Hindu saints are those recognized by Hindus as showing a great degree of holiness and sanctity. Hinduism has a long tradition of stories and poetry about saints. There is no formal canonization process in Hinduism, but over time many men and women have reached the status of saints among their followers and among Hindus in general. Hindu saints have often renounced the world, and are variously called gurus, sadhus, rishis, swamis, and other names.
Some Hindu saints are given god-like status, being seen as incarnations of Vishnu, Shiva, and other aspects of God — this can happen many years after their deaths. This explains another common name for Hindu saints: godmen.
Many people conflate the terms "saint" and "sant", because of their similar meanings. The term sant is a Sanskrit word "which differs significantly from the false cognate, 'saint'..." Traditionally, "sant" referred to devotional Bhakti poet-saints of two groups: Vaishnava and a group that is referred to as "nirguna bhakti".
Hindu saints have come from many walks of life including the blind (Bhima Bhoi, Surdas, and Tulsidas), adopted (Andal, Kabir), former criminals (Kaladutaka , Valmiki) and former concubines (Kanhopatra and Shatakopa).
- "Historians of religion have liberated the category of sainthood from its narrower Christian associations and have employed the term in a more general way to refer to the state of special holiness that many religions attribute to certain people. The Jewish hasid or tsaddiq, the Muslim waliy, the Zoroastrian fravashi, the Hindu rsi or guru, the Buddhist arahant or bodhisattva, the Daoist shengren, the Shinto kami and others have all been referred to as saints."Lindsay Jones, ed. (2005). Thomson Gale Encyclopedia of Religion (in Tajik). Sainthood (Second ed.). Macmillan Reference USA. p. 8033.
- "Veneration of saints is a universal phenomenon. All monotheistic and polytheistic creeds contain something of its religious dimension... " Issachar Ben-Ami (1998). Saint Veneration Among the Jews in Morocco. Wayne State University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8143-2198-0. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- Robin Rinehart (1 January 2004). Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. pp. 87–90. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Kenneth L. Woodward (10 July 2001). The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Simon & Schuster. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-7432-0029-5. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Karine Schomer; W. H. McLeod (1 January 1987). The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-81-208-0277-3. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Jacqueline Jones (2009). Performing the Sacred: Song, Genre, and Aesthetics in Bhakti. ProQuest. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-109-06430-8. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
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