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Smartha

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Smartha

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Hinduism
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Smartha Sampradaya (Smartha Tradition, as it is termed in Sanskrit) is a liberal or nonsectarian denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion which accepts all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman, in contrast to Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, the other three major Hindu sects, which revere Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti, respectively, as the Supreme Being.

In Sanskrit, Smārtha means "relating to memory, recorded in or based on the Smriti, based on tradition, prescribed or sanctioned by traditional law or usage, (etc)", from the root smr ("remember"); smarana. Smartha is a vriddhi derivation of Smriti just as Śrauta is a vriddhi derivation of Śruti.

Shad Darsana philosophy

Smartha Tradition includes the followers of all the six Darsanas (systems) of Hindu philosophy. Vedas are non-sectarian. The Vedic rituals are based on Purva Mimansa. The Bhagavad Gita which contains the Sankhya and Yoga concepts is revered by the Smarthas.[1]

Differences with other Hindu denominations

By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu or Krishna to be the true God who is worthy of worship and other forms as his subordinates. Accordingly, Vaishnavites, for example, believe that only Vishnu or Krishna can grant the ultimate salvation for mankind, moksha. Similarly, many Shaivites also hold the same beliefs about Shiva. Notably, many Shaivites believe that Shakti is worshiped to reach Shiva, whom for Saktas is the impersonal Absolute. In Saktism, emphasis is given to the feminine manifest through which the male unmanifested, Lord Shiva, is realized.

Shanmata and influence on contemporary Hinduism

Adi Shankara is believed to have propagated the tradition of Shanmata (Sanskrit, meaning Six Opinions).

Smartha practices

Daily routine

The daily routine of a smartha brahmin[2] includes performing

The last two named Yajnas are performed in only a few households today.

Brahmacharis perform:

instead of Agnihotra or Aupasana.

The other rituals followed include Amavasya tarpanam and Shraddha.

Panchayatana Puja

The Smarthas evolved a kind of worship which is known as Panchayatana puja. In this Puja, the five principal Brahmanical Hindu Deities (Surya, Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha and Devi) are the objects of veneration. The five symbols of the major Gods are placed on a round open metal dish called Panchayatana, the symbol of the deity preferred by the worshiper being in the center. A similar arrangement is also seen in the medieval temples, in which the central shrine housing the principal Deity is surrounded by four smaller shrines containing the figures of the other deities.[3]

Some of the Smarthas of South India add a sixth Deity Skanda.

There are different sets of rules for each Ashrama (stage of an individual's life). The stages of life prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are Brahmacharya Ashrama, Grihastha Ashrama, Vanaprastha Ashrama and Sannyasa Ashrama. These four orders normally proceed one after the other, depending upon one's age, maturity, mental disposition and qualification. Each stage has its own set of rules within which it is conducted.

Other practices

All Smarthas who take up the Brahmacharya Ashrama by undergoing Upanayana are expected to adhere to a sattvic diet and adhere to other rules of the Smriti tradition of their respective families. In modern days, the Smarthas contend with learning at least the select portions (called Suktas) and other portions from the Aranyaka of the Veda.

Smarthas are recommended to follow the Brahma form of Vedic marriage (a type of arranged marriage). The marriage ceremony is derived from Vedic prescriptions. Women acquire the traditions of her husband's family upon marriage.

Lineage is an important continuity for the Smarthas. It is called the Gotra. Each Smartha family belongs to a particular Gotra which is the progeny of an identified Rishi. People belonging to the same Gotra are deemed brothers & sisters and hence cannot marry each other.

The Shrauta tradition

Main article: Shrauta

Traditionally the Smartas follow the Shrauta tradition. The Shrauta tradition emphasises the performance of Yajnas which are described in the Vedas.

Religious institutions

Traditional Smartha religious institutions:

and other Sankara Maths spread all over India.

The other Hindu missions with Advaita traditions closely linked with the Smartha philosophy are:

Contributions

Prominent Smartha teachers

Some of the prominent Smartha Teachers:

Scriptures

Smarthas follow the Hindu scriptures. These include:

  • The Upanishads, which are part of the Vedas, are often mentioned separately, given their especial importance as products of past intellectual ferment.
  • The Bhagavad Gita, a summary of the Upanishads is highly revered. Adi Shankaracharya wrote the very first and major commentary on it. It is a text that is recommended for daily readings and many Smarthas still do so. Other Advaita commentaries are by Madhusudhana Saraswati and Sridhara Swami.
  • The Smritis" are religious books based on Vedas and are written by important Sages/Rishis of the past. Each of them contains recommendations and practices unique to itself. The Book an individual follows depends on his family. Thus, ritual practices sometimes varied from family to family, depending on family tradition. Some of the more common religious law books were the Manu Smriti, the Apastamba Smriti and the Bodhyayana Smriti.
  • The two epics Ramayana of Valmiki and the Mahabharata have been commented by many Smartha philosophers and scholars. Harikathas, Pravachanams, Upanyasams, Kalakshepams on these texts are still very popular. The Ramayana is the text of choice for daily devotional reading or Nitya Parayanam for many Smarthas and it has pervaded and guided Hindu conscience for centuries.
  • The Puranas contain the lore and explanations of the theology of the Vedas. They are a collection of sacred historical events that were passed from one generation to the next in the form of mythological stories. Smartha philosophers use the puranas to get a better understanding of Vedas, but do not consider them as completely authentic texts. However, the major Puranas are revered by Smarthas. The Srimad Bhagavatham and Vishnu Purana are treated with the same reverence as the major epics, as also being the chosen texts for daily devotional reading (Parayana grantham). "Sridhariyam" on the Bhagavatham, and "Bhavartha-Dipika" on the Vishnu Purana are well known Advaita commentaries both by Sridhara Swami.

In addition to the above scriptures, Smarthas also recite various hymns or Shlokas and Stotras composed by Hindu saints and poets. The afore mentioned scriptures are also the texts of choice for daily reading by the Acharyas of the Shankara mutts.

Communities

Though most of the Hindus follow the Smartha tradition, only a few communities still call themselves Smarthas. These communities are mostly in South India.

Smartha communities:

See:Kannada brahmins
  • Maharashtra
    • Konkani Saraswat Brahmins(Goud, Rajapur, Chitrapur) of Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerela
    • Chitpavan Brahmins of Konkan, Maharashtra.
    • Karhade Brahmins
    • Daivajnas of Goa,Maharashtra,Karnataka(except few from North and South Canara who follow Vaishnavism) and Kerala[5]

See also

Notes

References

  • Goyal, S. R. (1984) A Religious History of Ancient India. Volume 2. Published by Kusumanjali Prakashan, Meerut, India

External links

  • Adi Sankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta Library
  • Advaita Vedanta Homepage
  • Jagadguru Mahasamsthanam, Sringeri Sharada Peetam
  • Shankara Sampradayam
  • Hinduism Today - Description of Smarthism among the four major divisions of Hinduism.
  • .
  • Six schools of smartha hinduism
  • Oneness of God from Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
  • Description of smartha tradition.
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