Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online

Get 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 438 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 has ancient historical roots with many flourishing traditions today. Including all essays from the heralded printed edition, Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism is now to be regularly updated with new articles and available in a fully searchable, dynamic digital format.

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Politics and Economy

(12,271 words)

Author(s): Rothermund, Dietmar
The Indus Civilization and Proto-Hinduism Hinduism is a term introduced by outside observers. It usually refers to religious phenomena, but its more general meaning would include all aspects of Indian civilization, including politics and economics. Indian civilization goes back to the prehistoric Indus civilization, and some scholars have noticed traces of Proto-Hinduism in the images produced by artists of that civilization. A particularly striking image is that of the Proto-Śiva surrounded by anim…
Date: 2019-01-30

Politics and Media

(6,573 words)

Author(s): Rajagopal, Arvind
In explaining how religious riots had taken place in Calcutta in 1924, the sociologist R.D. Lambert once wrote, “To put it briefly, in Calcutta, rumor has a printing press” (Lambert, 1951, 98). Communication set up through print and literacy did not always create a virtuous circle of increasing rationality and enlightened tolerance; a downward spiral of violence could result instead. We can extend the observation: anyone familiar with the recent history of religio-political violence in India wou…
Date: 2019-01-30


(3,941 words)

Author(s): Sant'Ana, Helena
Asian merchants have been frequenting East Africa since the 10th century, motivated by exploiting gold mines and trading with the African coastal population, reaching its peak around the 14th century. In the 15th century, when Vasco da Gama first arrived in Mozambique, he discovered an extensive commercial business network connected with India, which left the Portuguese Crown facing a serious problem: the inability of Portuguese merchants to compete directly with the Indians in that region. It i…
Date: 2019-01-30


(7,830 words)

Author(s): Basu, Helene
Possession is a polyvalent term that in South Asian contexts may refer to multiple dimensions of religious and supernatural experiences. The semantic and conceptual boundaries of the notion of possession are not clearly drawn. The term overlaps with notions of health, illness, misfortune, failure, luck, intense devotion, emotions, and more; it is a way in which people engage with, navigate, negotiate, and survive in this world. Possession as a theme has accompanied the history of Indian religion…
Date: 2019-01-30


(3,198 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Knut A.
Prakṛti is a Sanskrit noun made from the root kṛ-, the prefix pra-, and the suffix - ktin showing the feminine gender. The root kṛ- means to “make,” “cause,” “create,” or “produce.” The prefix pra- has the sense of forward movement and indicates a creative force.The word prakṛti has many meanings, and the word is used in a variety of contexts in Sanskrit texts as well as modern Indian languages. The adjective derived from prakṛti, prākṛta, means “original,” “normal,” or “derived from the original form” ( prakṛti) and is used already in the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa ( etarhi prākṛt…
Date: 2019-01-30


(5,211 words)

Author(s): Pinkney, Andrea Marion
In nearly all regional Hindu religious contexts, prasāda commonly refers to materials that have been “tasted” by the gods and returned to devotees for consumption. First, these items are typically vegetarian comestibles well suited for the widest intercaste distribution, such as sweets, fruit, and savory rice or lentil dishes. Second, prasāda is a distinctively Indic expression of a relationally defined bond that conveys gratitude and mutuality. The formula involves the identification of one entity as prasāda (e.g. knowledge, prosperity, or children), and then the desi…
Date: 2019-01-30

Preface of Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism

(512 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Knut A.
This is the first installation of the online edition of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. The goal of the five-volume Encyclopedia is to present the latest scholarship on all aspects of the Hindu religious traditions. The Encyclopedia makes available in-depth critical scholarship, and the depth and breadth of information provided in this work are unmatched by any reference work on Hinduism. I hope it will appeal to a wide range of readers. At the foundation of the Encyclopedia is a fascination with a phenomenon that we as humans share, and in the examination of this phe…


(7,235 words)

Author(s): Tripathi, Gayacharan
The Sanskrit word for “priests” as a social group is brāhmaṇa (origin of the English “Brahman” or “Brahmin”) is derived from the Sanskrit word brahman, which originally means mystical or spiritual knowledge as well as a hymn or a poem containing such knowledge; hence, it was often used to refer to the Vedas, the ancient texts containing the sacred knowledge of the ritual hymns and invocations. In the Upaniṣads, the term brahman is used in the sense of the abstract supreme power that is the basic source of this material and spiritual world. A Brāhmaṇa is therefor…
Date: 2019-01-30

Primary Sources

(12,982 words)

Abhidānacintāmaṇi Hemacandra’s Abhidānacintāmaṇi: Ein systematisch angeordnetes sysnonymisches Lexikon, trans. O. Böthlingk & C. Rieu, St. Petersburg, 1847. Abhidharmakośa L’Abhidharmakośa de Vasubandhu: Traduction et annotations, trans. L. de la Vallée Poussin, Brussels, 1923–1931, repr. 1971. Abhidharmakośa of Vasubandhu, Chapter I: Dhātunirdeśa, ed. Y. Ejima, Tokyo, 1989. Abhidharmakośa(bhāṣya) Abhidharmakośa(bhāṣya) of Vasubandhu, ed. P. Pradhan, Patna, 21975. Abhidharmakośavyākhyā Abhidharmakośavyākhyā of Yaśomitra, vol. I, ed. D. Shastri, Va…
Date: 2019-02-19

Primary Sources Abbreviations

(975 words)

AbhiBhā. Abhinavabhārati AbhiD. Abhinayadarpaṇa AbhK. Abhidharmakośa AbhKBh. Abhidharmakośabhāṣya AbhKVyā. Abhidharmakośavyākhyā ĀdHṛ. Ādityahṛdaya ĀG. Ādigranth AgMa. Agastimata AgP. Agnipurāṇa AhirSa. Ahirbudhnyasaṃhitā AitĀ. Aitereyāraṇyaka AitBr. Aitareyabrāhmaṇa AjiĀg. Ajitāgama ĀK. Ānandakanda AK. Amarakośa AmBU. Amṛtabindopaniṣad AmPrab. Amaraughaprabodha AN. Aṅguttaranikāya AṇuBh. Aṇubhāṣya Anuvyā. Anuvyākhyāna ĀpDhS. Āpastambadharmasūtra ĀpGS. Āpastambagṛhyasūtra ĀpŚS. Āpastambaśrautasūtra ĀpSulS. Āpastambaśulbasūtra Āry.…
Date: 2019-01-30


(5,818 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Knut A.
Processions consist of groups of people moving together, either moving on foot or being transported by vehicle, along a route from one physical place to another or in a circle returning to the place of departure. The procession displays the participants and the symbols or representations of that which the procession celebrates to an audience by moving together in public space. Processions are public rituals and have both participants and audiences. In Hindu traditions, religious processions are …
Date: 2019-01-30

Pūja and Darśana

(10,641 words)

Author(s): Valpey, Kenneth
There is a complex constellation of ritual and devotional practices and experiences indicated by the terms pūjā and darśana. Arguably this constellation constitutes one of the most centrally characteristic visible features of Hindu traditions as a whole. This is not to say that substantial components of this constellation are not found within other religious traditions more or less distinct from those labeled “Hindu” (Babb, 1996); indeed, much of what will be discussed here overlaps with, parallels, or resembles …
Date: 2019-01-30


(11,213 words)

Author(s): Nesbitt, Eleanor
In this article, Punjab denotes the “Punjab region” or “greater Punjab,” the land of five ( pañj) waters (Pers. āb), namely, the Indus’ tributaries. From west to east, these are the rivers 1.  Jhelum (Hind. Jhelam, Skt. Vitastā); 2.  Chenab (Punj./Hind. Canāb, Skt. Candrabhāga); 3.  Ravi (Punj./Hind. Rāvī, Skt. Iravatī); 4.  Beas (Punj. Biās, Hind. Byās, Skt. Vipāśā); and 5.  Sutlej (Punj. Satluj, Hind. Satlaj, Skt. Śatadru). This “greater Punjab,” stretching from the Indus in the west to the Yamunā River in the east, approximates more closely to the province …
Date: 2019-01-30


(19,181 words)

Author(s): Bailey, Greg
The Purāṇas are a body of Hindu religious texts that have been transmitted in manuscript and printed form, behind which there exists a much larger, vibrant and continuing oral tradition. Constituting a distinct literary genre – with some hundreds, if not thousands, of texts – dating back to the early centuries of the Common Era and continuing until the present day, the Purāṇas defy easy description. Their apparent generic looseness, bulk, repetition, stylistic and verbal sloppiness has appalle…
Date: 2019-01-30

Purity and Impurity

(10,699 words)

Author(s): Malinar, Angelika
Ideas and practices of purity and purification and definitions of states of defilement and impurity are elements of many religions, and Hinduism is no exception. The complexity of the themes and concepts connected to (im)purity in Hindu traditions is indicated in the variety of words used in order to address the different aspects of “pure” and “impure.” A large semantic spectrum is covered by the different Sanskrit terms used for purity and impurity, purification, pollution, and defilement, so t…
Date: 2019-01-30


(4,020 words)

Author(s): Malinar, Angelika
The word puruṣa has a variety of meanings ranging from man (male), human being, person, and embodied immortal self to presiding deity, creator, and highest, transcendent being. In contrast to other terms used for “immortal self” (such as ātman) or cause of creation (such as brahman), the term puruṣa is less abstract and connected to notions of corporeality and personhood as well as of form ( rūpa) and measurement. The term is used already in vedic and upanishadic literature and gained particular importance in theological contexts of Vaiṣṇava traditions as …
Date: 2019-01-30