Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online

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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)

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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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(5,414 words)

Author(s): Sheridan, Daniel P.
Madhva (1238–1317 CE) was the founder of the theological, philosophical, and commentarial school of Dvaita Vedānta, also known as Tattvavāda (lit. teaching of reality). His teaching is a major decisive point of departure in the long-running vedantic debate between theism and monism. Of the three major forms of Vedānta, Madhva’s Dvaita Vedānta (dualistic Vedānta) was the third to be founded, after the Advaita Vedānta (nondualistic Vedānta) of Śaṅkara (650–700? CE) and the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta (q…
Date: 2020-05-18

Mādhva Sampradāya

(5,843 words)

Author(s): Sarma, Deepak
The Mādhva school (also known as the Dvaita school) posits that the relationship between brahman (divine priciple) and the ātman (individual self) is dvaita (dual). Madhvācārya (1238–1317 CE), the founder of the school, was born of Sivalli Brahman parents in the village of Pajaka Kshetra (Pājakakṣetra) near Udupi in the Tulu Nadu area of southern Karnataka. There is very little information about Madhvācārya’s life in medieval Tulu Nadu. Aside from relevant colophons found in Madhvācārya’s own works, his biographical data derives from the Sumadhvavijaya (The Triumph of Madhvāc…
Date: 2020-05-18

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

(18,453 words)

Author(s): Lamb, Ramdas
The states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh together make up the central region of India, hereafter referred to collectively as “central India” or simply “the region.” During much of the British rule, the region was politically united, and this continued after Indian independence. Then in November, 2000, the Indian government divided three of the larger existing states, and the predominantly Chhattisgarhi-speaking districts of eastern Madhya Pradesh were formed into a separate state. Because o…
Date: 2020-05-18

Madness (Unmāda)

(5,359 words)

Author(s): Weiss, Mitchell G.
The term unmāda designates a serious mental illness, and it is acknowledged or discussed in various genres of Sanskrit literature. The condition was recognized as a serious problem for the affected individual, the social network of relatives, friends and day-to-day contacts, and for society at large. The manner in which unmāda was understood in Indian culture during the vedic and classical periods is indicated by Sanskrit treatises that discuss unmāda in some detail or briefly mention it in the course of elaborating other issues. It is in the context of āyurveda, the Hindu medical sy…
Date: 2020-05-18


(17,424 words)

Author(s): Fitzgerald, James L.
The Mahābhārata is a widespread family of South Asian literary and performance traditions that has grown from roots that reach back across all of the history of India into vedic times, and past that into Indo-Iranian and Indo-European times. It thrives today in South and Southeast Asia and beyond: in various South and Southeast Asian traditions of theatre (such as terukkūttu and kathakaḷi); in an all-India television production of the 1990s that enjoys a powerful afterlife on DVDs, especially in South Asian diaspora communities throughout the world; in Pe…
Date: 2020-05-18


(9,463 words)

Author(s): Preisendanz, Karin
The Sanskrit term mahābhūta (lit. great being) mostly occurs in the plural and is generally used as a noun with the neuter gender. It is commonly translated as “great element,” sometimes also as “material element,” or just as “element,” and in the classical period of South Asian thought it comprises the following: 1.  earth ( pṛthivī); 2.  water ( āpaḥ); 3.  fire ( tejas); 4.  wind ( vāyu); and 5.  space/ether ( ākāśa). The Sanskrit terms given here are the most commonly used ones. As can be seen from the sample passages treated below, the terms for earth, water, a…
Date: 2020-05-18

Mahādevī (Devī, Śakti)

(7,269 words)

Author(s): Pintchman, Tracy
Hindu texts and traditions recognize the existence of a wide range of discrete, individual goddesses. But many also speak of “the Goddess” as a single, supreme deity who is the source and foundation of all goddesses, maintaining that the goddess is both singular and multiple simultaneously. The epithets Devī (“Goddess”) or Mahādevī (“Great Goddess”) are often used to refer to the universal, all-encompassing Goddess, designating her nature as the unifying divine presence underlying all female deities and a supreme, divine being worthy of reverence.Mahādevī’s singular-yet-multip…
Date: 2020-05-18


(4,914 words)

Author(s): Feldhaus, Anne
Mahānubhāvs belong to a bhakti movement that has its origins in 13th-century Maharashtra and still survives today. Other names of the group include Mahātmās, Paramārg, Jai Krishni Panth, and Bhaṭmārg. In the 16th century, Mahānubhāv teachings spread to the Punjab and beyond, with monasteries being established in Lahore, Peshawar, and even, it is rumored, Kabul. Today, many of the heads of Mahānubhāv monasteries in Maharashtra are Punjabis.The founder of the Mahānubhāvs was Cakradhar. Among Mahānubhāvs, Cakradhar is seen not only as their founder, but also as …
Date: 2020-05-18


(10,122 words)

Author(s): Rigopoulos, Antonio
Maharashtra (“Great Nation”), one of the 28 states of India, was created on May 1, 1960, on the basis of the area’s linguistic identity. It identifies the Marathi-speaking area, an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the western Deccan peninsula, which is almost a thousand years old. Marathi appears to be the oldest among Indo-Aryan regional literatures and is nowadays spoken by more than 70 million people (62,481,681 as of the 2001 census). Maharashtra, with Mumbai as its capital, is the second most …
Date: 2020-05-18

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation

(4,784 words)

Author(s): Humes, Cynthia
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Jan 12, 1917 or 1918 – Feb 5, 2008) was the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement. He taught the Hindu nondualist philosophy in which the one, absolute being ( brahman) is the source of all life, all intelligence, and all creativity. This brahman may be discovered by any and all through a variety of religious and spiritual programs, but in Maharishi’s view, the most efficient and advanced practice for discovering truth in this age was through the use of the method he called Transcendental Meditation (TM) a…
Date: 2020-05-18

Mahima Dharma and Bhima Bhoi

(5,052 words)

Author(s): Beltz & Bettina Bäumer, Johannes
Mahima Dharma ( Dharma of Glory) is one of the most important living religious traditions of Orissa. It originated in the 19th century as an indigenous reform movement, emerging out of the many devotional and mystical traditions of India. The earliest authentic testimonies of this movement are the compositions in Oriya of Bhima Bhoi, a saint and poet, who popularized Mahima Dharma, particularly in western Orissa. He lived during the second half of the 19th century and became a disciple of Mahima Gosain (or Mahima Svami), the actual founder and first teacher ( guru) of Mahima Dharma. It…
Date: 2020-05-18


(2,894 words)

Author(s): Sinha, Vineeta
Mālās , translated roughly as prayer beads” and “garlands,” are not unique to Hindus but, in different modes, are integral to the religious lives of Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Catholics as well. In all these religious traditions, the concept of prayer beads and rosaries assists practitioners with meditation and/or chanting practices. According to Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1899, 813), the Sanskrit word mālā may be translated variously depending on the textual sources invoked: “a wreath, garland or crown” (Gṛhyasūtras , Śrautasūtras, Mahābhārata), “a string of beads…
Date: 2020-05-18


(3,742 words)

Author(s): Fuller Collins, Elisabeth
Archaeologists have found evidence of trade between India and Southeast Asia as early as the 4th–2nd centuries BCE. In India Southeast Asia came to be known as Suvarṇabhūmi (“Land of Gold”), but merchants also sought tin, needed to make bronze, spices, aromatic woods, and rattans there. In the early centuries of the Common Era, trade expanded significantly as Indian and Malay merchant-seafarers stopped in ports on the South China Sea on trade routes connecting China and India, where the Pallava…
Date: 2020-05-18

Maṇḍalas and Yantras

(6,589 words)

Author(s): Bühnemann, Gudrun
Because of the popular interest in the topic, there has been considerable confusion about the meaning and significance of maṇḍalas. Some authors have indiscriminately dealt with Buddhist and Hindu maṇḍalas and arrived at excessively generalized conclusions. In secondary sources, maṇḍalas have been described too uniformly as aids to meditation. While they certainly function as meditational devices in some traditions (as e.g. the śrīcakra frequently does), this use of maṇḍalas is but one aspect of a larger picture.The terms maṇḍala and yantra are frequently used as …
Date: 2020-05-18


(9,895 words)

Author(s): Timalsina, Sthaneshwar
Mantras are at the center of religious experience in India: they are found in all modes of ritual and practices, and they accompany all life events from birth to death. While mantras ground meditative practice and the many paths to liberation, they are also applied for magical power, alchemical transformation and medicinal purposes, and for prosperity in various phases of life. Found in the earliest vedic literature, mantras transcend Hindu culture and are also found in Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh traditions. Even within Hindu culture, mantras defy a single interpretation. The unde…
Date: 2020-05-18

Maratha (1674-1818)

(5,081 words)

Author(s): Kotani, H.
The term “Maratha” has a wide range of meaning. In its widest sense, it denotes the people of Maharashtra in general who speak the Marathi language, but, in its narrowest sense, it denotes the warrior class of Maharashtra in the medieval age, popularly known as 96 families of the Maratha. In this article, the term “Maratha” will be used in its widest sense.Maratha Kingdom: Mystery of Śivājī’s Hindavī SvarājyaIn the first half of the 14th century, Maharashtra began to be ruled by Muslim powers, beginning with the Tughluqs and Bahmanis (1347-1527). In 1490, the Ni…
Date: 2020-05-18

Martial Arts (Dhanurveda)

(5,568 words)

Author(s): Zarrilli, Phillip
For anyone reading India’s two great epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, it is soon apparent that martial arts and combat have been central to the history and cultures of South Asia since antiquity. In the well-known Bhagavadgītā section of the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa elaborates a view of duty and action intended to convince Arjuna that, as a member of the warrior caste (Kṣatriya), he must overcome all his doubts and take up arms – even against his relatives. Both epics are filled with scenes describing how the princely heroes obt…
Date: 2020-05-18

Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust and Embracing The World

(5,532 words)

Author(s): Lucian, Amanda J.
Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust (MAMT) is one of the initial not-for-profit organizations founded by Mata Amritanandamayi, who is officially known as Amma and colloquially known as Ammachi, both meaning mother. Amma is a contemporary transnational guru originally from the South Indian state of Kerala, who is perceived to be both a guru and goddess incarnation by her devotees. In 1981, Amma formally established the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust and Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM). Both are not-for-profit organizations with their headquart…
Date: 2020-05-18

Mathematics and Geometry

(6,231 words)

Author(s): Plofker, Kim
The title phrase “mathematics and geometry” requires some explanation. What is the purpose of juxtaposing these two topics as separate subjects when every schoolchild knows that geometry is defined as a subtopic of mathematics? This familiar classification was recognized in classical Sanskrit scholarship as well, in which the discipline of gaṇita (“enumerating, reckoning, calculation, mathematics”) was routinely understood to include the subject of kṣetragaṇita (“field-mathematics” or “figure-mathematics,” geometry). The reason for separating the two lie…
Date: 2020-05-18


(3,230 words)

Author(s): Younger, Paul
Mauritius is a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It was uninhabited until the European colonial powers began sailing in that direction, but its hospitable climate and fertile volcanic soils soon attracted settlers, and it now has one of the most complex cultural mixes found anywhere on the planet. With about 70% of the population tracing their ancestry to India, it is not surprising that the majority of the population describe themselves as “Hindu,” but the cultural environment in which this identity developed was an exceedingly complex one. The Dutch brought in African …
Date: 2020-05-18
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