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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(6,796 words)

Author(s): Anna L. Dallapiccola
The word vāhana means “that which carries, that which pulls, vehicle, bearer.” This term is primarily used by historians of Indian art and religions to refer to the animals that regularly appear alongside the image of the deities “and/or to creatures invariably imagined in company of specific divinities during dhyana-meditations” (Smith, 1981, 12). According to H. Zimmer, this concept did not originate in India but was imported early on from Mesopotamia. The vāhana  "represents and embodies, on an inferior plane, the energies of the anthropomorphic god and serves as…


(10,878 words)

Author(s): Gérard Colas
The term vaikhānasa variously designates vedic seers ( ṛṣis), hermits, Brahman followers…


(14,523 words)

Author(s): Karin Preisendanz
The Sanskrit term vaiśeṣika, …

Vaiṣṇava Saṃhitās

(9,994 words)

Author(s): Gérard Colas
In this article the expression “Vaiṣṇava Saṃhitās” refers to the Vaiṣṇava manuals that lay down rules for private, domestic, and temple worship, guide theological and theogonic meditation, and so on. Though Vaiṣṇavism includes all the religious movements that advocate Viṣṇu or one of his manifestations as the main god, this article will be confined to the Saṃhitās of the Pāñcarātra and Vaikhānasa Vaiṣṇava traditions. Vaiṣṇava Saṃhitās are also called Adhikāra, Tantra, and so on. T…


(10,276 words)

Author(s): Richard Barz
For historians of Hindu thought, Vallabha (1478-1530) - or, with his title ācārya (teacher), Vallabhācārya - is well known as a philosopher and religious leader within the Vaiṣṇava tradition. As a philosopher he created the Śuddhādvaita (pure monism; see Vedānta) system of thought, and as a religious leader he established a sect or sampradāya, known from his name as the Vallabha Sampradāya. But for the members of the Vallabha Sampradāya, Vallabha is much more than just a formulator of doctrines or a guide to religious observance. For them he is a …

Vallabha Sampradāya/Puṣṭimārga

(7,124 words)

Author(s): Richard Barz
From the 14th to the 19th century, bhakti , or the devotional form of Hinduism, was predominant throughout most of India. One of the leaders of the bhakti movement in northern and weste…

Vārkarī Sampradāy

(6,492 words)

Author(s): Jon Keune and Christian Lee Novetzke
The Vārkarīs are a sampradāy


(3,843 words)

Author(s): Vasudha Narayanan
The term “ vāstuśāstra” as used today refers to the knowledge and practice of the choosing an appropriate piece of land; planning towns, gardens, and parks, as well as constructing religious, domestic, healing, royal, defense, business, and recreational structures; the placement of various built units in towns and in the natural landscape; orientation of various units in the natural environment to face the most auspicious direct…


(15 words)

Vedānta: Advaita Vedānta and the Schools of Vedānta Vedānta: Modern Vedānta

Vedānta: Advaita Vedānta and the Schools of Vedānta

(12,396 words)

Author(s): Christopher Bartley
Advaita means nondualism or monism. Monism is the doctrine that only one kind of thing really exists. According to Advaita, that basic reality is consciousness. Vedānta is the systematic exegesis of the Upaniṣads, those parts of the infallible and unauthored Vedas (Śruti) that according to orthodox vedic Brahmans are the sole means of knowing (


(5,558 words)

Author(s): Steven P. Hopkins
Historically speaking, we know little about Veṅkaṭanātha, or Veṅkaṭeśa (c. 1268-1369), the medieval South Indian saint-poet, philosopher, scholar, and sectarian teacher, later known by his epithets Vedāntadeśika (“Preceptor of the Vedānta”) and Kavitārkikasiṃha (“Lion among Poets and Philosophers”). There are hints here and there in material testimonies, such as the witness of a young Telugu prince, some signature verses, panegyrics, chronicles, …

Vedānta: Modern Vedānta

(7,332 words)

Author(s): Christopher Bartley
Describing his state of mind as a student at Madras Christian College during the first decade of the 20th century, S. Radhakrishnan (1888–1975), one of the most notable exponents of modern Vedānta, wrote, "I was strongly persuaded of the inferiority of the Hindu religion to which I attributed the political downfall of India ... I remember the cold sense of reality, the depressing feeling of defeat that crept over me as a causal relation between the anaemic Hindu religion and our political failure forced itself on my …

Vedas and Brāhmaṇas

(10,399 words)

Author(s): Theodore Proferes
The Vedas constitute a corpus of orally composed religious texts that were produced by the priestly class of the earliest Sanskrit-speaking inhabitants of the South Asian subcontinent between approximately 1600 and 600 BCE. For centuries they were preserved by generation after generation through rote memorization before eventually being written down. The Vedas contain a diverse collection of material, including direct invocations of and appeal to divinities, ritual formulas designed to accompany…

Vedic Gods (Indra, Agni, Rudra, Varuṇa, etc.)

(11,140 words)

Author(s): Michael Witzel
The vedic texts (c. 1500–500 BCE; Vedas) praise, mention, or invoke a host of deities, canonically 33 but in fact many more. These deities are regarded as persons but have no manufactured images; some are personified abstract notions. The gods are vivid personifications of the forces of nature or of social concepts, under one or more individual names. Each of them has a more or less individual mythology and is involved in certain rituals. The deities are known to us ever since their first appearance in the oldest Indian text, the Ṛgveda (c. 1500–1000 BCE), and from subsequent middle …

Vedic Period (1750 - 400 BCE)

(7,499 words)

Author(s): Theodore Proferes
“Vedic period” refers to the epoch during which the corpus of liturgies, ritual commentaries, and speculative texts known as the Vedas was composed and then defined as a religious canon. More loosely, the application of the expression may be extended back in time to include the formative phase of vedic culture on the grounds that no cultural product springs, fully formed, into existence, and the earliest extant vedic texts must have had precursors that are not preserved. The common stock of myths, legends, rituals ( yajña s), and even turns of phrase found in the earliest vedic h…


(3,392 words)

Author(s): Vasudha Narayanan
Veṅkaṭeśvara or Veṅkaṭeśa (“Lord of the Veṅkaṭa Hills”) is a local manifestation of Viṣṇu in iconic form, present in a large temple at Tirumala-Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Tirumala-Tirupati (“Sacred Hill–Sacred Place”) is the official name of the area known originally as Tiruvēṅkaṭam in Tamil literature from around the 2nd to 3rd centuries CE. The temple complex in Tirumala-Tirupati, located at an elevation of about 1,000 m, is said to be the richest religious institution in India. The d…