Skip to main content

Brahman

Brahman

ETHNONYMS: none


The Brahmans are a sacerdotal elite found everywhere in Hindu Asia, even as far east as Bali and Lombok in Indonesia. While in any one area they may be identified as the highest caste, there are in fact some hundreds of endogamous Brahman castes throughout South Asia; and so the Brahmans should more correctly be seen as a caste block, or in Sanskrit terms a varna. They have always been the highestranking of the four varnas or categories that make up Hindu society. Brahmans have traditionally been priests, either in temples or to particular families (purohita ). Nevertheless, many Brahmans still follow other traditional occupations such as teacher, scribe or government clerk, and landowner.

The essential attributed character that all Brahmans share depends on: (a) their supreme level of purity, which is usually expressed in a vegetarian diet (though there are fish-eating Brahmans in Bengal) ; and (b) their literacy in Sanskrit and other languages, combined with their knowledge of Hindu liturgy. The various Brahman castes are distinguished from each other first in terms of mother tongue (e.g., Tamil Brahmans, Konkani Brahmans). Then they are distinguished in terms of philosophical sect (e.g., Smarta Brahmans, Madhava Brahmans, Sri Vaishnava Brahmans). Thirdly, they may be distinguished in terms of the precise locality that was their homeland (e.g. Kongudesa Brahmans, those who came from the old Kongu territory, which is now Coimbatore District, in Tamil Nadu).

See also Anavil Brahman; Castes, Hindu; Chitpavan Brahman; Kshatriya; Nambudiri Brahman; Pandit of Kashmir; others listed in the Appendix.

Bibliography

Enthoven, Reginald E. (1920). "Brahman." In The Tribes and Castes of Bombay, edited by R. E. Enthoven. Vol. 1, 213-254. Bombay: Government Central Press. Reprint. 1975. Delhi: Cosmo Publications.


Nanjundayya, H. V., and L. K. Ananthakrishna Iyer (1928). "Brahman." In The Mysore Tribes and Castes, edited by H. V. Nanjundayya and L. K. Ananthakrishna Iyer. Vol. 2, 297-549. Mysore: Mysore University.


Rangachari, Kadamki (1931). The Sri Vaishnava Brahmans. Bulletin of the Madras Government Museum, New Series, General Section, 2, no. 2. Madras: Government Press.


Raychaudhuri, Tarak C, and Bikash Raychaudhuri (1981). The Brahmans of Bengal: A Textual Study in Social History. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India.


Russell, R. V., and Hira Lal (1916). "Brahman." In The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India. Vol. 2, 351-400. Nagpur: Government Printing Press. Reprint. 1969. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications.


Thurston, Edgar, and Kadamki Rangachari (1909). "Brahman." In Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Vol. 1, 267-393. Madras: Government Press.

PAUL HOCKINGS

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman-0

"Brahman." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman-0

Brahman

Brahman or Brahma (Skt., literally, ‘growth’ or ‘expansion’). The one supreme, all pervading Spirit; the impersonal Absolute, beyond attributes, which is the origin and support of the visible universe. This neuter noun, Brahman (or Brahma) should be distinguished from the masculine form, Brahmā, the personal Creator-god in the Hindu triad of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva.

The etymology of Brahman is obscure, but is traditionally derived from the verb root bṛh or bṛṃh, ‘to grow great’, ‘to increase’. In the earliest use of the word in the Vedas, and especially in Atharva Veda, the meaning of Brahman is the mysterious force behind a magical formula. It then means the sacred utterance through which the devas become great, and thus also ritual power and those in charge of it (i.e. brahmans). In the Śatapata Brāhmaṇa, and then in the Upaniṣads, the word Brahman comes to mean the source of power, and thus the impersonal, supreme, eternal principle behind the origin of the universe and the gods. It is this later meaning that is developed in the systematic philosophy of Vedānta which teaches that Brahman, the impersonal Absolute, is the essence, the Self (ātman), of all beings. Ātman and Brahman are one, and the knowledge of Brahman (brahmavidyā; see APARAVIDYA) is the supreme goal of human life as it confers liberation (mokṣa) from the ongoing cycle of suffering and rebirth (see e.g. ŚAṄKARA).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman

Brahman

Brahman or Brahmin (both: brä´mən). In the Upanishads, Brahman is the name for the ultimate, unchanging reality, composed of pure being and consciousness. Brahman lies behind the apparent multiplicity of the phenomenal world, and is ultimately identical to the atman or inner essence of the human being (see Vedanta). This ultimate quality relates to the second meaning of Brahman, or Brahmin—a member of the highest, or priestly, Hindu caste. Brahmins alone may interpret the Vedas and perform the Vedic sacrifice. The vast majority of modern Brahmins are in occupations unrelated to religion, but they have retained their social prestige and many caste conventions. The Brahmins of India are divided into 10 territorial subcastes, 5 in the north and 5 in the south.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman

"Brahman." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman

Brahman

Brah·man / ˈbrämən/ (also Brahmin / -min/ ) • n. (pl. -mans or -mins) 1. a member of the highest Hindu caste, that of the priesthood. 2. (in Hinduism) the ultimate reality underlying all phenomena. 3. an ox (Bos indicus) of a humped breed originally domesticated in India that is tolerant of heat and drought. It is often included under the name B. taurus with other domestic cattle.Also called zebu. DERIVATIVES: Brah·man·ic / bräˈmanik/ adj. Brah·man·i·cal / bräˈmanikəl/ adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-1

"Brahman." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-1

Brahman

Brahman (often Anglicized as brahmin; Skt., brāhmaṇa). A member of the highest of the four varna, or categories, of Vedic society, hence Brahmanism.

The brahmans were traditionally the custodians, interpreters, and teachers of religious knowledge, and, as priests, acted as intermediaries between humans, the world, and God. They alone knew and could perform the rituals of correct worship, making them acceptable to God.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-0

"Brahman." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-0

Brahman

Brahman (Atman) In Hinduism, the supreme soul of the universe. The omnipresent Brahman sustains the Earth. According to the Upanishads, the individual soul is identified with Brahman. Brahman is not God, but rather is neti neti (not this, not that) or indescribable.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman-0

"Brahman." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brahman-0

Brahman

Brahman a member of the highest Hindu caste, that of the priesthood.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman

"Brahman." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman

Brahman

BrahmanAlabaman, Amman, Ammon, Drammen, gammon, Mammon, salmon •Bradman, Caedmon, madman, madmen •flagman, flagmen •trackman, trackmen •hangman, hangmen •chapman, chapmen •cragsman, cragsmen •cracksman, cracksmen, Flaxman •batsman, batsmen •batman, batmen •Tasman •clansman, clansmen, Klansman, Klansmen, landsman, landsmen •backgammon •barman, barmen, Brahman, Carman, Carmen, shaman, Sharman, Tutankhamencraftsman, craftsmen, draftsman, draftsmen, draughtsman, draughtsmen, raftsman, raftsmen •marksman, marksmen •atman •guardsman, guardsmen •leman, Lemmon, lemon, Yemenheadman, headmen, Stedman •Beckmann •bellman, bellmen, Hellman •gentleman, gentlemen •penman, penmen •Helpmann •pressman, pressmen •freshman, freshmen •Welshman, Welshmen •Frenchman, Frenchmen, henchman, henchmen •desman •headsman, headsmen •helmsman, helmsmen •lensman, lensmen •airman, airmen, chairman, chairmen •Bremen, caiman, Damon, Eamon, layman, laymen, stamen •railman, railmen •brakesman, brakesmen •statesman, statesmen •tradesman, tradesmen •salesman, salesmen •gamesman, gamesmen •plainsman, plainsmen •railwayman, railwaymen •highwayman, highwaymen •cacodemon, daemon, demon, Freeman, freemen, Philemon, Riemann, Schliemann, seaman, seamen, semen •Friedman •liegeman, liegemen •Eastman, policeman, policemen •beadsman, beadsmen, seedsman, seedsmen •fieldsman, fieldsmen •wheelsman, wheelsmen •persimmon, Rimmon •pitchman, pitchmen •Bridgman • milkman • Hillman •signalman, signalmen •Lippmann •pitman, pitmen, Whitman •guildsman, guildsmen •kinsman, kinsmen •Betjeman • regimen •clergyman, clergymen •tallyman, tallymen •talisman •Englishman, Englishmen •businessman, businessmen •Cornishman, Cornishmen •journeyman, journeymen •cavalryman, cavalrymen •ferryman, ferrymen •vestryman, vestrymen •dairyman, dairymen •Irishman, Irishmen •quarryman, quarrymen •Orangeman, Orangemen •congressman, congressmen •countryman, countrymen •infantryman, infantrymen •nurseryman, nurserymen •liveryman, liverymen •midshipman, midshipmen •harvestman, harvestmen •serviceman, servicemen •Hyman, Simon •Eichmann •rifleman, riflemen •Feynman, lineman, linemen •Weismann • Wiseman •tribesman, tribesmen •linesman, linesmen •exciseman, excisemen •common, Roscommon •watchman, watchmen •Godman, hodman, hodmen •Hoffman •frogman, frogmen •stockman, stockmen •dolman, dolmen •Scotsman, Scotsmen, yachtsman, yachtsmen •Boltzmann • Cotman •bondsman, bondsmen •Bormann, doorman, doormen, foreman, foremen, Mormon, Norman, storeman, storemen •Kauffmann • Walkman •horseman, horsemen, Norseman, Norsemen •sportsman, sportsmen •oarsman, oarsmen, outdoorsman, outdoorsmen •swordsman •longshoreman, longshoremen •bowmen, cowman, cowmen, ploughman (US plowman), ploughmen (US plowmen) •councilman, councilmen •Hauptmann • Housman •groundsman, groundsmen, roundsman, roundsmen, townsman, townsmen •warehouseman, warehousemen •Bowman, Oklahoman, Oman, omen, Roman, showman, showmen, yeoman, yeomen •coachman, coachmen •Coleman, Goldman •nobleman, noblemen •postman, postmen •spokesman, spokesmen •boatman, boatmen •lifeboatman, lifeboatmen •dragoman •crewman, crewmen, energumen, human, ichneumon, Newman, numen, Schumann, subhuman, Trueman •woman •woodman, woodmen •bookman, bookmen •Pullman •Bushman, Bushmen •footman, footmen •woodsman, woodsmen •ombudsman, ombudsmen •clanswoman •backwoodsman, backwoodsmen •charwoman •craftswoman, draughtswoman •gentlewoman • Welshwoman •Frenchwoman •airwoman, chairwoman •laywoman • stateswoman •saleswoman • policewoman •kinswoman • Englishwoman •businesswoman • Irishwoman •congresswoman • countrywoman •jurywoman • servicewoman •tribeswoman •Scotswoman, yachtswoman •forewoman • horsewoman •sportswoman • oarswoman •townswoman • spokeswoman •Dutchwoman • frontierswoman •alderwoman • anchorwoman •washerwoman • Ulsterwoman •churchwoman • acumen • summon •Dutchman, Dutchmen •gunman, gunmen •busman, busmen, dustman, dustmen •huntsman, huntsmen •Newcomen • Layamon •privateersman, privateersmen, steersman, steersmen •frontiersman, frontiersmen •fireman • Dobermann • lumbermen •abdomen • Omdurman •alderman, aldermen •Turkoman •cellarman, cellarmen, telamon •cyclamen •Highlandman, Highlandmen •Solomon • trawlerman • cinnamon •Chinaman, Chinamen •trencherman, trenchermen •fisherman, fishermen, militiaman, militiamen •washerman, washermen •ottoman •waterman, watermen •Ulsterman, Ulstermen •Burman, firman, German, Herman, sermon, Sherman •churchman, churchmen •turfman, turfmen •Bergman •kirkman, kirkmen, workman, workmen •Perelman •herdsman, herdsmen

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Brahman." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brahman." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-0

"Brahman." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brahman-0