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The term ‘Hindu’ came to include persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism) after India became an independent country. Different religions of the sub-continent came to comprise sects or denominations within 'Hinduism'.
The main sects are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. These four denominations may share rituals, beliefs, and traditions, but each denomination has a different philosophy on how to achieve life's ultimate goal, Atma Jnana (self-realization). There are also smaller denominations, and newer movements.
Cross-denominational influences are the Bhakti-movement, and the six orthodox schools of thought.
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The presence of different denominations and schools within Hinduism should not be viewed as a schism, as there was no original unity. On the contrary, there is at present no great animosity between the different "religions" which constitute Hinduism, and among Hindu followers as a whole, there is a strong belief that there are many paths leading to the One God or the Source, whatever one chooses to call that ultimate Truth.
Instead, there is a healthy cross-pollination of ideas and logical debate that serves to refine each school's philosophy. It is not uncommon, or disallowed, for an individual to follow one school but take the point of view of another school for a certain issue.
In Hinduism, a sampradaya (IAST sampradāya) can be translated as ‘tradition’ or a ‘religious system’. It is a body of practice, views and attitudes, which are transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers. A particular guru lineage is called parampara. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya. Membership in a sampradaya not only lends a level of authority to one’s claims on truth in the Hindu traditional context, but also allows one to make those claims in the first place.
Main denominations 
According to the Padma Purāṇa, one of the eighteen main Purāṇas, there are four Vaishnava sampradayas, which preserve the fruitfull mantras:[note 1]
Each of them are understood to have been inaugurated by a deity, who appointed heads to these four lineages:
- Srivaishnavism (Sri-Vaishnava Sampradaya)/Srivaishnava/Sri Sampradaya/Iyengar is associated with Lakshmi. The principal acharyas are Ramanujacharya and Vedanta Desikan.
- Ramanandi Sampradaya, also known as the Ramayat Sampradaya or the Ramavat Sampradaya adheres to the teachings of Ramananda.
- Vishistadvaita includes Udhava Sampradaya to which also the Swaminarayan Sampradaya belongs. They adhere to the teachings of Ramanuja.
- Brahma Sampradaya is associated with Vishnu, who is the Para-Brahma (Universal Creator), not to be confused with the other Brahma, who is the four-faced god in Hindu religion. The principal acharya is Madhvacharya.
- Rudra Sampradaya. The principal acharya is Vallabhacharya.
- Kumara Sampradaya is the tradition associated with Four Kumaras. The principal acharya is Nimbarka, hence Nimbarka Sampradaya.
Other Vaishnava schools and the principal teachers connected with them are:
- Manavala Mamunigal's sect is the oldest Vaishnava sect in India. This sampraday was followed by Vyasa, Parasara, Bodhayana. The lineage of Acharya is Lord Narayana, next Lakshmi and then Vishweksenar, Nammalwar, Nathamuni, Uyyakondar, Manakal Nambi, Alavandar, Periya Nambi, Ramanujacharya and finally Vedanta Desikan as per the Vadagalai sampradaya.
- Thenacharya Sampradaya
- Vaikhanasa Sampradaya. The principal acharya is Vaikhanasa.
- Ekasaranism or Asomiya Vaishnavism, adheres to the teachings of Srimanta Sankaradeva.
- Krishna Pranami Sampradaya, adheres to the teachings of Devachandra Maharaj.
Shaivism / Shivaism 
Shaivas or Shaivites are those who primarily worship Shiva as the supreme god, both immanent and transcendent. Shaivism embraces at the same time monism (specifically nondualism) and dualism. To Shaivites, Shiva is both with and without form; he is the Supreme Dancer, Nataraja; and is linga, without beginning or end.
The major schools of Śaivism include:
- Saiva Siddhanta, adheres to the teachings of Tirumular/Sundaranatha (Nandinatha Sampradaya, the monistic school) or of Meykandadeva (Meykandar Sampradaya, the dualistic school).
- Adinath Sampradaya or Siddha Siddhanta, adheres to the teachings of Gorakhnath and Matsyendranath.
- Shiva Advaita, adheres to the teachings of Nilakantha (Srikantha) and Appayya Dikshitar.
- Kashmir Shaivism, adheres to the teachings of Vasugupta and his disciplinic lineage, including Abhinavagupta.
- Pashupata Shaivism, adheres to the teachings of Lakulisa.
- Lingayatism, or Veerashaivism, Virashaivism, is a distinct Shaivite tradition in India, established in the 12th century by the philosopher and social reformer Basavanna. It makes several departures from mainstream Hinduism and propounds monotheism through worship centered on Lord Shiva in the form of linga or Ishtalinga. It also rejects the authority of the Vedas and the caste system.
- Aaiyyanism is a religion claiming to be a form of pure Dravidian Hinduism and identifying as a Shaivite branch. It is incorporated in the Aaiyyan World Forum.
Shaktism is one of the oldest forms of the Hindu religion (records date back to the Indus valley civilization). The passage of thousands of years has yielded variations in doctrine, and a plurality of Hindu philosophies has emerged. The Shaivism and Shakta forms are in fact inseparable, as is the description of Shiva from that of Shakti/Sati/Parvati. Vaishanvism also has a connection with Shakta philosophy because Goddess Durga is called Narayani.
Smartas have free rein to choose whichever deity they wish to worship. They usually worship five deities (Pancopasana) or Panchadevata as personal formful manifestations of the impersonal Absolute, Brahman. 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 worshiper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent. It is nonsectarian.
It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West as Smarta belief includes Advaita belief (Advaita was revived by Adi Sankara in India) and the first Hindu saint, who significantly brought Hinduism to the west was Swami Vivekananda, an adherent of Advaita. Not till much later, gurus, such as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and others, brought a Vaishnavite perspective to the West.
Prominent Smarta communities:
- Saryupareen Brahmins
- Kanyakubja Brahmins
- Saraswat Brahmins
- Utkala Brahmins
- Maithili Brahmins
- Konkanastha or Chitpavan
- Goud Saraswat Brahmins (GSB's)
- Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins (Bhanaps)
- Rajapur Saraswat Brahminss (Balavalikar)
- Vaidiki Mulukanadu
- Vaidiki Velanadu
- Vaidiki Veginadu
- Vaidiki Telanganya
- Hoysala Kannada
- Kota brahmin
- Babboor Kamme
- Arvel Niyogi Brahmins
- Vaishya Vanis
Other denominations 
Shrauta communities are very rare in India, the most well known being the ultra-orthodox Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala. They follow the "Purva-Mimamsa" (earlier portion of Vedas) in contrast to Vedanta followed by other Brahmins. They place importance on the performance of Vedic Sacrifice (Yajna). The Nambudiri Brahmins are famous for their preservation of the ancient Somayaagam, Agnicayana rituals which have vanished in other parts of India.
Suryaism / Saurism 
The Suryaites or Sauras are followers of a Hindu denomination that started in Vedic tradition, and worship Surya as the main visible form of the Saguna Brahman. The Saura religion was influential in times of old but declined between the 12th and 13th century CE and today remains as a very small movement.
Ganapatism is a Hindu denomination in which Lord Ganesha is worshipped as the main form of the Saguna Brahman. This sect was widespread and influential in the past and has remained important in Maharashtra.
Indonesian Hinduism 
Hinduism flourished on the island of Java and Sumatra until the late 16th century, when a vast majority of the population converted to Islam. Only the Balinese people who form the majority on the island of Bali have retained this form of Hinduism over the centuries. Theologically, Balinese or Indonesian Hinduism is closer to Shaivism than to other major sects of Hinduism. The adherents consider Acintya the supreme god, and all other gods as his manifestations.
The term "Agama Hindu Dharma", the endonymous Indonesian name for "Indonesian Hinduism" can also refer to the traditional practices in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi and other places in Indonesia, where people have started to identify and accept their agamas as Hinduism or Hindu worship has been revived. The revival of Hinduism in Indonesia has given rise to a national organisation, the Parisada Hindu Dharma.
Newer movements 
19th to 20th century Hindu revivalist organizations include:
- Arya Samaj
- Prarthana Samaj
- Ramakrishna Mission
- Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana
- Swadhyay Parivar movement
- Sathya Sai Organisation
Cross-denominational influences 
Atman Jnana 
Jñāna is a Sanskrit word that means knowledge. In Vedas it means true knowledge, that (atman) is identical with Brahman. It is also referred to as Atma Jnana which is frequently translated as self-realization.
Bhakti movement 
The medieval Bhakti movement has had a significant impact on the traditional denominations of Pauranic Hinduism, especially on Vaishnavism. The Alvars were Tamil poet saints of south India who lived between sixth and ninth centuries and espoused "emotional devotion" or bhakti to Visnu/Krishna in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service. Usually twelve Vaishnava saints, who, during the early medieval period of Tamil history, helped revive devotional Hinduism bhakti through their hymns of worship to Vishnu and his Avatars. The collection of their hymns is known as Divya Prabhandham. The Bhakti literature that sprang from these Alvars has contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that broke away from the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in devotion as the only path for salvation. In addition, they helped to make the Tamil religious life independent of knowledge of Sanskrit. As part of the legacy of the Alvars, five Vaishnava philosophical traditions (sampradayas) has developed at the later stages.
Schools of Hindu philosophy 
Hindu philosophy is traditionally divided into six āstika (Sanskrit: आस्तिक "orthodox") schools of thought, or darśanam (दर्शनम्, "view"), which accept the Vedas as the supreme revealed scriptures. The schools are:
- Samkhya, an atheistic and strongly dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.
- Yoga, a school emphasizing meditation, contemplation and liberation.
- Nyaya or logic, explores sources of knowledge. Nyāya Sūtras.
- Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism
- Mimāṃsā, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy
- Vedanta, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, or the 'Jnan' (knowledge) 'Kanda' (section).
The nāstika schools are (in chronological order):
However, medieval philosophers like Vidyāraṇya classified Indian philosophy into sixteen schools, where schools belonging to Saiva, Pāṇini and Raseśvara thought are included with others, and the three Vedantic schools Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita (which had emerged as distinct schools by then) are classified separately.
In Hindu history, the distinction of the six orthodox schools was current in the Gupta period "golden age" of Hinduism. With the disappearance of Vaisheshika and Mimamsa, it was obsolete by the later Middle Ages, when the various sub-schools of Vedanta (Dvaita "dualism", Advaita Vedanta "non-dualism" and others) began to rise to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy. Nyaya survived into the 17th century as Navya Nyaya "Neo-Nyaya", while Samkhya gradually lost its status as an independent school, its tenets absorbed into Yoga and Vedanta.
See also 
- Sarna/Sari Dhorom/Kherwalism
- List of Hindu organisations
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- Cowell and Gough, p. xii.
- Gupta, R. (2002), Sampradaya in Eighteenth Century Caitanya Vaisnavism, ICJ
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