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Hinduism sects


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There are no definite sects in Hinduism, sects that existed have been influenced by the events and saints (For eg: Bhakti movement, saints like Kabir, Mira, Tulsidas). Thus most  sects do not exist the way they existed, there have been numerous sects, some have declined and some are in the rise today than in the past. 


 There are two types of sects based on the similarities between the sects:

  1. Devotional sects: which are categorized based on their deity of worship, scriptures that are given importance, philosophy followed
  2. Philosophical sects: which are categorized based on their beliefs on god, liberation and ways to attain liberation

Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras are three of the most basic scriptures of Hinduism. Hindus can be classified into sects based on the primary scripture they follow, which is mostly one of these three

Devotional sects

Each cultural group has some of its own practices and can be considered a sect. Based on certain practices that are common among different groups a few sects have been identified.

Based on the deity of worship, style of worship, ways of worship and the philosophy followed Hinduism is differentiated into these sects. There are many sub-sects within each sect also. These sects aren't very different from each other, they have common basics of Moksha (enlightenment), Karma, Reincarnation, Guru and others

Major devotional sects

Shaivism (Shaiva)

Shaiva tradition is probably the oldest among Hindu sects. In Shaiva sect Lord Shiva is the main deity, he is considered as the form of the supreme being. Ishwara which is another name for Shiva is used in the ancient scriptures to mean the absolute god.

The sub-sects within the Shaiva tradition worship different forms of Shiva and attribute different qualities to Shiva.

Sub-sects in Shaiva tradition

  1. Pashupata Shaivism
  2. Shaiva Siddhanta
  3. Kashmir Shaivism
  4. Siddha Siddhanta
  5. Lingayata
  6. Shiva Advaita

 Vaishnavism (Vaishnava)

In Vaishnavism Lord Vishnu is considered as the supreme being. The cause, sustainer and destroyer of all worlds. Vishnu is considered both in the form and as the formless infinite one. Vaishnava sect is the largest among hindu sects

Sub-sects in Vaishnava tradition

  1. Lakshmi sampradaya
  2. Brahma sampradaya
  3. Rudra sampradaya
  4. Kumara sampradaya

Shaktism (Shakteya)

In Shaktism, Shakti (mother divine) is considered as the supreme being. and all other (female/male) forms are considered the manifestation of the supreme.

Shakti tradition is a major sect in the Bengal, Assam region of India

Smartism (Smarta)

Smarta tradition revers all the above three traditions and worships absolute god in the form of Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti and other forms as well. Smarta tradition has higher reverence for Vedas and upanishads


Other sects


word Shrauti comes from Shruti, Shrauti means the tradition of Shrutis. Shrauti tradition gives higher importance to practices from the earlier portion of Vedas. 


In Saurism, Surya (sun god) is worshipped as the form of supreme being. This sect comes from the vedic traditions


The supreme being is worshipped through the form of Lord Ganesha.

Kabir panthi

Teachings of Guru Kabir form the basic structure of Kabir Panthi, It has wide variety of Practices and wide variety of followers.

Aghor panth

It is a branch of Shaivism, an usual adherent of this sect is a wandering monk whose main purpose in life is to attain god through simple living

Tantrik panth

Practice of Tantras is advocated for one's development on the path of self realization

New Hindu movements

Some of these new Hindu movements were/ are intended for social reforms, some of these movements are aimed at uniting the sects through common spiritual concepts.

  • Arya Samaj
  • Brahmo Samaj
  • Prarthana Samaj
  • Ramakrishna Mission
  • Sathya Sai Organization
  • Siradi SaiBaba
  • Shyama charan Lahiri Mahasaya mission
  • Chinmaya Mission

Philosophical Sects

Theistic sects

  1. Samkhya: A logic oriented tradition where enquiry into consciousness and mind are of importance
  2. Yoga: Unification with the consciousness is achieved through Meditation, contemplation and other body mind controlling practices
  3. Nyaya: In this tradition primary importance is given to Logical thinking
  4. Vaisheshika: Vaisheshika is based on understanding the nature of objects, i.e all objects can be further divided into atoms
  5. Mimāṃsā: Enquiry into the nature of Dharma
  6. Vedanta: Knowledge is given primary importance

Atheistic Sects

  1. Cārvāka
  2. Jainism: Practice of Non-violence along with other practices is considered the way to liberation
  3. Buddhism: enquiring into the nature of suffering and the way out of suffering form the basic principles of Buddhism



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