Sant (religion)

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In Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, a sant is a human being revered for his or her knowledge of "self, truth, reality" and as a "truth-exemplar".[1][2]


Sant is sometimes translated as "saint", but this is a false cognate (there is no etymological commonality).[3] Sant is derived from the Sanskrit root sat, which can mean "truth, reality, essence", and saint is derived from Latin sanctus, which means "holy, sacred".[1]

Schomer and McLeod explain Sant as preceptor of Sat or "truth, reality", in the sense of "'one who knows the truth' or 'one who has experienced Ultimate Reality', that is a person who has achieved a state of spiritual enlightenment or mystical self-realisation".[4][5] William Pinch suggests the best translation of sant is "truth-exemplar".[1]


Sant differs from saint not merely in the etymological sense but also in usage. The word is used in various contexts:[2][4][6]

  • In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century India under Islamic rule, it was used generally to describe teachers and poet-scholars who led worshippers and communities the praises of god or goddess within the Bhakti movement in Hinduism.
  • It referred to the Gurus of Sikhism religion that developed from the 15th century onwards, and other holy men who later taught Guru Granth Sahib.[7]
  • In modern era, the term sometimes describes any holy man or woman who advocates a particular form of spirituality or members of the group that leads a Sant Mat (teachings of a spiritual congregation).
  • The term is also used in a generic sense and in this respect is similar to the usage of saint to indicate a morally good person. As such, it has been applied to a wide range of gurus and other religious leaders.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c William Pinch (1996), Peasants and Monks in British India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520200616, page 181 footnote 3
  2. ^ a b Schomer & McLeod (1987), pp. 1-17
  3. ^ Schomer & McLeod (1987), p. 3
  4. ^ a b Hawley (1987), p. 57
  5. ^ Schomer & McLeod (1987), p. 2
  6. ^ John Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer (2008), Songs of the Saints of India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195694208, pages 2-8
  7. ^ Schomer & McLeod (1987), pp. 251-267