Shanmata (षण्मत) IAST Ṣaṇmata) meaning "Six Sects" in Sanskrit, has its origins in the hoary past. While these Six Sects initially had separate followers, theologian Adi Shankara, the 8th century CE Hindu philosopher, worked to join the adherents of the Six Sects into one through spreading his Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Adi Sankara's followers believe Brahman alone is ultimately real and the true self, atman, is not different from Brahman. It centers around the worship of the deities belonging to six agama schools, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Ganesha, Surya and Skanda as One. This is based on the belief in the essential oneness of all deities, the unity of Godhead, the one divine power, Brahman.
Philosophically, all are seen by Advaitins as equal reflections of the one Saguna Brahman, i.e., a personal divine with form, rather than as distinct beings  Smartism, a relatively modern Hindu tradition (compared to the three other 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 Shaivism and is based on the recognition that Brahman (God) is the highest principle in the universe and pervades all of existence. Generally Smartas worship the Supreme in one of six forms: Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, 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.
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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