementione…


(5,168 words)

Author(s): Axel Michaels
Until 2006, Nepal declared itself to be the only constitutionally Hindu kingdom in the world; Hinduism was the official state religion, and many other forms of religion such as Buddhism were more or less declared to be part of Hinduism. Given such claims, the statistics provided by the Nepalese government are difficult to trust. According to the 2001 census, some 87% of people were officially Hindus, while only 5–7% were officially Buddhist. Most of the Buddhists that live in the eastern hills, …


(3,124 words)

Author(s): Albertina Nugteren
The number of Hindus in the Netherlands is estimated as ranging between 100,000 and 200,000. The major group comprises descendants from contract laborers from British India who had settled down in Surinam, which was a Dutch colony at that time. In the period 1873-1916, some 34,000 Hindostanis, mainly from the Bhojpuri region situated in the part of India that was referred to by the British as Hindo(o)stan, had migrated in order to work on the sugarcane, coffee, cotton, and cocoa plantations run …

New Age Spirituality

(5,528 words)

Author(s): Lola Williamson
Hinduism has played a critical role in the development of modern conceptions of both spirituality and the New Age. The meanings of the terms “spirituality,” “New Age,” and even “Hinduism” are not immediately evident and are continually evolving; therefore, some explanation is necessary.  The word “spirituality” arose within the Christian tradition, where it initially referred to the immaterial aspects of reality and was often tied to morality. Paul the Apostle, for example, spoke of the spiritual in opposition to the carnal. In the 20th …