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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(4,050 words)

Author(s): Pauwels, Heidi
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 desc…
Date: 2020-05-18


(4,371 words)

Author(s): Bartley, Christopher
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…
Date: 2020-05-18


(4,419 words)

Author(s): Juergensmeyer, Mark
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 worldwide. It was founded in Agra in 1861 by Swami Shiv Dayal Singh, who propounded a new form of spiritual practice, suratśabad yoga (the discipline of uniting sound and spirit), that could be adopted by modern businesspeople, housewives…
Date: 2020-05-18

Rādhāvallabha Sampradāya

(7,033 words)

Author(s): Beck, Guy L.
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 a famous pilgrimage town in Braj that is believed to be the geographic location of many childhood activities of the god Kṛṣṇa who was born, according to pious tradition, in roughly 3000 BCE in the nearby town of Mathura. Hit Harivaṃś is a key figure in the …
Date: 2020-05-18


(10,677 words)

Author(s): Martin, Nancy M.
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 satīs, Hanumān, and Bherujī draw pilgrims, worshippers, and those in need of healing, and devotees from across the subcontinent come…
Date: 2020-05-18


(10,081 words)

Author(s): Brockington, John
The story of Rāma is first told in the Sanskrit epic the Rāmāyaṇa, which is ascribed to Vālmīki. The Rāmāyaṇa is more than just one of the two great Sanskrit epics: it is a living tradition cherished at all levels of society throughout India and the whole of Southeast Asia, expressed in many languages and art forms – sophisticated Sanskrit literature, popular folk tales, sculpture and painting, drama, dance, puppets, and even a television soap opera. Its major figures have developed into figures of great religio…
Date: 2020-05-18


(5,301 words)

Author(s): Sen, Amiya Prosad
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 Ramakrishna, could draw crowds, few, if…
Date: 2020-05-18

Ramakrishna Math and Mission

(5,013 words)

Author(s): Beckerlegge, Gwilym
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 (1863-1902) in the name of his master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (c. 1836-1886). The membership of the Ramakrishna Math comprises saṃnyāsīs, men who have been initiated into the Math after training and are henceforth known by their monastic name coupled with the honorific title Swami ( svāmī, lord) and those in training (probationers and brahmacārīs). The Ramakrishna Math identifies itself with t…
Date: 2020-05-18

Ramana Maharshi

(5,309 words)

Author(s): Forsthoefel, Thomas
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, Śaṅka…
Date: 2020-05-18


(5,647 words)

Author(s): Caracchi, Pinuccia
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…
Date: 2020-05-18


(7,003 words)

Author(s): Lamb, Ramdas
The Rāmānanda Sampradāy is the largest contemporary order of sādhus, or Hindu renunciants, in India. Because of the prevalence of the order’s members in the northern and central portions of the country, most depictions of sādhus found in books, journals, and articles today are of vairāgīs, the general term of self-identity used by them. Rāmānandī vairāgīs regularly wander throughout villages, forests, and jungles in these regions and are thus the Hindu ascetics who most often interact with villagers today. Consequently, the presence of the Rāmānand…
Date: 2020-05-18


(10,371 words)

Author(s): Lipner, Julius
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…
Date: 2020-05-18


(12,167 words)

Author(s): Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman, Robert
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-Hors…
Date: 2020-05-18


(4,448 words)

Author(s): Brackett, Jeffrey M.
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 is surely not due to his name, which labels him as a “servant of [Lord] Rāma.” Rāmdās’ writings are composed in the vernacular Old Marathi. His two most well-known Marathi works are the Manāce Ślok (Verses Addressed to the Mind) and his magnum opus, Dāsbodh (often spelled Dāsabodha), both of w…
Date: 2020-05-18

Rammohun Roy

(5,505 words)

Author(s): Killingley, Dermot H.
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 influ…
Date: 2020-05-18

Rāmprasād Sen

(4,271 words)

Author(s): McDaniel, June
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 firs…
Date: 2020-05-18

Rām (Rāmnām)

(4,458 words)

Author(s): Lamb, Ramdas
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 th…
Date: 2020-05-18

Raṅgolī and Kōlam

(3,706 words)

Author(s): Nagarajan, Vijaya
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. What is striking is that much of the time, the kōlam is ephemeral; it is created in a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the ritual occasion, and after only a few hours, it di…
Date: 2020-05-18

Rasa Theory

(4,456 words)

Author(s): Schweig and David Buchta, Graham
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 intensity of blissful intimacy that occur within the divine realm of līlā within which the acts or play of god take place. The complexity of the word can be accounted for by viewing its meanings that have traversed a wide spectrum of applications. The word’s m…
Date: 2020-05-18


(7,773 words)

Author(s): White, David Gordon
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…
Date: 2020-05-18
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