Shanmata

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Shanmata (IAST Ṣaṇmata) is the system of worship, believed by the Smarta tradition to have been founded by Adi Shankara, the 8th century CE Hindu philosopher.[1] It centers around the worship of the six main deities of Hinduism, viz, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, Surya and Skanda. In this system, six major deities are worshipped. This is based on the belief in the essential oneness of all deities, the unity of Godhead, and their conceptualization of the myriad deities of India as various manifestations of the one divine power, Brahman.

Philosophically, all are seen by Smartas as equal reflections of the one Saguna Brahman, i.e., a personal God with form, rather than as distinct beings [2] Smartism, a relatively modern Hindu tradition (compared to the three older 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 Saivism and is based on the recognition that Brahman (God) is the highest principle in the universe and pervades all of existence.[3][4][5]Generally Smartas worship the Supreme in one of six forms: Ganesha, Siva, 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.[6]

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.

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