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In Hinduism, a sampradaya (IAST sampradāya) can be translated as ‘tradition’ or a ‘religious system’.[1][note 1] It relates to a succession of masters and disciples, which serves as a spiritual channel, and provides a delicate network of relationships that lends stability to a religious identity.[1]



Sampradaya is a body of practice, views and attitudes, which are transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers. Participation in sampradaya forces continuity with the past, or tradition, but at the same time provides a platform for change from within the community of practitioners of this particular traditional group.[1]


A particular guru lineage is called parampara. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya.[1] One cannot become a member by birth, as is the case with gotra, a seminal, or hereditary, dynasty.


Membership in a sampradaya not only lends a level of authority to one’s claims on truth in Hindu traditional context, but also allows one to make those claims in the first place. An often quoted verse from the Padma Purana states:

Mantras which are not received in sampradaya are considered fruitless.[1][note 2]

And another verse states:

Unless one is initiated by a bona-fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the mantra he might have received is without any effect.[1][note 3]

As Wright and Wright put it,

If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as a bastard. The same social standard applies to religious organizations. If a religious group cannot prove its descent from one of the recognised traditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.[2]

Nevertheless, there are also examples of teachers who were not initiated into a sampradaya, Ramana Maharshi being a well-known example.[3][web 1] A sannyasin belonging to the Sringeri Sharada Peetham once tried to persuade Ramana to be initiated into sannyasa, but Ramana refused.[3]


Vaishnava sampradayas[edit]

Main article: Vaishnava

According to the Padma Purāṇa, one of the eighteen main Purāṇas, there are four Vaishnava sampradayas, which preserve the fruitfull mantras:[note 4]

All mantras which have been given (to disciples) not in an authorised Sampradāya are fruitless. Therefore, in Kali Yuga, there will be four bona-fide Sampradāyas.[4]

Each of them were ignaugurated by a deity, who appointed heads to these lineages:

Deity Lineage Head Linked sampradaya
Śrī Devī (Laksmi) Sri Sampradaya Ramanujacharya Ramanandi sect
Brahmā Brahma Sampradaya Madhvacharya Gaudiya Sampradaya
Rudra Rudra Sampradaya Viṣṇusvāmī/Vallabhacharya Pushtimarg sect
Four Kumāras Sanakādi Sampradāya or Nimbarka Sampradaya Nimbarka

During the Kali yuga these sampradāyas appear in the holy place of Jaganatha Puri, and purify the entire earth.

Various sampradayas emerged from these four, which are quite different from them. There are also other sampradayas, such as Swaminarayan Sampradaya, which are not linked to these four sampradayas.

Shaivite sampradayas[edit]

Main article: Shaivism

There are three main saivite sampradayas states themselves as "Kailaya Parampara" (Lineage from Kailash)- Nandinatha Sampradaya, Adinath Sampradaya and Meykanda Sampradaya.[5] They trace their initiation at Nandi, the guardian and the first student of Shiva. There were eight disciples of Nandi, known as Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanatkumara, Sundarananta, Vyagrapada, Patanjali and Sivayoga Muni sent to various parts of the world to spread the truth of Saivism all over the world.[5] Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii identifies itself as the Sundarananta descedent of Nandinatha Sampradaya(Tirumular→→→Nandinatha Maharishi (Unknown)→Kadayil Swami→ Sellappa Desikar→ Svayoga Swami→Sivaya Subramuniyaswami)[5] Tami Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy is known as the descedent from the teaching of Sanatkumara, one of the Kumaras.(Sanatkumara→Satyanjana Darshini→Paranjyoti rishi→Meykandar.[6]

Sampradaya Gurus Sect nowadays Principle Mathas Note
Nandinatha Sampradaya[7] Tirumular Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii Tirumantiramis one of the significant holy book along with other saivite text.
Meykandar Sampradaya[7][8] Meykandar Shaiva Siddhanta Saiva adheenams in South India trace its origin at Sanatkumara
Adinath Sampradaya[7] Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath Siddha Saivism (Nath Sampradaya) Nisargadatta Maharaj[9] and International Nath Order[10] Connected with Inchegiri branch
Trika Sampradaya Durvasa Vasugupta Kashmir Shaivism Swami Lakshmanjo Academy [11] and other Kashmir Saivite Mathas Also known as Ragasya Sampradaya and Trayambaka Sampradaya.[12][13] Starts its gurus at Srikantha, Vasugupta, and Somananda. Sometimes Durvasa also included.[13]

Nandinatha and Meykandar Sampradayas are associated with the Shaiva Siddhanta while Adinath Sampradaya is associated with Nath Shaivism. Other popular Saivite sampradayas are Lingayat Sampradaya and Srouta Sampradaya

Dashanami Sampradaya[edit]

Main article: Dashanami Sampradaya

Dashanami Sampradaya, "Tradition of Ten Names", is a Hindu monastic tradition of Ekadandi sannyasins (wandering renunciates carrying a single staff)[14][15][16] generally associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition. They are distinct in their practices from the Saiva Tridandi sannyāsins or "trident renunciates", who continue to wear the sacred thread after renunciation, while Ekadandi sannyāsins do not.[note 5]

The Ekadandi Vedāntins aim for moksha as the existence of the self in its natural condition indicated by the destruction of all its specific qualities.[17] Any Hindu, irrespective of class, caste, age or gender can seek sannyāsa as an Ekadandi monk under the Dasanāmi tradition.

The Ekadandis or Dasanāmis had established monasteries in India and Nepal in ancient times.[web 2] After the decline of Buddhism, a section of the Ekadandis were organized by Adi Shankara in the 8th century in India to be associated with four maṭhas to provide a base for the growth of Hinduism. However, the association of the Dasanāmis with the Sankara maṭhas remained nominal.

Maharaj Bhuriwale (Garib Dassi) Sampradaya[edit]

Main article: Bhuriwale

The main object of the sect is to preach the teachings of "Holy Granth" of Acharya Shri Garib Das Ji Maharaj.

Acharya Swami Shri Chetna Nand Ji Bhuriwale: (Garib Dassi) is the present Head of Maharaj Bhuriwale Garib Dassi Sect. Acharya Ji is working hard to awaken the minds of the people through Akhand Path of Acharya Shri Garibdass's "Holy Granth". Regular Akhand Paths are organized throughout the year in different parts of the country and abroad on demand by the followers.

Advaita Vedanta sampradaya[edit]

Main articles: Advaita Vedanta and Adi Shankara

Daiva-, Ṛṣi- and Mānava-paramparā[edit]

The Advaita guru-paramparā (Lineage of Gurus in Non-dualism) begins with the mythological time of the Daiva-paramparā, followed by the vedic seers of the Ṛṣi-paramparā, and the Mānava-paramparā of historical times and personalities:[web 3][note 6]


Advaita Mathas[edit]

(Vidyashankara temple) at Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Shringeri

Adi Sankara founded four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (monasteries) to preserve and develop his philosophies. One each in the north, south, east and west of the Indian subcontinent, each headed by one of his direct disciples.

According to Nakamura, these mathas contributed to the influence of Shankara, which was "due to institutional factors".[19] The mathas which he built exist until today, and preserve the teachings and influence of Shankara, "while the writings of other scholars before him came to be forgotten with the passage of time".[20]

The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.[web 5]

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

The current heads of the mathas trace their authority back to these figures, and each of the heads of these four mathas takes the title of Shankaracharya ("the learned Shankara") after Adi Sankara.[citation needed]

According to the tradition in Kerala, after Sankara's samadhi at Vadakkunnathan Temple, his disciples founded four mathas in Thrissur, namely Naduvil Madhom, Thekke Madhom, Idayil Madhom and Vadakke Madhom.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The word commands much more respect and power in the Indian context than its translations in English does.
  2. ^ Sampradayavihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
  3. ^ The original Sanskrit text found in Sabda-Kalpa-Druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary and Prameya-ratnavali 1.5-6 by Baladeva Vidyabhushana states: sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
    atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
    sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah
    catvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purusottamat
    ramanujam sri svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah
    sri visnusvaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah
  4. ^ Quoted in Böhtlingk's Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, entry Sampradaya.[4]
  5. ^ ek=one. ekadandi=of single staff. tridandi=of three staffs.
  6. ^ The following Sanskrit Verse among Smarthas provides the list of the early teachers of the Vedanta in their order:[web 4][18] "नारायणं पद्मभुवं वशिष्ठं शक्तिं च तत्पुत्रं पराशरं च व्यासं शुकं गौडपादं महान्तं गोविन्दयोगीन्द्रं अथास्य शिष्यम्
    श्री शंकराचार्यं अथास्य पद्मपादं च हस्तामलकं च शिष्यम् तं तोटकं वार्त्तिककारमन्यान् अस्मद् गुरून् सन्ततमानतोऽस्मि
    अद्वैत गुरु परंपरा स्तोत्रम्"
    "nārāyanam padmabhuvam vasishtam saktim ca tat-putram parāśaram ca
    vyāsam śukam gauḍapāda mahāntam govinda yogīndram athāsya śiṣyam
    śri śankarācāryam athāsya padmapādam ca hastāmalakam ca śiṣyam
    tam trotakam vārtikakāram-anyān asmad gurūn santatamānato’smi
    The above advaita guru paramparā verse salute the prominent gurus of advaita, starting from Nārāyaṇa through Adi Sankara and his disciples, up to the Acharyas of today.
  7. ^ the famous redactor of the vedas, he is also traditionally identified with Bādarāyaṇa, the composer of the Brahmasūtras


Written references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Gupta 2002.
  2. ^ Wright 1993.
  3. ^ a b Ebert 2006, p. 89.
  4. ^ a b Apte 1965.
  5. ^ a b c Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2003) "Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism" Himalayan Academy Publications, ISBN 9780945497899
  6. ^ [Civañān̲a Mun̲ivar (1985) "Sivajñāna Māpādiyam" Page 40]
  7. ^ a b c Hawaii Saiva siddhanta Church article
  8. ^ Mathew Chandrankunnel (2008) "Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics" P. 720 ISBN 8182202582
  9. ^ Nisargathatta maharaj
  10. ^ International Nath Order
  11. ^ Lakshmanjo Academy
  12. ^ P. N. K. Bamzai (1994) "Culture and Political History of Kashmir"
  13. ^ a b V. N. Drabu (1990) "Śaivāgamas: A Study in the Socio-economic Ideas and Institutions of Kashmir (200 B.C. to A.D. 700) Indus Publishing ISBN 9788185182384
  14. ^ Journal of the Oriental Institute (pp 301), by Oriental Institute (Vadodara, India)
  15. ^ Indian Sadhus by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye
  16. ^ Advaitic Concept of Jīvanmukti by Lalit Kishore Lal Srivastava
  17. ^ A History of Indian Philosophy by Jadunath Sinha.
  18. ^ Book: Shri Gowdapadacharya & Shri Kavale Math (A Commemoration volume). P. 38.
  19. ^ Nakamura 2004, p. 680.
  20. ^ Nakamura 2004, p. 680-681.



  • Apte, V.S. (1965), The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary: containing appendices on Sanskrit prosody and important literary and geographical names of ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publ. 
  • Ebert, Gabriele (2006), Ramana Maharshi: His Life, 
  • Gupta, R. (2002), Sampradaya in Eighteenth Century Caitanya Vaisnavism, ICJ 
  • Michaels, Axel (2004), Hinduism. Past and present, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 
  • Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Wright, Michael and Nancy (1993), "Baladeva Vidyabhusana: The Gaudiya Vedantist", Journal of Vaisnava Studies