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Elacqua, J., et. al. (2013, Mar 4). Hindu Denominations. Faithology.
Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Hindu Denominations" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 4, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed May 19, 2013).. Hindu Denominations.
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- Last Updated: March 4, 2013
- Originally Published: June 24, 2012
- The Faithology Editorial Staff
Broadly speaking, Hinduism is a religion native to the culture and history of India. Thus, it has no known founder and no clear date of origin. The term "Hindu" most often indicates a of Hinduism, though it can also refer to a native of a predominantly Hindu country who has not been otherwise identified as belonging to a different religious .
Hinduism as a whole is often divided into five main branches:
- Vaishnavism: more than 555,000,000 adherents
- Shaivism: more than 198,000,000 adherents
- : (number of adherents unknown)
- Smartism: (number of adherents unknown)
- The Darshanas: (number of adherents unknown)
Although they also do not have known founders, the above-mentioned individual branches of Hinduism can be estimated to have appeared between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE. During this time, lay Hindus began to devote themselves to specific deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi. Although the Vedic ritual and textual traditions serve as the central core of these sects, their emergence was the result of a variety of mythological and ritual factors that appear in post-Vedic literature.
Distinctive Beliefs of all Hindu adherents:
- Unlike most large religions, the various sects of Hinduism have no real unifying doctrinal belief system that remains consistent from branch to branch.
- Generally speaking, all Hindus are polytheistic and thus usually believe in a vast pantheon of deities. These deities are generally worshiped through devotional practices. While the main Hindu branches are centered upon the of an individual deity (or occasionally a small group of deities), this is not a requirement for all Hindus. One may still be a Hindu despite being a member of a sect that worships no deities at all.
- Hindus also generally believe in the religious and ritual authority of the Vedic (and often post-Vedic) literature. However, the degree to which this sacred literature is exalted often varies drastically from sect to sect. Similarly, the way these texts are interpreted also tends to vary from branch to branch.
- Although Hindu theological concepts appearing in the Upanishads are relatively widespread in sectarian Hinduism, they are not necessarily a part of every Hindu tradition. Such concepts include—but are not limited to—meditation, dharma, karma, and samsara. It should be noted that although these concepts are not only fundamental but also foundational to Hinduism, they are not technically definitive of the Hindu tradition since they have also been absorbed by the Buddhist and Jain traditions.
Of critical importance in the development of the Krishna.of these sects are the post-Vedic Hindu epics. Seen as histories, the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics play a large role in the Hindu religious mindset. The , a small section of the Mahabharata, is exalted by many Hindus as the cornerstone of their faith. Often treated as a standalone text, the Bhagavad Gita is basically a summary of Hindu as expounded by the deity,
Other post-Vedic texts known as the Puranas are also seen as central to the faith of most Hindus. According to Puranic tradition, these texts were revealed by the creator deity, Brahma, well before the Vedas were communicated to mankind. As a whole, the Puranas deal with the creation and end of the universe, genealogies of sages, legends of the deities they describe, ethics, religious observances, rituals, descriptions of heavens and hells, and various other topics. Many of the topics contained therein have greatly influenced the main sects of Hinduism. Various Puranas emphasize different deities and even disagree on the identity of the supreme being, and these differences have since led to the emergence of various sects within Hinduism. Those texts that describe Vishnu as the supreme being, for example, have been labeled Puranas and have given rise to Vaishnavism. The Shiva Puranas, which present Shiva as the leading deity, are held in highest esteem by Shaivists. Finally, Shaktis accept Devi as the supreme being as indicated in the Puranas. A large body of other Puranic texts also extols lesser deities such as Surya or . Another of the main sects of Hinduism, the Smartas, generally worship a number of deities present in these same sources.
Finally, a number of groups were inspired by a late Vedic genre of texts called Upanishads. These texts are extremely philosophical in nature, seeking to answer existential questions and offering other metaphysical speculations. These texts gave rise to a purely philosophical Hinduism known as.