Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to Brahmanas: Brahmin, Upanishads, Aranyakas



ancient Indian sacred tracts forming part of Vedic literature. The texts of the Brahmanas were created approximately from the eighth to sixth centuries B. C. and are the very earliest examples of ancient Indian prose. The Brahmanas reflected the pretensions of the Indian priesthood (the brahmins) to a ruling position in society; sacrificial offerings are regarded in the texts as the foundation and meaning of life, and the priests are regarded as “living gods.” The Brahmanas contain myths, traditions, detailed descriptions of ritual, and information on the social and cultural history of ancient India. The language of the Brahmanas is terse and dry, but certain legends, tales, and parables have artistic value or contain a philosophical generalization. In the vast literature of the Brahmanas, the Shatapatha Brahmana is the most esteemed.


Winternitz, M. A History of Indian Literature, 2nd ed., vol. 1, part 1. Calcutta, 1959.
Oldenberg, H. Zur Geschichte der altindischen Prosa. Berlin, 1917.
Rau, W. Staat und Gesellschaft im alten Indien. Wiesbaden, 1957.


References in periodicals archive ?
Black focuses on the various narratives found in the Brahmanas or Upanisads, but does not discuss compositional history outside of a relatively brief overview in his introduction.
One of the most effective attacks launched against the Vaishnava sectarian leadership threatened them with expulsion from the community of brahmanas because of the presence of shudras in the spiritual lineages of their orders, teachings suggesting that brahmanical rituals were not necessary for salvation, or behavior patterns that eroded the ritual and personal exclusivity of brahmanas.
Of the Brahmanas handed down by the followers of the Rigveda (Rgveda), two have been preserved: the Aitareya Brahmana and the Kausitaki (or Sankhayana) Brahmana.
Brahmanas learned in the Vedas compare the sudra to Brahma, [11] but I see him as the world's God, Visnu, foremost in the universe.
According to Nilakantha, a spiritual-minded sudra is also a vaidehika, achieving salvation after progressive rebirths as a vaisya, a ksatriya and a brahmana.
But all of these interests recede with his later work, which is concerned overwhelmingly with Brahmana prose.
The older Upanishads may be part of the Brahmanas (commentaries) of their respective Vedas but are distinguished from them both by increased philosophical and mystical questioning and by their diminished concern with Vedic deities and sacrificial rites.
For example, Agni, Brhaspati, Vac, and Mitra were brahmanas; Varuna, Rudra, Vayu, Yama, and Visnu were ksatriyas; multiple deities such as the Visve Devas, Adityas, Maruts, Vasus, and Rhus were vaisyas or sudras; Savitr and Soma could be either brahmanas or ksatriyas; Sarasvati could be either brahmana or vaisya; and Prajapati could be of any varna.
contends, efforts, often insidious, by the brahmana authors to define and strengthen their own social position.
The entire corpus of Vedic literature--the Samhitas and the expositions that came to be attached to them, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads--was considered Sruti, the product of divine revelation.
In chapter VI, "Jaimini's Mimamsa in the Context of the Brahmanas and Buddhism," the author shows that Buddhism stands closer to the brahmanas and Mimamsa than to the upanisads.