Brahmanism (Also Brahmin Brahman Brahma, Brahminism), Brahmana. Of this, the most important body of words in the religious history of India, the starting point is the neuter noun brahman (nom. and accus. brdhma), which is of frequent occurrence even in the oldest parts of the Veda, as signifying " worship, offering of devotion and praise." In later developments it is used to mean holy words, songs, action, etc, and finally the sacred principle, the highest object of religious thought and veneration, the absolute and infinite. From it comes first the masculine noun brahman (nom. brahma), having a twofold use: 1, an offerer of worship, devotee, priest, and hence, more specifically, the supervising and correcting priest in the intricate Hindoo ceremonial; 2 (later, and by reflection from the later sense of brahman), a kind of personal incorporation of the absolute, a theo-sophic highest divinity, the supreme god, Brahma. The secondary classes of Vedic writings are full of brahman (neuter) as the theme of religious contemplation; but a god Brahma is much more recent, and a creature of sacerdotal philosophy.

The Hindoo trinity (trimdrti), in which he figures as creator, beside Vishnu as preserver and Siva as destroyer, was a piece of artificial system-making, having no real root in the religious consciousness of the people. Brahma was never actually worshipped, nor had temples built to him. Our word brahman or brahmin represents the derivative adjective brahmana, which, as coming from brahman, signifies "dealing with worship and sacred things," or, as in part also from brahman, "of priestly descent and office." This adjective begins to appear in the more recent parts of the Veda; and with the rise of a priestly caste and a hierarchy in India, it becomes the name of that caste, the dominant class in a system of religious polity which is thence called Brah-manism, and of which the history constitutes an essential part of that of India. (See India.) The neuter of the same adjective, brdhmanam, is used to denote a class of writings in the religious literature of India, next in age to the hymn texts of the Veda, and dealing with questions of religious and ceremonial theory, exegesis, and so on.

There are several treatises bearing this title. (See Veda).