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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(10,286 words)

Author(s): A.M. Shah and Tulsi Patel
Joint Family: The Concept  The Indian family has been characterized for long as a joint family ( samyukta kuṭumb) or undivided family ( avibhakta kuṭumb) in literature as well as in popular thought. Its definition, however, presents complicated problems. First of all, it is defined differently in sociology and in law. In sociology, it is a group of three or four generations of males descended in the male line from a common male ancestor, and their wives and children, with all its members living under the same roof, e…

Female Ascetics

(5,193 words)

Author(s): Catherine Clémentin-Ojha
The three oldest religions of India, Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, have each developed an important institutionalized ascetic tradition with distinctive habits and practices radically cut off from those of the householder, but they have not given the same place to women within it. Buddhist nuns (Pal. bhikkunī) flourished in India as long as Buddhism was one of its major traditions. Jain nuns ( sādhvī, the feminine form of sādhu), who all belong to the Śvetambara (“Those Who Are Clad in White”) – one of the two rival sections of the Jains – are active to this …

Female Gurus and Ascetics

(6,671 words)

Author(s): Karen Pechilis
Hindu female gurus and ascetics have a visible presence in India and, in some cases, internationally, in the present day. Women’s inhabiting of these traditionally male-defined categories of revered religious adept has been increasing in the public register over the past one hundred years (King, 1984; Ramaswamy, 1997; Pechilis, 2004a; Khandelwal, 2004). Early scholarly histories of female gurus and ascetics (Pechilis, 2004a, 11–31; 2012, 114–121; Khandelwal, 2004, 36–43) suggest that stories about female gurus and ascetics have circulated in Hindu tradition since rem…


(11,253 words)

Author(s): Karen Pechilis
Feminism in India is kin to feminism everywhere else: a history and a present of thinking and doing, argumentation and activism, organizing and institutionalizing, pushing and yielding. In India as in other countries, the literary record of women’s voices has more than a millennium-long history, largely through religion and literature; but as a self-conscious critical perspective on the social forces (culture, religion, politics, economics, etc.) that define, promote, and regulate gendered ident…


(11,383 words)

Author(s): Paul Younger
Hindu religious practice is manifold. Individuals walking along a mountaintop or a river are sometimes overcome with a sense of reverence. If they lean a slab of rock against a tree or create an icon of sand to commemorate that experience, they may find themselves coming back to that sacred place. People in their home often make a vow about what they will eat or how long they will fast or pray. They may dedicate a place in their home for an altar of the images they wish to worship. In the villag…