Smarta tradition

Smarta tradition (स्मार्त) is a movement in Hinduism that developed during its classical period around the beginning of the Common Era. It reflects a Hindu synthesis of four philosophical strands: Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga, and theism.[1] The Smarta tradition rejects theistic sectarianism,[1] and it is notable for the domestic worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal – Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Ganesha and Devi (Shakti).[2] The Smarta tradition contrasted with the older Shrauta tradition, which was based on elaborate rituals and rites.[3][4] There has been considerable overlap in the ideas and practices of the Smarta tradition with other significant historic movements within Hinduism, namely Shaivism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.[5][6][7]

The Smarta tradition is aligned with Advaita Vedanta, and regards Adi Shankara as its founder or reformer.[8] Shankara championed that the ultimate reality is impersonal and Nirguna (attributeless) and that any symbolic god serves the same equivalent purpose.[9] Inspired by this belief, the Smarta tradition followers, along with the five Hindu gods include a sixth impersonal god in their practice.[9] The tradition has been called by William Jackson as "advaitin, monistic in its outlook".[10]

The term Smarta also refers to Brahmins who specialize in the Smriti corpus of texts named the Grihya Sutras, in contrast to Shrauta Sutras.[11][12][13] Smarta Brahmins with their focus on the Smriti corpus, contrast from Srauta Brahmins who specialize in the Sruti corpus, that is rituals and ceremonies that follow the Vedas.[14]

Ganesha pachayatana
The five prime deities of Smartas in a Ganesha-centric Panchayatana: Ganesha (centre) with Shiva (top left), Devi or Durga (top right), Vishnu (bottom left) and Brahma (bottom right).
Smarth Brahmins (9969593914)
Smarta Brahmins in western India (c. 1855-1862).


Smarta स्मार्त is an adjective derived from Smriti (Sanskritस्मृति, SmṛtiIPA: [s̪mr̩.t̪i] ?).[15] The smriti are a specific body of Hindu texts usually attributed to an author, traditionally written down but constantly revised, in contrast to Śrutis (the Vedic literature) considered authorless, that were transmitted verbally across the generations and fixed.[16][17]

Smarta has several meanings:[15][18]

  • Relating to memory
  • Recorded in or based on the Smriti
  • Based on tradition, prescribed or sanctioned by traditional law
  • Orthodox Brahmin versed in or guided by traditional law and Vedanta doctrine

In Smarta tradition context, the term Smarta means "follower of Smriti".[19] Smarta is specially associated with a "sect founded by Shankaracharya", states Monier Williams.[18]


See also Late Middle Kingdoms - The Late-Classical Age and Classical Hinduism (c. 200 BC - AD 1100)

The Vedanga texts, states Alf Hiltebeitel, are Smriti texts that were composed in the second half of the Vedic period that ended around 500 BCE.[20] The Vedanga texts include the Kalpa (Vedanga) texts consisting of the Srautasutras, Grihyasutras and Dharmasutras, many of which were revised well past the Vedic period.[21] The Grihyasutras and Dharmasutras, states Hiltebeitel, were composed between 600 BCE and 400 CE, and these are sometimes called the Smartasutras, the roots of the Smriti tradition.[21] The Smriti texts accept the knowledge in the Sruti (Vedas), but they interpret it in a number of ways, which gave rise to six darsanas (orthodox schools) of Hindu philosophy. Of these, states Hiltebeitel, the Mimamsa and Vedanta have sometimes been called the Smarta schools which emphasize the Vedas with reason and other pramanas, in contrast to Haituka schools which emphasize hetu (cause, reason) independent of the Vedas while accepting the authority of the Vedas.[22][23] Of the two Smarta traditions, Mimamsa focussed on Vedic ritual traditions, while Vedanta focussed on Upanishadic knowledge tradition.[22]

Around the start of the common era, and thereafter, a syncretism of Haituka schools (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya and Yoga), the Smarta schools (Mimamsa, Vedanta) with ancient theistic ideas (bhakti, tantric) gave rise to a growth in traditions such as Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism.[24] Hiltebeitel and Flood locate the origins of a revived orthodox Smarta Tradition in the (early) Classical Period of Hinduism, particularly with nondualist (Advaita) interpretation of Vedanta,[25] around the time when different Hindu traditions emerged from the interaction between Brahmanism and local traditions.[26]

The Synthesis

The revived Smarta Tradition attempted to integrate varied and conflicting devotional practices, with its ideas of nondual experience of Atman (self, soul) as Brahman.[27] The rapprochement included the practice of pancayatana-puja (five shrine worship), wherein a Hindu could focus on any saguna deity of choice (istadevata) such as Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, Surya or Ganesha, as an interim step towards realizing the nirguna Brahman.[27] The growth of this Smarta Tradition began in the Gupta period (4th-5th century CE), and likely was dominated by Dvija classes, in particular the Brahmins,[28] of the early medieval Indian society.[29] This Smarta Tradition competed with other major traditions of Hinduism such as Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.[29] The ideas of Smarta Tradition were historically influential, creative with concepts such as of Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu deity) and Ardhanarishvara (half woman, half man deity), and many of the major scholars of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Bhakti movement came out of the Smarta Tradition.[29]

Recognition of Smarta as a tradition

Medieval era scholars such as Vedanta Desika and Vallabhacharya recognized Smarta Tradition as competing with Vaishnavism and other traditions. According to Jeffrey Timm, for example, in verse 10 of the Tattvarthadipanibandha, Vallabhacharya states that, "Mutually contradictory conclusions are non-contradictory when they are considered from their respective contexts, like Vaishnava, Smarta, etc."[30]

According to Murray Milner Jr., a professor of Sociology, the Smarta tradition refers to "Hindus who tend toward Brahmanical orthodoxy in both thought and behavior". Smartas are usually committed to a "relatively unified Hinduism" and they reject extreme forms of sectarian isolationism, reminiscent of the European discourse about church and Christian sects.[1] The tradition, states Milner, has roots that emerged sometime between 3rd century BCE and 3rd century CE, likely in response to the growth of Jainism and Buddhism.[1] It reflected a Hindu synthesis of four philosophical strands: Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga and theism.[1]

Smarta tradition emerged initially as a synthesis movement to unify Hinduism into a nonsectarian form based on the Vedic heritage. It accepted varnasrama-dharma, states Bruce Sullivan, which reflected an acceptance of Varna (caste/class) and ashrama (four stages of human life) as a form of social and religious duty. In the later second half of the 1st millennium, Adi Shankara reformed and brought ideas to the movement in the form of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.[31] According to Upinder Singh, the Smarta tradition's religious practice emerged as a transformation of Brahmanism and can be described as Hinduism.[32] Smarta as a tradition emphasized all gods as equal and different ways of perceiving the all-pervasive metaphysical impersonal Brahman.[33]

Smarta Brahmins

The adjective Smārta is also used to classify a Brahmin who adheres to the Smriti corpus of texts.[13][34]

Smarta Brahmins specialize in the Smriti corpus of texts,[35] are differentiated from Srauta Brahmins who specialize in the Sruti corpus of texts such as the Brahmanas layer embedded inside the Vedas.[14] Smarta Brahmins are also differentiated from Brahmins who specialize in the Agamic (non-Vedic, Tantra) literature such as the Adi Shaiva Brahmins, Sri Vaishnava Brahmins and Shaiva Kashmiri Pandits.[6][36] However, these identities are not clearly defined, and active groups such as "Agamic Smarta Saiva Brahmins" have thrived.[37]

Smarta Visvakarmas

Visvakarmas are artisans found in South India, such as in the state of Karnataka. They are known for their traditional expertise and skills as blacksmiths, carpenters, coppersmiths, sculptors and goldsmiths. Smarta Visvakarmas are vegetarian artisans who follow the Smarta tradition. They contrast with Vaishnava Visvakarmas who follow the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism and some of whom may consume non-vegetarian food.[38][39] The re-marriage of widows is a tradition found among the Smarta Visvakarmas, but has been atypical among Vaishnava Visvakarma.[39]

According to Brouwer, examples of Smarta Visvakarmas include Niligundapanta (traditionally blacksmiths and carpenters), Konnurpanta (all five artisan trades) and Madipattar (goldsmiths).[38] The Smarta Visvakarmas are not considered to be Brahmins.[38]

Philosophy and practices

Saguna and Nirguna Brahman

According to Smartism, supreme reality, Brahman, transcends all of the various forms of personal deity.[40][note 1] The Smartas follow an orthodox Hindu philosophy, which means they accept the Vedas, and the ontological concepts of Atman and Brahman therein.

The Smarta Tradition accepts two concepts of Brahman, which are the saguna Brahman – the Brahman with attributes, and nirguna Brahman – the Brahman without attributes.[43] The nirguna Brahman is the unchanging Reality, however, the saguna Brahman is posited as a means to realizing this nirguna Brahman.[44] The concept of the saguna Brahman is considered in this tradition to be a useful symbolism and means for those who are still on their spiritual journey, but the saguna concept is abandoned by the fully enlightened once he or she realizes the identity of their own soul with that of the nirguna Brahman.[44] A Smarta may choose any saguna deity (istadevata) such as Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, Surya, Ganesha or any other, and this is viewed in Smarta Tradition as an interim step towards realizing the nirguna Brahman and its equivalence to one's own Atman.[27]

Panchayatana Puja

The Smartas evolved a kind of worship which is known as Panchayatana puja. In this Puja, one or more of the five Hindu Deities (Surya, Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha and Devi or Shakti) are the objects of veneration.[27][17] The five symbols of the major Gods are placed on a round open metal dish called Panchayatana, the symbol of the deity preferred by the worshiper being in the center. A similar arrangement is also seen in the medieval temples, in which the central shrine housing the principal Deity is surrounded by four smaller shrines containing the figures of the other deities.[45] Some of the Smartas of South India add a sixth god Kartikeya (See Shanmata). According to Basham, "[m]any upper-class Hindus still prefer the way of the Smartas to Saiva and Vaisnava forms of worship".[46]

Shankara and Advaita Vedanta

Traditionally, Sri Adi Shankaracharya (8th century) is regarded as the greatest teacher and reformer of the Smarta tradition.[17][47][note 2]

According to Hiltebeitel, Adi Shankaracharya established the nondualist interpretation of the Upanishads as the touchstone of a revived smarta tradition:

Practically, Adi Shankara Acharya fostered a rapprochement between Advaita and smarta orthodoxy, which by his time had not only continued to defend the varnasramadharma theory as defining the path of karman, but had developed the practice of pancayatanapuja ("five-shrine worship") as a solution to varied and conflicting devotional practices. Thus one could worship any one of five deities (Vishnu, Siva, Durga, Surya, Ganesa) as one's istadevata ("deity of choice").[56]


Smartas follow the Hindu scriptures. Like all traditions within Hinduism, they accept as an epistemic premise that Śruti (Vedic literature) is a reliable source of knowledge.[57][58][59] The Śruti includes the four Vedas including its four layers of embedded texts - the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the early Upanishads.[16] Of these, the Upanishads are the most referred to texts.[60][61]

The identity of Atman and Brahman, and their unchanging, eternal nature, are the basic truths in this tradition. The emphasis in Vedic texts here is the jnana-kanda (knowledge, philosophical speculations) in the Upanishadic part of the Vedas, not its karma-kanda (ritual injunctions).[62] Along with the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras are the central texts of the Advaita Vedanta tradition, providing the truths about the identity of Atman and Brahman and their changeless nature.[62][63]

The Brahmasutra is considered as the Nyaya Prasthana (canonical base for reasoning).[64] The Bhagavad Gita is considered as the Smriti Prasthana.[64] The text relies on other Smritis, such as the Vedangas, Itihasa, Dharmasastras, Puranas and others.[3] Some of this smriti literature incorporated shramanic and Buddhist influences[65] of the period from about 200 BC to about AD 300 [65][66] and the emerging bhakti tradition into the Brahmanical fold.[67][65]


Vidyashankara Temple at Shringeri
The Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri, Karnataka, a historic center of the Smarta Tradition.[17]

The Smarta Tradition includes temples and monasteries. More Smarta temples are found in West and South India, than in North India.[68]


Adi Shankara is one of the leading scholars of the Smarta Tradition, and he founded some of the most famous monasteries in Hinduism.[69] These have hosted the Daśanāmi Sampradāya under four Maṭhas, with the headquarters at Dwarka in the West, Jagannatha Puri in the East, Sringeri in the South and Badrinath in the North.[69][70] Each math was headed by one of his disciples, called Shankaracharya, who each independently continued the Advaita Vedanta Sampradaya.[69] The ten Shankara-linked Advaita monastic orders are distributed as follows: Bharati, Puri and Saraswati at Sringeri, Aranya and Vana at Puri, Tirtha and Ashrama at Dwarka, and Giri, Parvata and Sagara at Badrinath.[71]

The mathas which Shankara built exist until today, and continue the teachings and influence of Shankara.[72][73]

The table below gives an overview of the four largest Advaita Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.[70][web 1] However, evidence suggests that Shankara established more mathas locally for Vedanta studies and its propagation, states Hartmut Scharfe, such as the "four mathas in the city of Trichur alone, that were headed by Trotaka, Sureshvara, Hastamalaka and Padmapada".[74]

The Sringeri Sharada monastery founded by Jagatguru Sri Adi Shankaracharya in Karnataka is the centre of the Smarta sect.[17][47]

Direction Maṭha State Mahāvākya Veda Sampradaya
Padmapāda East Govardhana Pīṭhaṃ Odisha Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman) Rig Veda Bhogavala
Sureśvara South Sringeri Śārada Pīṭhaṃ Karnataka Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman) Yajur Veda Bhūrivala
Hastāmalakācārya West Dvāraka Pīṭhaṃ Gujarat Tattvamasi (That thou art) Sama Veda Kitavala
Toṭakācārya North Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ Uttarakhand Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman) Atharva Veda Nandavala

Other Advaita Vedanta mathas following Smarta Tradition include:

Prominent Smarta teachers

Some of the prominent Smarta teachers:


Vaitheespara notes the adherence of the Smarta Brahmans to "the pan-Indian Sanskrit-brahmanical tradition" and their influence on pan-Indian nationalism:

The emerging pan-Indian nationalism was clearly founded upon a number of cultural movements that, for the most part, reimagined an 'Aryo-centric', neo-brahmanical vision of India, which provided the 'ideology' for this hegemonic project. In the Tamil region, such a vision and ideology was closely associated with the Tamil Brahmans and, especially, the Smarta Brahmans who were considered the strongest adherents of the pan-Indian Sanskrit-Brahmanical tradition.[78]

See also


  1. ^ By contrast, the dualistic Vaishnava traditions consider Vishnu or Krishna to be the supreme God who grants salvation. Similarly, the dualistic subtradition of Shaiva Siddhanta holds the same beliefs about Shiva. Other traditions of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism hold a spectrum of beliefs between dualism and nondualism.[41][42]
  2. ^ Shankara himself, and his influential predecessor Gaudapada, used Buddhist terminology and mention Buddhist doctrines in their work,[48][49] suggesting that they were influenced by Buddhism.[50][51] Gaudapada, states Raju took over the Buddhist doctrines that ultimate reality is pure consciousness (vijñapti-mātra)[52] and "that the nature of the world is the four-cornered negation", then "wove [both doctrines] into a philosophy of the Mandukaya Upanisad, which was further developed by Shankara".[50] In Gaudapada's text, similarly, the Buddhist concept of "ajāta" from Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka philosophy is found.[51][48] In contrast, other scholars such as Murti, assert that while there is borrowed terminology, Gaudapada's doctrines are unlike Buddhism. Gaudapada's influential text consists of four chapters; Chapter One, Two and Three of which are entirely Vedantin and founded on the Upanishads, with little Buddhist flavor.[53] Chapter Four uses Buddhist terminology and incorporates Buddhist doctrines, state both Murti and Richard King, but Vedanta scholars who followed Gaudapada through the 17th century never referenced nor used Chapter Four, they only quote from the first three.[53][54] The Gaudapada tradition is Vedantin with its foundation of Atman and Brahman, and his doctrines fundamentally different from Buddhism which deny these foundational concepts of Hinduism.[53][55]


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  5. ^ Flood 1996, p. 113, 134, 155-161, 167-168.
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Web sources

  1. ^ "Adi Shankara's four Amnaya Peethams". Archived from the original on 26 June 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2006.

External links

Advaita Vedanta


Adi Shankara

Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: आदि शङ्कराआचार्य [aːdɪ ɕɐŋkɐɽɐ]) was an early 8th century Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.His works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the ātman and Nirguna Brahman "brahman without attributes". He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis. His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. Shankara's publications criticised the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism. He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mīmāṃsā school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta of which he is known as the greatest revivalist. Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and unified the Shanmata tradition of worship. He is also known as Adi Shankaracharya, Shankara Bhagavatpada, sometimes spelled as Sankaracharya, (Ādi) Śaṅkarācārya, Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda and Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya.

Badaganadu Brahmins

The Badaganadu are a Brahmin community that mainly reside in Karnataka. The community is one of the three main streams of adherents to the Advaita Vedanta propounded by Adi Shankara and are followers of the Smarta tradition.


Brahacharanam is a sub-sect of the Iyer community of Tamil Brahmins. The word "Brahacharanam" is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Brhatcharanam (Sanskrit: ब्रहतचरनम्). Many Brahacharanam follow the Advaita Vedanta philosophy propounded by Adi Sankaracharya. However, some Brahacharanam are stauchly Saivite unlike followers of Adi Sankaracharya, or else adhere to "Sivadvaita" so to speak. The Brahacharanams, along with the Vadamas, form the major portion of the Kerala Iyer community.

Hindu denominations

Hindu denominations are traditions within Hinduism centered on one or more gods or goddesses, such as Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Sometimes the term is used for sampradayas led by a particular guru with a particular philosophy.Hinduism has no central doctrinal authority and many practising Hindus do not claim to belong to any particular denomination or tradition. Four major traditions are, however, used in scholarly studies: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism. These are sometimes referred to as the denominations of Hinduism, and they differ in the primary deity at the centre of the tradition. A notable feature of Hindu denominations is that they do not deny other concepts of the divine or deity, and often celebrate the other as henotheistic equivalent. The denominations of Hinduism, states Lipner, are unlike those found in major religions of the world, because Hindu denominations are fuzzy with individuals practising more than one, and he suggests the term "Hindu polycentrism".Although Hinduism contains many denominations and philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognisable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, pilgrimage to sacred sites and the questioning of authority.

Jnaneshwari Peeth

Jnaneshwari Peetha is the religious and spiritual headquarters (matha) of the Smartha sect of Daivajna community of India. It is located at Karki, Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka. The present pontiff of the matha is Parama Pujanya Sacchidananda Jnaneshwar BharatiThe presiding deity at the matha is Jnaneshwari Devi (a form of Tripura Sundari) and is also worshiped in the form of Shree Yantra. Other deities are Devi Panchaytana, Ganapati and Navagrahas. Every year in the Maagh month of the Hindu calendar, Maha Rathotsava is celebrated with great zeal. Navaratri Turiyashram Sweekar anniversary of Swamiji are other main festivals.


Kathenotheism is a term coined by the philologist Max Müller to mean the worship of one god at a time. It is closely related to henotheism, the worship of one god while not rejecting the existence of other gods. Müller coined the term in reference to the Vedas, where he explained each deity is treated as supreme in turn.

Kuninda Kingdom

The Kingdom of Kuninda (or Kulinda in ancient literature) was an ancient central Himalayan kingdom documented from around the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century, located in the modern state of Uttarakhand and southern areas of Himachal in northern India.

Mulukanadu Brahmin

The Mulukanadu Brahmins are a sub-group of Telugu-speaking Vaidiki Smartha Brahmins. Variations of the name of the community include: Murikinadu, Muluknadu, Mulukanadu, Mulakanadu, Moolakanadu and Mulikinadu.


Neo-Vedanta, also called Hindu modernism, neo-Hinduism, Global Hinduism and Hindu Universalism, are terms to characterize interpretations of Hinduism that developed in the 19th century. The term "Neo-Vedanta" was coined by Paul Hacker, in a pejorative way, to distinguish modern developments from "traditional" Advaita Vedanta.Scholars have repeatedly argued that these modern interpretations incorporate western ideas into traditional Indian religions, especially Advaita Vedanta, which is asserted as central or fundamental to Hindu culture. Other scholars have described a Greater Advaita Vedānta, which developed since the medieval period. Drawing on this broad pool of sources, after Muslim rule in India was replaced by British rule, Hindu religious and political leaders and thinkers responded to western colonialism and orientalism, contributing to the Indian freedom struggle and the modern national and religious identity of Hindus in the Republic of India. This societal aspect is covered under the term of Hindu reform movements.

Among the main proponents of such modern interpretations of Hinduism were Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Radhakrishnan, who to some extent also contributed to the emergence of Neo-Hindu movements in the West.

Neo-Vedanta has been influential in the perception of Hinduism, both in the west and in the higher educated classes in India. It has received appraisal for its "solution of synthesis", but has also been criticised for its Universalism. The terms "Neo-Hindu" or "Neo-Vedanta" themselves have also been criticised for its polemical usage, the prefix "Neo-" then intended to imply that these modern interpretations of Hinduism are "inauthentic" or in other ways problematic.

Panchayatana puja

Panchayatana puja (IAST Pañcāyatana pūjā) is a system of worship ('puja') in the Smartism sampradaya, which is one of 4 major sampradaya of Hinduism. and also the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. It consists of the worship of five deities set in a quincunx pattern, the five deities being Shiva, Vishnu, Devi or Parvati, Surya and an Ishta Devata such as Kartikeya or Ganesha or any personal god of devotee's preference. Sometimes the Ishta Devata is the sixth deity in the mandala.Panchayatana puja has been attributed to Adi Shankara, the 8th century CE Hindu philosopher. It is a practice that became popular in medieval India. However, archaeological evidence suggests that this practice long predates the birth of Adi Shankara. Many Panchayatana mandalas and temples have been uncovered that are from the Gupta Empire period, and one Panchayatana set from the village of Nand (about 24 kilometers from Ajmer) has been dated to belong to the Kushan Empire era (pre-300 CE). The Kushan period set includes Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Brahma and one deity whose identity is unclear. According to James Harle, major Hindu temples from 1st millennium CE embed the pancayatana architecture very commonly, from Odisha to Karnataka to Kashmir; and the temples containing fusion deities such as Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu) are set in Panchayatana worship style.

Philosophically, the Smarta tradition emphasizes that all idols (murti) are icons of saguna Brahman, a means to realizing the abstract Ultimate Reality called nirguna Brahman. The five or six icons are seen by Smartas as multiple representations of the one Saguna Brahman (i.e., a personal God with form), rather than as distinct beings. The ultimate goal in this practice is to transition past the use of icons, then follow a philosophical and meditative path to understanding the oneness of Atman (soul, self) and Brahman – as "That art Thou".Depending on the tradition followed by Smarta households, one of these deities is kept in the center and the other four corners of a square surrounding it. Either an iconic idol(s) or aniconic representation(s) or a combination for each deity is used. The five may be represented as simply as five kinds of stones called a Pancayatana puja set, or just five marks drawn on the floor. This arrangement is also represented in Smarta Pancayatana temples found in India, with one central shrine, and four smaller shrines at the corners of a square.Panchayatana puja has predominantly been a tradition within Hinduism. However, the Udasis – a tradition that reveres the Guru Granth Sahib of Sikhism - also worship the five panchayatana deities.

Sacchidananda Jnaneshwar Bharati

Sacchidananda Jnaneshwar Bharati is the spiritual leader of followers of Smartism of the Daivajna community of India. He is the guru of the community, which has its main spiritual centre or matha at Karki, near Honavar (5 km) in Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka state.


Shaivism (Śaivam; Tamil: சைவம்; Devanagari: शैव संप्रदाय; Assamese: শৈৱ; Bengali: শৈব; Telugu: శైవ సాంప్రదాయం; Kannada: ಶೈವ ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯ; Malayalam: ശൈവമതം;Odia: ଶିବ ସମ୍ପ୍ରଦାୟଂ; Sinhala: ශිවාගම/ශෛවවාදය) is one of the major traditions within Hinduism that reveres Shiva as the Supreme Being. The followers of Shaivism are called "Shaivites" or "Saivites". It is one of the largest sects that believe Shiva — worshipped as a creator and destroyer of worlds — is the supreme god over all. The Shaiva have many sub-traditions, ranging from devotional dualistic theism such as Shaiva Siddhanta to yoga-oriented monistic non-theism such as Kashmiri Shaivism. It considers both the Vedas and the Agama texts as important sources of theology. The origin of Shaivism may be traced to the conception of Rudra in the Rig Veda.Shaivism has ancient roots, traceable in the Vedic literature of 2nd millennium BCE, but this is in the form of the Vedic deity Rudra. The ancient text Shvetashvatara Upanishad dated to late 1st millennium BCE mentions terms such as Rudra, Shiva and Maheshwaram, but its interpretation as a theistic or monistic text of Shaivism is disputed. In the early centuries of the common era is the first clear evidence of Pāśupata Shaivism. Both devotional and monistic Shaivism became popular in the 1st millennium CE, rapidly becoming the dominant religious tradition of many Hindu kingdoms. It arrived in Southeast Asia shortly thereafter, leading to thousands of Shaiva temples on the islands of Indonesia as well as Cambodia and Vietnam, co-evolving with Buddhism in these regions. In the contemporary era, Shaivism is one of the major aspects of Hinduism.Shaivism theology ranges from Shiva being the creator, preserver, destroyer to being the same as the Atman (self, soul) within oneself and every living being. It is closely related to Shaktism, and some Shaiva worship in Shiva and Shakti temples. It is the Hindu tradition that most accepts ascetic life and emphasizes yoga, and like other Hindu traditions encourages an individual to discover and be one with Shiva within. Shaivism is one of the largest traditions within Hinduism.


Shanmata (षण्मत) IAST Ṣaṇmata) meaning "Six Sects" in Sanskrit, has its origins in the hoary past. While these Six Sects initially had separate followers, theologian Adi Shankara, the 8th century CE Hindu philosopher, worked to join the adherents of the Six Sects into one through spreading his Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Adi Sankara's followers worship one divine power, Brahman in all its six manifestations. It centers around the worship of the deities belonging to six agama schools, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, Surya and Skanda as One. This is based on the belief in the essential oneness of all deities, the unity of Godhead, the one divine power, Brahman.

Philosophically, all are seen by Advaitins as equal reflections of the one Saguna Brahman, i.e., a personal God with form, rather than as distinct beings Smartism, a relatively modern Hindu tradition (compared to the three other traditions ), invites the worship of more than one god including Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha (the elephant god) and Surya (the sun god) among other gods and goddesses. It is not as overtly sectarian as either Vashnavism or Shaivism and is based on the recognition that Brahman (God) is the highest principle in the universe and pervades all of existence. Generally Smartas worship the Supreme in one of six forms: Ganesha, Shiva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda. Because they accept all the major Hindu Gods, they are known as liberal or nonsectarian. They follow a philosophical, meditative path, emphasizing man's oneness with God through understanding.Smartas accept and worship the six manifestations of God, (Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda) and the choice of the nature of God is up to the individual worshipper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent. It is believed that in Adi Shankara's time these deities had their own Hindu followers who quarrelled with each other claiming the superiority of their chosen deity. Adi Shankara is said to have synthesised these quarrelling sects by integrating the worship of all these deities in the Shanmata system.


Shiva (; Sanskrit: शिव, Śiva, lit. the auspicious one) also known as Mahadeva (lit. the great god) is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is one of the supreme beings within Shaivism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism.Shiva is known as "The Destroyer" within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu. In Shaivism tradition, Shiva is one of the supreme beings who creates, protects and transforms the universe. In the Shaktism tradition, the Goddess, or Devi, is described as one of the supreme, yet Shiva is revered along with Vishnu and Brahma. A goddess is stated to be the energy and creative power (Shakti) of each, with Parvati (Sati) the equal complementary partner of Shiva. He is one of the five equivalent deities in Panchayatana puja of the Smarta tradition of Hinduism.According to the Shaivism sect, the highest form of Ishvar is formless, limitless, transcendent and unchanging absolute Brahman, and the primal Atman (soul, self) of the universe. There are many both benevolent and fearsome depictions of Shiva. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. In his fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva, regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts.The iconographical attributes of Shiva are the serpent around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the third eye on his forehead, the trishula or trident, as his weapon, and the damaru drum. He is usually worshipped in the aniconic form of Lingam. Shiva is a pan-Hindu deity, revered widely by Hindus, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.


Surya (; Sanskrit: सूर्य, IAST: Sūrya) is a Sanskrit word that means the Sun. Synonyms of Surya in ancient Indian literature include Aaditya, Arka, Bhanu, Savitr, Pushan, Ravi, Martanda, Mitra and Vivasvan.Surya also connotes the solar deity in Hinduism, particularly in the Saura tradition found in states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha. Surya is one of the five deities considered as equivalent aspects and means to realizing Brahman in the Smarta Tradition. Surya's iconography is often depicted riding a chariot harnessed by horses, often seven in number which represent the seven colours of visible light, and seven days in a week. In medieval Hinduism, Surya is also an epithet for the major Hindu gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. In some ancient texts and arts, Surya is presented syncretically with Indra, Ganesha or others. Surya as a deity is also found in the arts and literature of Buddhism and Jainism.Surya is one of the nine heavenly houses (Navagraha) in the zodiac system of Hindu astrology. Surya or Ravi is the basis of Ravivara, or Sunday, in the Hindu calendar. Major festivals and pilgrimages in reverence of Surya include Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Ratha Sapthami, Chath puja and Kumbh Mela.


Vadama (Tamil: வடமா) meaning "Northerners" are a sub-sect of the Iyer community of Tamil Brahmins. While some believe that their name is an indication of the fact that they were the most recent Brahmin migrants to the Tamil country others interpret the usage of the term "Vadama" as a reference to their strict adherence to the Sanskrit language and Vedic rituals which are of northerly origin . It may also be possible that Vadamas may be Brahmins whose origins lie in the Dravida region of northern Tamil Nadu. Like other Iyer communities, they follow the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Shankara. A significant proportion of the Vadama community adopted Vaishnavism, and are thus believed to have given rise to the Vadagalai Iyengar community. The oldest historical references to Vadamas date from the first millennium AD. A large number of Vadamas migrated to Kerala during the medieval period, so that Vadamas along with the Brahacharnam form the majority of the Kerala Iyer community. A section of the Vadama community also migrated north to the Telugu country and Maharashtra where they were known as "Dravidas".

Vadamas have a martial tradition unlike most other Iyer communities. They are believed to have been the protectors of Brahmin villages or agraharams and served as administrators and advisors to Tamil and Telugu kings during the medieval and early modern period.

Vaidiki Velanadu

Vaidiki Velanadu is a sub-caste of Telugu speaking Smarta. Brahmins whose ancestral roots lie in velanadu region, the ancient name for the coastal region on the banks of River Krishna in the Guntur district and Prakasam district. They are predominantly followers of Adi Shankaracharya and are located in Andhra Pradesh.

The earliest reference to Vaidiki Velanadu starts from 12th century. Vaidiki Brahmins have participated in the Battle of Palanadu on the side of Brahma Naidu.

Most of the Telugu-speaking priests of Smarta tradition are from this sect. However, the people have diversified into other professions.


Vathima are Iyers from Tamil Nadu, India. They are Pancha Dravida Brahmins of the Smarta Tradition who follow the Advaita Vedanta propounded by Adi Shankara.


Velneshwar is a village on the Western Coast of Maharashtra, India, about 70 km from Ratnagiri.

Velneshwar is reputed for its rock-free beach which facilitates the ease of swimming. There is an old Shiva temple near Velneshwar which is frequently visited by pilgrims. The village follows Smarta Tradition and the people of the village worship Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Surya and Goddess Durga.

This village is considered to be the root of the Gokhale, Raste (Gokhale), Gadgil, Govande, Savarkar, Tulpule, Velankar, Ghag families (now residing at Nayashi, Dahivali & some other villages in Ratnagiri district) and has their family shrine.

Many people who had roots from this village were involved in India's struggle for freedom and have gone on to be one of the greatest individuals in the nation.


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