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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(11,806 words)

Author(s): Angelika Malinar
The Bhagavadgītā is perhaps one of the most renowned and often-quoted texts in Hindu religious traditions. It is one of the oldest comprehensive presentations of early Hindu theology that deeply influenced subsequent religious traditions and has gained, in some of them, the status of an authoritative text. The text sets a paradigm in that it mediates the otherworldly concerns of ascetic teachings, advocating “final liberation” with a call to accept the performance of social and ritual duties as a…


(11,752 words)

Author(s): Edelmann, Jonathan
When Vopadeva, a respected Sanskrit grammarian, reflected on the Bhāgavatapurāṇa in the late 13th century, he famously remarked as follows in his Harilīlāmṛta (1.9): The Vedas instruct like a lord, the purāṇa like a friend, and the kāvya [the corpus of poetic theory] like a lover. The Bhāgavatapurāṇa, it is said, instructs like all three. For Vopadeva, the Bhāgavatapurāṇa subsumes and synthesizes three major categories of Indian literature. He did not mention Vedānta, another important tradition, as one might have suspected, even though he and his teacher, Hemādri…
Date: 2018-11-19


(4,365 words)

Author(s): Gérard Colas
Multiple Uses of the Term  The term bhāgavata means “related to Bhagavant” and “devotee of Bhagavant” when applied to persons. Bhagavant could designate divine beings such as the god Viṣṇu, his aspects (such as Nārāyaṇa and Kṛṣṇa), Śiva, or the Buddha, and distinguished persons such as Pāṇini (Bhandarkar, 1965, 30, 108–109; Kielhorn, 1908). Bhāgavata has also been used to refer to devotees of Śiva (Bhandarkar, 1965, 115–116). This article is limited to the meaning of Bhāgavatas as devotees of Viṣṇu and his aspects, and here “Bhāgavatism” …

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh/Osho

(6,579 words)

Author(s): Harry Aveling
Osho (1931–1990) was one of the most intellectually playful but also organizationally unfortunate of the New Age gurus. At various times, he called himself Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and, in his last days, simply Osho (this Japanese title is now applied anachronistically to all phases of his life), but he has also been derided by many other titles, including “the rich man’s guru,” “the sex guru,” and “the Rolls Royce guru.” This article presents a brief introduction to the man, his teachings, and the Neo-Sannyasa movement that formed around him.  The Early Years  Chandra M…


(3,193 words)

Author(s): David Gordon White
Bhairava (“Horrific”) is one of the most widely worshipped deities of all of Asia. He has been venerated by Hindus in South Asia since the 5th century CE and was also worshipped by Hindus in Southeast Asia in the medieval period. Under the name of Vajrabhairava, he has been an important tantric Buddhist deity in Tibet and Mongolia since the 14th century, and he figures in medieval Buddhist tantric manuscripts from China and Japan. He has also been venerated by Jains since at least the 11th centu…


(7,848 words)

Author(s): Vasudha Narayanan
Bhakti, or devotion, has probably been the most visible, palpable part of the Hindu traditions in the last two millennia. Men and women worship with devotion in homes, temples, and public spaces, and they sing and dance their devotion to deities, teachers, and also other devotees. Although some Hindu traditions privilege meditation, the way of knowledge, or the way of action as principal ways to achieve liberation, they still pay considerable attention to devotional songs ( kīrtan and bhajan ) and worship ( pūjā ). Bhakti has been the inspiration for expressive and visual arts, …

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati

(5,830 words)

Author(s): Ferdinando Sardella
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati (1874–1937), also known as Bimal Prasad Datta, was a Vaiṣṇava guru of the school of Caitanya (1486–1533). He was a Kāyastha from Bengal who later in 1918 became a saṃnyās ī . In the same year he inaugurated in Calcutta the first center of an institution that became popularly known as the Gaudiya Math (Sardella, 2013, 98). During the 19th and early 20th centuries, monism or nondualism ( advaita) grew in influence within Hindu thought both in Bengal and in India. In contrast, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati strived to establish a modern movement …

Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj

(5,275 words)

Author(s): Knut A. Jacobsen
Swami Pranavananda (1896–1941; also Pranabananda;  Jagadguru Ācārya Śrīmat Svāmī Praṇavānandajī Mahārāj) was a significant religious leader in Bengal in the first half of the 20th century, and the organization that he founded and led, the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, has been an important Hindu religious organization especially among the Bengali-speaking Hindus, with more than one hundred āśrams in India and South Asia, and around 450 local religious centers called Milan Mandir. The Bharat Sevashram Sangha also has centers and temples in Trinidad, Guyan…


(5,202 words)

Author(s): Greg Bailey
Of the two famous figures named Bhartṛhari in early historical India, more is known about the religious tendencies of the grammarian, author of the Vākyapadīya (see also language and linguistics), than of the poet. This entry is about the poet and describes and analyzes what can be gleaned about (his) religion from the collection called Śatakatraya (Triad of the Hundreds), made up of the Nītiśataka (Hundred on Conduct), the Śṛṅgāraśataka (Hundred on Sensuality), and the Vairāgyaśataka (Hundred on Disenchantmant). Bhartṛhari has been translated, though not studied, more…


(5,660 words)

Author(s): Archana Venkatesan
The History of Reverence for the Earth Reverence for the earth as Pṛthvī or Bhūdevī (variations of the name include Bhū Devī and Bhūmi/Bhūmā) may be traced to the earliest textual literature of Hinduism. Whether in a textual source or in lay practice, the earth is perceived in a variety of ways, ranging from the actual material world to an anthropomorphic female deity, wedded to Viṣṇu. In the Vedas, her nature is delineated along three major axes. First (and perhaps most obviously), she is the mater…


(9,669 words)

Author(s): Carolyn Brown Heinz
Bihar’s long and complex history is implied in its very name, which is derived from Sanskrit vihāra, or monastery, a name endowed by 13th-century Muslim invaders, who were impressed by all the Buddhist monasteries they came upon. Today the Buddhist heritage survives largely in archaeological ruins and a few important pilgrimage sites patronized by devotees from beyond India. Approximately 16.5% of the population are Muslim, while Bihar’s nearly 83 million people are predominantly Hindu (82%), as defined by the 2001 census of India. Until the year 2000, Bihar consisted of the G…


(5,062 words)

Author(s): Dagmar Wujastyk
The field of bioethics addresses areas of human inquiry that are concerned with the ethical evaluation of human involvement in medicine and biotechnology. One of the aims of the discipline is to formulate a normative ethics of responsible interaction with other humans, living beings in general, and the environment. The key areas of bioethical inquiry have developed over time in accordance with developments in medical science and biotechnology, and different countries and cultures have differing …