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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(4,092 words)

Author(s): Heidi Pauwels
Rādhā (other names/epithets: Śrī Rādhikā Rāṇī, Śyāmā, Lārilī, Nāgarī, Svāminī, Kiśorī, Kuñjabihārinī, Vṛṣabhānunandinī, Vṛṇḍāvaneśvarī) is Kṛṣṇa’s consort and foremost of the gopīs or milkmaids of Braj, the area between Delhi and Agra, where Kṛṣṇa is said to have grown up incognito. Rādhā is considered to be Kṛṣṇa’s teenage and/or childhood sweetheart ( kiśorī), whose innocent love moved him to the highest passion. Rādhā herself is passion incarnate, and the depth of her feelings has inspired numerous artists to create sensual descriptions and depictions of the first awakening of her love ( pūrvarāga), her longing in separation (


(4,398 words)

Author(s): Christopher Bartley
Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888–1975) was born in the small town of Tirutani in what was then the Madras Presidency, and he was educated at Christian schools. From 1904 to 1908, he studied at Madras Christian College, which imparted to him both the sense of tolerance and the interest in achieving a synoptic view of reality and of man’s place in it that would inform his understanding of philosophy as an attempt to understand reality as a whole. As his MA dissertation, he submitted a work entit…


(4,431 words)

Author(s): Mark Juergensmeyer
The Radhasoami Satsang is a new religious movement in the Hindu tradition that has become a global phenomenon, reflecting the values and spiritual needs of a modern transnational community. It has spread from northern India to the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, and elsewhere, garnering over a million and a half adherents worl…

Rādhāvallabha Sampradāya

(7,105 words)

Author(s): Guy L. Beck
The Rādhāvallabha Sampradāya is a Vaiṣṇava lineage and community existing for nearly five hundred years in the Braj area of northern India. It was founded in 1535 CE by Hit Harivaṃś (1502–1552 CE) in Vrindavan. Vrindavan (Vṛndāvana) is…


(10,757 words)

Author(s): Nancy M. Martin
The deserts of Rajasthan have proved fertile soil for the birth and flowering of a wealth of religious traditions, as Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jain traditions interweave, while devotion to Śiva, Viṣṇu and his avatārs, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma, as well as multiple goddesses stand side by side with dedication to the lord beyond form. Temples and traditions surrounding local hero deities like Pābūjī, deified saints like Rāmdev, divine


(10,165 words)

Author(s): John Brockington


(5,347 words)

Author(s): Amiya Prosad Sen
Sri Ramakrishna is commonly seen as one of the renowned Hindu mystics of modern India. Some of his followers conferred on him the yogic epithet Paramahamsa (“Exalted Swan”), indicating discernment. However, in his day, the key to his popularity would seem to rest not so much on his penchant for mystical experiences as on his personal charisma, the demonstrated intensity of his religious passion, and the renewed emphasis on an engagement with god and religion. While the state of ecstatic communion ( samādhi), occurring ever so often with Ramakris…

Ramakrishna Math and Mission

(5,069 words)

Author(s): Gwilym Beckerlegge
The Ramakrishna Math and Mission (often referred to simply as the Ramakrishna movement) are interdependent wings of an organization founded in the late 1890s by Swami Vivekananda …

Ramana Maharshi

(5,345 words)

Author(s): Thomas Forsthoefel
Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was viewed as a “mystic of the first order” by the anthropologist- saṃnyāsī Agehananda Bharati (1976, 29) and considered by the Indologist K. Klostermaier (1989, 396) to be “among the greatest and deepest spiritual influences coming from India in recent years."  To many scholars, Ramana represents the purest form of nondual ( advaita) philosophy, long a dynamic current in Indian philosophy extending as far back as the Upaniṣads, Gauḍapāda, an early Vedāntin, and the great 8th-century systematizer of Advaita Vedānta, Śaṅkara. Indeed, B. Griffiths, a considerable spi…


(5,708 words)

Author(s): Pinuccia Caracchi
Rāmānanda (15th cent.) is not only one of the most important but also one of the most mysterious figures of medieval Hinduism. His personality and teachings have been interpreted by scholars in sometimes various, and contradictory, ways (Caracchi, 1999, 135-154), presenting him as a great social reformer as well as a mighty protector of Hindu dharma . He is also reputed to have played an important role in the development and diffusion of Hindi, although few Hindi songs go under his name, and their attribution is doubtful. He owes his fame especially to his reputed role of guru to Kabīr, Rai…


(7,064 words)

Author(s): Ramdas Lamb
The Rāmānanda Sampradāy is …


(10,428 words)

Author(s): Julius Lipner
Rāmānuja or Rāmānujācārya is one of the most important thinkers of traditional Vedānta – the perspective of theology based mainly on an exegesis of the early Upaniṣads, the Brahmasūtra (see Sūtras), and the Bhagavadgītā (Lipner, 2012). Within this tradition, he is generally regarded as the first to have articulated a systematic defense for devotion to a personal, provident, and loving god of Vaiṣṇava provenance. His traditional dates are given as 1017–1137 CE. This can hardly be historically accurate; perhaps these dates signi…


(12,282 words)

Author(s): Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman
The term rāmāyaṇa, literally “the journey or career of Rāma,” has two different, but related, senses in the cultural history of South and Southeast Asia. In the first of these, the term refers to one or another of the myriad folk, epic, dramatic, and literary versions of the tale of the ancient Indian prince Rāma. Thus one may hear such expressions as the “ Tulsīdās Rāmāyaṇa,” the “ Kampaṉ Rāmāyaṇa,” and the “ Thai Rāmāyaṇa” to refer, respectively, to the Rāmcaritmānas, the Irāmāvatāram, and the Rāmakien (Raghavan, 1980; Krishnamoorthy, 1991; Richman, 1991, 2001; Thiel-Horstmann, 1991; Bose, 2000, 2004; Smith, 1988). These and countless others are highly influential and religious texts in the literary canons of virtually every one of the major languages of South and Southeast Asia. In the second sense, the term is often used to refer collectively to the tale and, b…


(4,476 words)

Author(s): Jeffrey M. Brackett
Samartha Rāmdās Svāmī (1608-1681), a Brahman saint ( sant: good or exemplary person), hails from the Marathi-speaking area today demarcated as Maharashtra state and is listed among the five most important Marathi poet-saints (a common gloss for Sants). Yet his inclusion among famous Marathi Sants …

Rammohun Roy

(5,551 words)

Author(s): Dermot H. Killingley
Rammohun Roy was the first inter­nationally known Indian intellectual of modern times. His was the first attempt to present to Hindus and non-Hindus a construction of the true Hinduism, contrasted with what he found false in Hindu belief and practice. Seeing a causal link between belief and morality, he upheld monotheism, rejected images and myths, and promoted social reform, attacking caste distinctions and the oppression of women. He founded the Brahmo Sabha or Brahmo Samaj, which became infl…

Rāmprasād Sen

(4,315 words)

Author(s): June McDaniel
The 18th-century poet Rāmprasād Sen is most well known for his songs to the goddess Kālī. His poems and songs mixed imagery from kuṇḍalinīyoga (see yoga ) and esoteric tantric meditation with devotion to the goddess, and he created a new style of goddess worship in India, which is often called Śākta bhakti . He also mixed classical melodies, Bāul personalism, Vaiṣṇava kīrtan , and local folk styles of music together in his songs, which came to be called Rāmprasādī Saṅgīt. He has been called the main originator and founder of the new Śākta movement, the first Śākta poet to sing of the goddess Kālī as a loving mother or a little girl. His poetry is s…

Rām (Rāmnām)

(4,502 words)

Author(s): Ramdas Lamb
The name Rām is arguably the most common name of the divine in Hinduism today. It is regularly used as a form of greeting, in the naming of children, in recitation and chanting, and for adorning the walls of homes and temples. From birth until and including the time of death, the name has significance and is a part of nearly every ritual and rite of passage undertaken or experienced. When dead bodies are carried to the funeral pyre for cremation, rāmnām satya hai (the name of Rām is truth) is chanted by the mourners. Far more than just a name, Rām has become a sacred symbol that points to and expresses a multivalent conceptualization of the divine. In presenting the many facets of the name, this article will begin with a brief look at religious symbolism and language, focusing on some of the ways in which symbols are understood and expressed in the Hindu tradition. It will then turn to the role of sacred names and sounds in early India. Finally, it will discuss how the name Rām and its recitation, known as

Raṅgolī and Kōlam

(3,742 words)

Author(s): Vijaya Nagarajan
The kōlam is a daily women’s ritual art form created before dawn (and sometimes before dusk) by millions of Tamil Hindu women throughout Tamil Nadu in southeastern India. Sometimes referred to in English as household marks or threshold designs, the word kōlam in the Tamil language means form and beauty. The kōlam is drawn on thresholds, floors, and walls in houses, temples, and businesses. Wh…

Rasa Theory

(4,532 words)

Author(s): Graham Schweig and David Buchta
The word rasa within the Hindu context, specifically for certain devotional bhakti traditions, has come to refer to the ultimate experience of a transcendent and perfect love. This love engages pure emotions in any one of several eternal relationships with divinity, of greater or lesser levels of i…


(7,815 words)

Author(s): David Gordon White
The most commonly used Sanskrit term for alchemy is rasāyana (the way of the rasas). However, whereas the canonical works of Hindu alchemy date from after the 9th century CE, the term rasāyana is attested in earlier nonalchemical sources. First among these are the foundational works of āyurveda , classical Indian medicine, which date from the first centuries of the Common Era. In these, rasāyana is a rejuvenation therapy that – combining clinical practice with the internal use of mainly plant elixirs – lengthens life and improves the quality of life in old a…
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