Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hindu Sects of Today - 01

Hinduism as it is today, based on whatever I have seen in my journey across India over the last few years can be broadly categorized under three broad divisions:
a. Vishnu orientation
b. Shiva orientation
c. Shakti or Devi orientation

All Hindu's generally belong to any of these three groups. Again the distinction between Shaivism and Shaktism dilutes as we move away from Vaidika path and move towards the Tantra philosophy.

Sectarianism is particularly strong in the southern states of India, for example the rivalry of Iyer and Iyengar is common knowledge. In fact in south, even intra-sect rivalry is quite notorious as is the one between Iyengars (Vishistadvaitins) annd Madhvas (Dvaitas). While it is true that Bengali's are Shakta-oriented, it does not mean that we do not worship other Gods. As I have mentioned earlier, our family members are Vishnu followers (Sri Sri Narayana Jiu) but our daily rites consists of Shiva and Shakti along with Vishu.

Among the non-sectarian sects, the Smartas of South India alone remain. But again many Bengali Brahmins along with Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Konkan are mostly non-sectarian as Panchadeva Puja puja forms an important part of their daily practices, although they have their biases towards Devi and Ganesha respectively.

Traditionally, (even as late as 150 years back in some cases), a Hindu would have belonged to one of the following five groups:
a. Shaiva, or follower of Shiva
b. Vaishnava, or follower of Vishnu
c. Ganapataaya, or follower of Ganapati
d. Shakta, or follower of Shakti
e. Sauras, or follower of Surya

Apart from this there are/were two other smaller groups:
a. Agneya or Followers of Agni - For example the Shakdvipi Brahmins of Bengal and Mithila who are originally supposed to have come from Central Asia. Incidentally the Namboodiri Brahmins of Kerala are perhaps the only Brahmins families who are capable of performing the ancient Agni-ritual the Agnichayana
b. Skanda or Karttikeya sect - Dedicated followers of the Skanda or Karttikeya sect

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! But agnistoma and atiratra(agnicayana) is also performed by Marathi, Tamil and Telugu Brahmins. Kashi also has many dravida Brahmin ritualists and some UP brahmins who have performed these complex rites in an unbroken tradition.
    The namboodiris have a unique recitation method and are known for their intellectual brilliance but theirs is a more recent innovation.

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