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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(5,637 words)

Author(s): Cozad, Laurie Ann
Rituals devoted to the propitiation and supplication of snakes, nāgas, have been practiced on the South Asian subcontinent for more than two millennia and have spread far beyond India to such places as Tibet, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Moreover, these ritual practices remain relevant for people up to the present day. During nāgapañcamī, the annual festival devoted to the deified snakes in Banaras, for example, thousands of people crowd into the area around Naga Kuan (“Snake Pool”), which is situated in the northwestern sector. At this festival, wh…
Date: 2020-05-18


(5,134 words)

Author(s): Novetzke, Christian Lee
Nāmdev (also, Nāmadeva, Nāmdeo, Bhagat Nāmdev, Nāma) was born around 1270 CE in the area of modern-day Maharashtra and possibly in the vicinity of Narsi Bamani in the Hingoli district. He is commonly thought to have died in 1350, though the place and time of his death vary according to the religious and cultural groups that remember him. He is recalled in Marathi sources to have been born within a relatively low caste of tailors (Śiṃpī) and in North Indian sources to have been born to a family o…
Date: 2020-05-18

Narasiṃha Mehtā

(4,954 words)

Author(s): Shukla-Bhatt, Neelima
Narasiṃha Mehtā (also known as Narasinha Mehtā; c. 1414–1481 CE) is the most popular devotional poet of Gujarat in western India. He is known for his exquisite pads (lyrics) of bhakti (devotion) in Gujarati, the language of Gujarat. He is also widely honored in India as an ardent devotee of Kṛṣṇa and a saint with deep sympathies for the marginalized of his society.Narasiṃha is a major figure among the Hindu poet-saints whose songs and sacred biographies in vernacular languages have circulated for centuries through performance in all layers of society and h…
Date: 2020-05-18

Narayana Guru

(4,475 words)

Author(s): Pati, George
Sree Narayana Guru (1856?-1928), or Nanu (a contracted form of Narayana), a member of the Īzhava caste in Kerala, and a product of the colonial period in Kerala, was deeply influenced by the renaissance movement in India. As a result, he critiqued some of the customary practices within the caste-oriented society of early 20th-century Kerala and pioneered a socioreligious reform movement based on his manifesto, “One caste, one religion, one God for mankind.” People in the community recognized thi…
Date: 2020-05-18


(4,195 words)

Author(s): Neuß, Jürgen
The Narmadā is the fifth-largest river of India with a total length of 1,312 km. Flowing from east to west, it originates in Amarkantak in the Maikal hills on the eastern border of present Madhya Pradesh and joins the Arabian Sea near Bharuch in Gujarat. For almost its entire length, the river and the valley adjoining its banks are enclosed by massive rock formations, the Vindhya range in the north and the Satpura in the south, forming a natural border between North India and the Deccan. The Nar…
Date: 2020-05-18

Nāth Sampradāya

(13,579 words)

Author(s): Mallinson, James
The Nāth Sampradāya today comprises an order of renunciate ascetics and a householder caste, both of which trace their lineages to a group of nine Nāth gurus headed by Ādinātha (“First Nāth”), who is identified with the god Śiva. Next in most lists of nine Nāths comes Matsyendranātha, followed by Gorakṣanātha (or Gorakhnāth), who is said to have founded the Nāth order of ascetics. The earliest references to the Nāth ascetic order as an organized entity date to the beginning of the 17th century, but its first historical gurus, Matsyendranātha and Gorakṣanātha, lived much earlier, …
Date: 2020-05-18


(6,803 words)

Author(s): Bhatt, Chetan
“Hindu nationalism” refers to social, cultural, and ideological tendencies as well as political movements and parties that want their particular conception of Hinduism to be a normative and defining characteristic of Indian nationalism. This can mean a replacement of post-Independence secular Indian nationalism (see secularism) by Hindu nationalism. While the term “Hindu nationalism” represents an older and broader set of political tendencies, in the post-Independence period, its meaning has become largely synonymous with that of an early 20th-century ideology of hindutva, …
Date: 2020-05-18

Navagrahas (Sūrya, Candra/Soma, etc.)

(4,915 words)

Author(s): Gansten, Martin
The term navagraha is usually translated as “the nine planets.” In Hindu astrology, the word graha (seizer) is used to refer, primarily, to any heavenly body apparently traversing the sky against the background of the fixed constellations, and, secondarily, to certain mathematically derived points. The sun and moon are therefore, in this sense of the word, grahas or planets, and will be referred to as such in this article. (This accords with older usage of the word planet, originally Greek for wandering [star].) Each planet has numerous Sanskrit names and epithets; astro…
Date: 2020-05-18


(6,387 words)

Author(s): Hüsken, Ute
Each year, at the end of the rainy season, a festival that lasts nine nights and ten days is celebrated with great enthusiasm and public participation all over India and wherever South Asians live. This festival is known by many names. Navarātri (or navarātra) is one of them, a name that emphasizes the duration of the festival: it is traditionally celebrated for nine nights. Durgāpūjā and durgotsava are alternative popular names of this festival, emphasizing that this is a festival focusing on goddess Durgā, who is one major manifestation of the “Great Goddess…
Date: 2020-05-18


(17,455 words)

Author(s): Little, Layne
Nāyaṉār literally means “leader” (its plural form is Nāyaṉmār) and is a title or epithet for the 63 canonized saints of Tamil Śaivism, with its concomitant philosophical system, Śaiva Siddhānta. Though not formally canonized as saints until the middle part of 12th century, most of the Nāyaṉmār lived between the 6th and 11th centuries. Among these 63 saints, some were poets who composed devotional songs to Śiva (Tam. Civaṉ), and some were important family figures linked to these aforementione…
Date: 2020-05-18


(5,103 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
Until 2006, Nepal declared itself to be the only constitutionally Hindu kingdom in the world; Hinduism was the official state religion, and many other forms of religion such as Buddhism were more or less declared to be part of Hinduism. Given such claims, the statistics provided by the Nepalese government are difficult to trust. According to the 2001 census, some 87% of people were officially Hindus, while only 5–7% were officially Buddhist. Most of the Buddhists that live in the eastern hills, …
Date: 2020-05-18


(3,097 words)

Author(s): Nugteren, Albertina
The number of Hindus in the Netherlands is estimated as ranging between 100,000 and 200,000. The major group comprises descendants from contract laborers from British India who had settled down in Surinam, which was a Dutch colony at that time. In the period 1873-1916, some 34,000 Hindostanis, mainly from the Bhojpuri region situated in the part of India that was referred to by the British as Hindo(o)stan, had migrated in order to work on the sugarcane, coffee, cotton, and cocoa plantations run …
Date: 2020-05-18

New Age Spirituality

(5,483 words)

Author(s): Williamson, Lola
Hinduism has played a critical role in the development of modern conceptions of both spirituality and the New Age. The meanings of the terms “spirituality,” “New Age,” and even “Hinduism” are not immediately evident and are continually evolving; therefore, some explanation is necessary. The word “spirituality” arose within the Christian tradition, where it initially referred to the immaterial aspects of reality and was often tied to morality. Paul the Apostle, for example, spoke of the spiritual in opposition to the carnal. In the 20th …
Date: 2020-05-18