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Vaishnavism (Vaiṣṇavasampradāyaḥ) is one of the major Hindu denominations along with , , and . It is also called Vishnuism since it considers as the sole leading all other , that is, .

(1986). 9780520059917, University of California Press. .
(1994). 9780877739807, Shambhala. .
Its followers are called Vaishnavites or Vaishnavas (), and it includes sub-sects like and Ramaism, which consider and as the supreme beings respectively. According to a 2010 estimate by Johnson and Grim, Vaishnavism is the largest Hindu sect, constituting about 641 million or 67.6% of Hindus.

The ancient emergence of Vaishnavism is unclear, and broadly hypothesized as a fusion of various regional non-Vedic religions with . A merger of several popular non-Vedic theistic traditions, particularly the cults of Vāsudeva-krishna and , and , developed in the 7th to 4th century BCE.

(1987). 9780029098806, Macmillan. .
It was integrated with the Vedic God in the early centuries CE, and finalized as Vaishnavism, when it developed the doctrine, wherein the various non-Vedic deities are revered as distinct incarnations of the supreme God . , , , , , , , , and are among the names of popular avatars all seen as different aspects of the same supreme being.

The Vaishnavite tradition is known for the loving devotion to an avatar of Vishnu (often Krishna), and as such was key to the spread of the in Indian subcontinent in the 2nd millennium CE. It has four schools of numerous denominations ( sampradaya): the medieval-era school of , the school of , the school of , and the of . (14th century) created a Rama-oriented movement, now the largest monastic group in Asia.

Key texts in Vaishnavism include the , the , the , the (Agama) texts, Naalayira Divya Prabhandham, and the .



Northern India
The ancient emergence of Vaishnavism is unclear, the evidence inconsistent and scanty. Syncretism of various traditions resulted in Vaishnavism. Although Vishnu was a Vedic solar deity, he is mentioned less often compared to Agni, Indra, and other Vedic deities, thereby suggesting that he had a minor position in the Vedic religion.

According to Dandekar, what is understood today as Vaishnavism did not originate in Vedism at all, but emerged from the merger of several popular theistic traditions which developed after the decline of Brahmanism at the end of the Vedic period, closely before the second urbanisation of northern India, in the 7th to 4th century BCE. It initially formed as Vasudevism around Vāsudeva, a deified leader of the , and one of the . Later, Vāsudeva was amalgamated with "the deified tribal hero and religious leader of the ", to form the merged deity , due to the close relation between the tribes of the and the Yadavas. This was followed by a merger with the cult of of the cowherd community of the Abhıras in the 4th century CE. The character of Gopala Krishna is often considered to be non-Vedic. According to Dandekar, such mergers consolidated the position of between the heterodox sramana movement and the orthodox Vedic religion. The "Greater Krsnaism", states Dandekar, then adopted the Rigvedic Vishnu as Supreme deity to increase its appeal towards orthodox elements.

According to Klostermaier, Vaishnavism originates in the latest centuries BCE and the early centuries CE, with the cult of the heroic Vāsudeva, a leading member of the , which was then amalgamated with , hero of the , and still several centuries later with the "divine child" of the Gopala traditions. According to Klostermaier, "In some books Krishna is presented as the founder and first teacher of the religion." According to Dalal, "The term Bhagavata seems to have developed from the concept of the Vedic deity , and initially it seems to have been a monotheistic sect, independent of the Brahmanical pantheon."

The development of the Krishna-traditions was followed by a syncretism of these non-Vedic traditions with the canon, thus affiliating itself with in order to become acceptable to the establishment. The Vishnu of the was assimilated into non-Vedic Krishnaism and became the equivalent of the Supreme God. The appearance of Krishna as one of the of Vishnu dates to the period of the in the early centuries CE. The —initially, a Krishnaite scripture, according to —was incorporated into the Mahabharata as a key text for Krishnaism.

Finally, the Narayana worshippers were also included, which further brahmanized Vaishnavism. The Nara-Narayana worshippers may have originated in Badari, a northern ridge of the Hindu Kush, and absorbed into the Vedic orthodoxy as Purusa Narayana. Purusa Narayana may have later been turned into Arjuna and Krsna.

In the late-Vedic texts (~1000 to 500 BCE), the concept of a metaphysical grows in prominence, and the Vaishnavism tradition considered Vishnu to be identical to Brahman, just like Shaivism and Shaktism consider Shiva and Devi to be Brahman respectively.

(1998). 9780791435793, SUNY Press. .

This complex history is reflected in the two main historical denominations of Vishnavism. The , worship Vāsudeva-Krishna, and are followers of Brahmanic Vaishnavism, while the Pacaratrins regard Narayana as their founder, and are followers of Tantric Vaishnavism.

Southern India
S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar states that the lifetime of the Vaishnava was during the first half of the 12th century, their works flourishing about the time of the revival of Brahminism and Hinduism in the north, speculating that Vaishnavism might have penetrated to the south as early as about the first century CE. There also exists secular literature that ascribes the commencement of the tradition in the south to the 3rd century CE. U.V. Swaminathan Aiyar, a scholar of Tamil literature, published the ancient work of the Sangam period known as the Paripatal, which contains seven poems in praise of Vishnu, including references to Krishna and Balarama. Aiyangar references an invasion of the south by the in some of the older poems of the Sangam, and indicated that the opposition that was set up and maintained persistently against northern conquest had possibly in it an element of religion, the south standing up for orthodox Brahmanism against the encroachment of Buddhism by the persuasive eloquence and persistent effort of the Buddhist emperor . The Tamil literature of this period has references scattered all over to the colonies of Brahmans brought and settled down in the south, and the whole output of this archaic literature exhibits unmistakably considerable Brahman influence in the making up of that literature.

The Vaishnava school of the south based its teachings on the Naradiya and the from the north and laid stress on a life of purity, high morality, worship and devotion to only one God. Although the monism of was greatly appreciated by the intellectual class, the masses came increasingly within the fold of Vishnu. Vaishnavism checked the elaborate rituals, ceremonials, vratas, fasts, and feasts prescribed by the and for the daily life of a Hindu, and also the worship of various deities like the sun, the moon, the grahas or planets, enjoined by the priestly Brahmin class for the sake of emoluments and gain. It enjoined the worship of no other deities except of the , who was deemed the primal cause of srsti (creation), sthiti (existence) and pralaya (destruction). The accompanying philosophies of and brought the lower classes into the fold of practical Hinduism, and extended to them the right and privilege of knowing God and attaining mukti (salvation).

The dynasty of Tamilakam patronised Vaishnavism. built shrines both of Vishnu and Shiva, several of his cave-temples exhibiting shrines to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. In the age of the Pallava domination, which followed immediately, both Vaishnavism and Shaivism flourished, fighting the insurgent Buddhists and Jains. The Pallavas were also the first of various dynasties that offered land and wealth to the Venkatesvara temple at Tirumala, which would soon become the most revered religious site of South India. The is credited with the conversion of the king (originally called Bittideva) from Jainism to Vaishnavism, consolidating the faith in Karnataka.

(1990). 9780141949765, Penguin UK. .
The and their rivals of the Pallavas appear to have employed Vaishnavism as an assertion of divine kingship, one of them proclaiming themselves as terrestrial emanations of Vishnu while the other promptly adopted Shaivism as their favoured tradition, neither of them offering much importance to the other's deity.
(2023). 9781850655206, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. .
The of Ramanuja would hold sway in the south, the Vadakalai denomination subscribing to Vedanta philosophy and the Tenkalai adhering to regional liturgies known as Prabandham.
(1997). 9788120813427, Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. .

According to , there is evidence of early "southern Krishnaism," despite the tendency to allocate the Krishna-traditions to the Northern traditions. South Indian texts show close parallel with the Sanskrit traditions of Krishna and his gopi companions, so ubiquitous in later North Indian text and imagery. Early writings in ' culture such as and the present Krishna, , and favourite female companions in the similar terms. Hardy argues that the Sanskrit Bhagavata Purana is essentially a Sanskrit "translation" of the bhakti of the Tamil .Norman Cutler (1987) Songs of Experience: The Poetics of Tamil Devotion, p. 13

Devotion to the southern Indian Mal (Perumal) may be an early form of Krishnaism, since Mal appears as a divine figure, largely like Krishna with some elements of Vishnu. The , whose name can be translated "immersed", were devotees of Perumal. They codified the Vaishnava canon of the south with their most significant liturgy, the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, traced to the 10th century as a compilation by Nathamuni.

(2023). 9788131711200, Pearson Education India. .
Their poems show a pronounced orientation to the Vaishnava, and often Krishna, side of Mal. But they do not make the distinction between and on the basis of the concept of the . Yet, according to Hardy, the term "Mayonism" should be used instead of "Krishnaism" when referring to Mal or Mayon. The early Alvars speak of glorifying Vishnu bhakti (devotion to Vishnu), but at the same time, they do regard Shiva bhakti (devotion to Shiva) with considerable sympathy, and make a visible effort to keep the Shaivas in countenance. The earliest Alvars go the length of describing Shiva and Vishnu as one, although they do recognise their united form as Vishnu.

Srirangam, the site of the largest functioning temple in the world of 600 acres,

(2019). 9781684661343, Notion Press. .
is devoted to , a form of Vishnu. The legend goes that King , who was carrying the idol of Ranganatha on his way to , took rest for a while by placing the statue on the ground. When he prepared to depart, he realised that the idol was stuck to the ground. So, he built a small shrine, which became a popular abode for the deity Ranganatha on the banks of the river Kaveri. The entire temple campus with great walls, towards, mandapas, halls with 1000 pillars were constructed over a period of 300 years from the 14th to 17th century CE.

Gupta era
Most of the Gupta kings, beginning with (Vikramaditya) (375-413 CE) were known as Parama Bhagavatas or . But following the invasions, especially those of the circa 500 CE, the declined and fragmented, ultimately collapsing completely, with the effect of discrediting Vaishnavism, the religion it had been so ardently promoting. The newly arising regional powers in central and northern India, such as the , the , the , the or the preferred adopting instead, giving a strong impetus to the development of the worship of , and its ideology of power. Vaisnavism remained strong mainly in the territories which had not been affected by these events: and .
(2020). 9789493194007, Barkhuis. .

Early medieval period
After the Gupta age, Krishnaism rose to a major current of Vaishnavism, and Vaishnavism developed into various sects and subsects, most of them emphasizing bhakti, which was strongly influenced by south Indian religiosity. Modern scholarship posit (c.7th century CE) to this period who propounded Radha Krishna worship and his doctrine came to be known as (dvaita-advaita).

Vaishnavism in the 10th century started to employ Vedanta-arguments, possibly continuing an older tradition of Vishnu-oriented Vedanta predating . Many of the early Vaishnava scholars such as Nathamuni, Yamunacharya and Ramanuja, contested Advaita interpretations and proposed Vishnu bhakti ideas instead.

(1988). 9788120802667, Motilal Banarsidass. .
(1984). 9780889201583, Wilfrid Laurier University Press. .
Vaishnavism flourished in predominantly during the seventh to tenth centuries CE with the twelve , saints who spread the sect to the common people with their devotional . The temples that the Alvars visited or founded are now known as . Their poems in praise of and Krishna in are collectively known as Naalayira (4000 divine verses).

Later medieval period
The of late medieval Hinduism started in the 7th century, but rapidly expanded after the 12th century. It was supported by the Puranic literature such as the , poetic works, as well as many scholarly and .
(1987). 9788120802773, Motilal Banarsidass.
(2023). 9781136853067, Routledge. .

This period saw the growth of Vashnavism Sampradayas (denominations or communities) under the influence of scholars such as , , and . Bhakti poets or teachers such as Manavala Mamunigal, , , , , , , , Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and many others influenced the expansion of Vaishnavism.Even (princess of Mehwar and Rajasthan) took part in this specific movement.John Stratton Hawley (2015), A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement, Harvard University Press, , pp. 304–310 These Vaishnavism sampradaya founders rejected 's doctrines of Advaita Vedanta, particularly in the 12th century, and in the 13th, building their theology on the devotional tradition of the ().

In North and Eastern India, Vaishnavism gave rise to various late Medieval movements in the 14th century, in the 15th and and Chaitanya in the 16th century. Historically, it was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who founded congregational chanting of holy names of Krishna in the early 16th century after becoming a .

Modern times
During the 20th century, Vaishnavism has spread from India and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including North America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America. A pioneer of Vaishnavite mission to the West has become sannyasi Baba Premananda Bharati (1858–1914), an author of the first full-length treatment of Bengali Vaishnavism in English Sree Krishna—the Lord of Love and founder in 1902 the "Krishna Samaj" society in New York City and a temple in . The global status of Vaishnavism is largely due to the growth of the movement, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966.
(2023). 9780231122566, Columbia University Press.
Prabhupada - He Built a House, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1983, p. xv


Theism with many varieties
Vaishnavism is centered on the devotion of Vishnu and his avatars. According to Schweig, it is a "polymorphic monotheism, i.e. a theology that recognizes many forms (ananta rupa) of the one, single unitary divinity," since there are many forms of one original deity, with Vishnu taking many forms. Okita, in contrast, states that the different denominations within Vaishnavism are best described as theism, and .Kiyokazu Okita (2010), Theism, Pantheism, and Panentheism: Three Medieval Vaishnava Views of Nature and their Possible Ecological Implications, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Volume 18, Number 2, pp. 5–26

The Vaishnava sampradaya started by Madhvacharya is a monotheistic tradition wherein Vishnu (Krishna) is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. In contrast, Sri Vaishnavism sampradaya associated with Ramanuja has monotheistic elements, but differs in several ways, such as goddess Lakshmi and god Vishnu are considered as inseparable equal divinities.William Wainwright (2013), Monotheism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University Press According to some scholars, Sri Vaishnavism emphasizes panentheism, and not monotheism, with its theology of "transcendence and immanence",

(2023). 9780791444573, State University of New York Press. .
Ankur Barua (2010), God's body at work: Ramanuja and Panentheism, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 1–30 where God interpenetrates everything in the universe, and all of empirical reality is God's body.Anne Hunt Overzee (1992). The Body Divine: The Symbol of the Body in the Works of Teilhard de Chardin and Ramanuja. Cambridge University Press. pp. 63–85.
(1986). 9780887060380, State University of New York Press. .
The Vaishnava sampradaya associated with Vallabhacharya is a form of pantheism, in contrast to the other Vaishnavism traditions. The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Chaitanya, states Schweig, is closer to a polymorphic bi-monotheism because both goddess Radha and god Krishna are simultaneously supreme.

Vaishnavism precepts include the (incarnation) doctrine, wherein Vishnu incarnates numerous times, in different forms, to set things right and bring back the balance in the universe.

(2023). 9780816075645, Infobase. .
These avatars include Narayana, Vasudeva, Rama and Krishna; each the name of a divine figure with attributed supremacy, which each associated tradition of Vaishnavism believes to be distinct.

Vishnuism and Krishnaism
The term "Krishnaism" () has been used to describe a large group of independent traditions- within Vaishnavism regarded as the Supreme God, while "Vishnuism" may be used for sects focusing on Vishnu in which Krishna is an , rather than a transcended Supreme Being. Vishnuism believes in Vishnu as the supreme being. When all other Vaishnavas recognise Krishna as one of Vishnu's , though only the Krishnites identify the Supreme Being (, , a source of the Trimurti) with Krishna and his forms (, and others), those manifested themselves as Vishnu. This is its difference from such groups as , , Sitaism, etc. As such Krishnaism is believed to be one of the early attempts to make philosophical Hinduism appealing to the masses.
(1993). 9780840744197, T. Nelson. .
In common language the term Krishnaism is not often used, as many prefer a wider term "Vaishnavism", which appeared to relate to Vishnu, more specifically as Vishnu-ism.

In sects, Vishnu or is the one supreme God. The belief in the supremacy of Vishnu is based upon the many avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu listed in the texts, which differs from other Hindu deities such as , , or . To the devotees of the , "Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Being and the foundation of all existence." Page 1–Ramanuja and Sri Vaishnavism Lakshmi, his consort, is described to act as the mediatrix between Vishnu and his devotees, intervening to offer her grace and forgiveness.
(2006). 9780313071553, Bloomsbury Publishing USA. .
(1994). 9780802806932, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. .
According to Vedanta Desika, the supreme divine couple pervades and transcends the entire universe, which is described to be their body. They are described to support all life, both material and spiritual.
(2008). 9781441122780, A&C Black. .
In this manner, Lakshmi is conceived to be the supreme mother and Narayana as the supreme father of creation.
(2008). 9780190451400, Oxford University Press. .

In the Krishnaism group of Vaishnavism traditions, such as the Nimbarka Sampradaya (the first Krishnaite Sampradaya developed by c. 7th century CE), , Gaudiya Vaishnavism, , (), Vaishnava-Sahajiya, and , devotees worship Krishna as the One Supreme form of and source of all avatars, .

Krishnaism is often also called Bhagavatism—perhaps the earliest Krishnite movement was Bhagavatism with Krishna- (about 2nd century BCE)—after the which asserts that Krishna is "Bhagavan Himself," and subordinates to itself all other forms: , , , , , , etc.. "It becomes clear that the personality of Bhagvan Krishna subordinates to itself the titles and identities of Vishnu, Narayana, Purusha, Ishvara, Hari, Vasudeva, Janardana etc. The pervasive theme, then, of the Bhagavata Puran is the identification of Bhagavan with Krishna."

Krishna is often described as having the appearance of a dark-skinned person and is depicted as a young cowherd boy playing a or as a youthful prince giving philosophical direction and guidance, as in the .

(1996). 9781851681082, Oneword. .

Krishna is also worshiped across many other traditions of Hinduism. Krishna and the stories associated with him appear across a broad spectrum of different Hindu and theological traditions, where it is believed that appears to his devoted worshippers in many different forms, depending on their particular desires. These forms include the different avataras of Krishna described in traditional texts, but they are not limited to these. Indeed, it is said that the different expansions of the are uncountable and they cannot be fully described in the finite scriptures of any one religious community. Many of the sometimes differ in details reflecting the concerns of a particular tradition, while some core features of the view on Krishna are shared by all.

Radha Krishna
is the combination of both the feminine as well as the masculine aspects of God. Krishna is often referred as in Gaudiya Vaishnavism theology and is Krishna's internal potency and supreme beloved. With Krishna, Radha is acknowledged as the supreme goddess, for it is said that she controls Krishna with her love. It is believed that Krishna enchants the world, but Radha enchants even him. Therefore, she is the supreme goddess of all.Chaitanya-charitamrita Adi-lila 4.95 Radha and Krishna are avatars of and respectively. In the region of India called Braj, Radha and Krishna are worshipped together, and their separation cannot even be conceived. And, some communities ascribe more devotional significance to Radha.
(2023). 9780195148923, Oxford Univ. Press.
While there are much earlier references to the worship of this form of , it is since Goswami wrote a famous poem in the twelfth century CE, that the topic of the spiritual love affair between the divine Krishna and his consort , became a theme celebrated throughout India. It is believed that Krishna has left the "circle" of the to search for Radha. The Chaitanya school believes that the name and identity of Radha are both revealed and concealed in the verse describing this incident in . It is also believed that Radha is not just one cowherd maiden, but is the origin of all the , or divine personalities that participate in the rasa dance.

According to The Bhagavata Purana, there are twenty-two avatars of Vishnu, including and . The Dashavatara is a later concept.

The Pancaratrins follow the vyuhas doctrine, which says that God has four manifestations ( vyuhas), namely Vasudeva, Samkarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. These four manifestations represent "the Highest Self, the individual self, mind, and egoism."

Restoration of dharma
Vaishnavism theology has developed the concept of avatar (incarnation) around Vishnu as the preserver or sustainer. His avataras, asserts Vaishnavism, descend to empower the good and fight evil, thereby restoring . This is reflected in the passages of the ancient as:

In Vaishnava theology, such as is presented in the and the , whenever the cosmos is in crisis, typically because the evil has grown stronger and has thrown the cosmos out of its balance, an avatar of Vishnu appears in a material form, to destroy evil and its sources, and restore the cosmic balance between the everpresent forces of good and evil. The most known and celebrated avatars of Vishnu, within the Vaishnavism traditions of Hinduism, are , , and . These names have extensive literature associated with them, each has its own characteristics, legends and associated arts. The Mahabharata, for example, includes Krishna, while the Ramayana includes Rama.

The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Agamas are the scriptural sources of Vaishnavism,Dominic Goodall (1996), Hindu Scriptures, University of California Press, , pp. ix–xliiiRC Zaehner (1992), Hindu Scriptures, Penguin Random House, , pp. 1–11 and Preface while the Bhagavata Purana is a revered and celebrates popular text, parts of which a few scholars such as Dominic Goodall include as a scripture. Other important texts in the tradition include the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as texts by various sampradayas (denominations within Vaishnavism). In many Vaishnava traditions, Krishna is accepted as a teacher, whose teachings are in the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata Purana.


Vedas and Upanishads
Vaishnavism, just like all Hindu traditions, considers the as the scriptural authority.
(2023). 9780816075645, Infobase. .
(1999). 9788876528187, Gregorian Press. .
All traditions within Vaishnavism consider the , the and the embedded within the four Vedas as , while Smritis, which include all the epics, the Puranas and its Samhitas, states Mariasusai Dhavamony, are considered as "exegetical or expository literature" of the Vedic texts.

The Vedanta schools of , which interpreted the Upanishads and the , provided the philosophical foundations of Vaishnavism. Due to the ancient and archaic language of the Vedic texts, interpretations varied among different schools, leading to differences between the denominations (sampradayas) of Vaishnavism.

(1990). 9780253213587, Indiana University Press. .
These interpretations have created different traditions within Vaishnavism, from dualistic ( Dvaita) Vedanta of , to nondualistic ( Advaita) Vedanta of Madhusudana Sarasvati.

Vaishnava Upanishads
Along with the reverence and exegetical analysis of the ancient Principal Upanishads, Vaishnava-inspired scholars authored 14 Vishnu avatar-focussed Upanishads that are called the Vaishnava Upanishads.
(2023). 9780895819864, Jain Publishing Co. (Reprint 2006).
These are considered part of 95 minor Upanishads in the Muktikā Upanishadic corpus of Hindu literature.Peter Heehs (2002), Indian Religions, New York University Press, , pp. 60–88 The earliest among these were likely composed in 1st millennium BCE, while the last ones in the late medieval era.
(1998). 9780192835765, Oxford University Press. .

All of the Vaishnava Upanishads either directly reference and quote from the ancient Principal Upanishads or incorporate some ideas found in them; most cited texts include the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, , , Mundaka Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad and others. In some cases, they cite fragments from the and layers of the and the .

The Vaishnava Upanishads present diverse ideas, ranging from -style theistic themes to a synthesis of Vaishnava ideas with Advaitic, Yoga, Shaiva and Shakti themes.

(1997). 9789004107588, BRILL Academic. .

>+ Vaishnava Upanishads
Vaishnava UpanishadVishnu AvatarComposition dateTopicsReference
Mahanarayana UpanishadNarayana6AD - 100 CENarayana, Atman, Brahman, Rudra, Sannyasa
Narayana UpanishadNarayanaMedievalMantra, Narayana is one without a second, eternal, same as all gods and universe
(2023). 9788120814691, Motilal Banarsidass.
Rama Rahasya UpanishadRama~17th century CERama, Sita, Hanuman, Atman, Brahman, mantra
(2023). 9780791453865, SUNY Press. .
(1994). 9788120811225, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Rama tapaniya UpanishadRama~11th to 16th centuryRama, Sita, Atman, Brahman, mantra, sannyasa
Kali-Santarana UpanishadRama, Krishna~14th centuryHare Rama Hare Krishna mantra
Gopala Tapani UpanishadKrishnabefore the 14th centuryKrishna, Radha, Atman, Brahman, mantra, bhakti
(2023). 9781932771121, Audarya.
Krishna UpanishadKrishna~12th-16th centuryRama predicting Krishna birth, symbolism, bhakti
(2023). 9780895819864, Jain Publishing Co. (Reprint 2006).
Vasudeva UpanishadKrishna, Vasudeva~2nd millenniumBrahman, Atman, Vasudeva, Krishna, [[Urdhva Pundra]], Yoga
[[Garuda Upanishad]]VishnuMedievalThe kite-like bird ''vahana'' (vehicle) of VishnuJean Varenne (1972), The Garuda Upanishad, Brill,
Hayagriva UpanishadHayagrivamedieval, after the 10th century CEMahavakya of Principal Upanishads, Pancaratra, Tantra
(2023). 9780895819864, Jain Publishing Co. (Reprint 2006).
DS Babu (1990), [ Hayagriva - the horse headed deity], Oriental Research Institute, Tirupati
Dattatreya UpanishadNarayana, Dattatreya14th to 15th centuryTantra, yoga, Brahman, Atman, Shaivism, Shaktism
(1998). 9780791436967, State University of New York Press.
Tarasara UpanishadRama, Narayana~11th to 16th centuryOm, Atman, Brahman, Narayana, Rama, Ramayana
Avyakta UpanishadNarasimhabefore the 7th centuryPrimordial nature, cosmology, [[Ardhanarishvara]], Brahman, Atman
Nrisimha Tapaniya UpanishadNarasimhabefore the 7th century CEAtman, Brahman, Advaita, Shaivism, Avatars of Vishnu, Om

Bhagavad Gita
The is a central text in Vaishnavism, and especially in the context of Krishna.James Mulhern (1959) A History of Education: A Social Interpretation p. 93Franklin Edgerton (1925) The Bhagavad Gita: Or, Song of the Blessed One, India's Favorite Bible pp. 87-91Charlotte Vaudeville has said, it is the 'real Bible of Krsnaism'. Quoted in: The Bhagavad Gita is an important scripture not only within Vaishnavism, but also to other traditions of Hinduism.
(2023). 9781400851973, Princeton University Press. .
It is one of three important texts of the school of , and has been central to all Vaishnavism sampradayas.
(2023). 9780786459735, McFarland. .

The Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, and presents Bhakti, Jnana and Karma yoga as alternate ways to spiritual liberation, with the choice left to the individual. The text discusses , and its pursuit as duty without craving for fruits of one's actions, as a form of spiritual path to liberation. The text, state Clooney and Stewart, succinctly summarizes the foundations of Vaishnava theology that the entire universe exists within Vishnu, and all aspects of life and living is not only a divine order but divinity itself. Bhakti, in Bhagavad Gita, is an act of sharing, and a deeply personal awareness of spirituality within and without.

The Bhagavad Gita is a summary of the classical Upanishads and Vedic philosophy, and closely associated with the Bhagavata and related traditions of Vaishnavism.

(2023). 9781400851973, Princeton University Press. .
(2023). 9781590308936, Shambhala Publications. .
The text has been commented upon and integrated into diverse Vaishnava denominations, such as by the medieval era Madhvacharya's Vedanta school and Ramanuja's Vedanta school, as well as 20th century Vaishnava movements such as the Hare Krishna movement by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Vaishnava Agamas
The Samhitas (literally, five nights) is a genre of texts where Vishnu is presented as Narayana and Vasudeva, and this genre of Vaishnava texts is also known as the Vaishnava Agamas. Its doctrines are found embedded in the stories within the Narayaniya section of the Mahabharata. Narayana is presented as the ultimate unchanging truth and reality (Brahman), who pervades the entirety of the universe and is asserted to be the preceptor of all religions.
(1995). 9788120812611, Motilal Banarsidass. .

The Pancaratra texts present the Vyuhas theory of avatars to explain how the absolute reality (Brahman) manifests into material form of ever changing reality (Vishnu avatar). Vasudeva, state the Pancaratra texts, goes through a series of emanations, where new avatars of him appear. This theory of avatar formation syncretically integrates the theories of evolution of matter and life developed by the school of Hindu philosophy. These texts also present cosmology, methods of worship, tantra, Yoga and principles behind the design and building of Vaishnava temples ( Mandira nirmana). These texts have guided religiosity and temple ceremonies in many Vaishnava communities, particularly in South India.

The Pancaratra Samhitas are tantric in emphasis, and at the foundation of tantric Vaishnava traditions such as the Sri Vaishnava tradition.

(1981). 9783447020916, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. .
They complement and compete with the vedic Vaishnava traditions such as the Bhagavata tradition, which emphasize the more ancient Vedic texts, ritual grammar and procedures.
(2023). 9780791488904, State University of New York Press. .
While the practices vary, the philosophy of Pancaratra is primarily derived from the Upanishads, its ideas synthesize Vedic concepts and incorporate Vedic teachings.
(1989). 9780887065996, State University of New York Press. .
(1994). 9788120810983, Motilal Banarsidass. .

The three most studied texts of this genre of Vaishnava religious texts are Paushkara Samhita, Sattvata Samhita and Jayakhya Samhita. Reprinted in The other important Pancaratra texts include the Lakshmi Tantra and Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

(2023). 9788120817357, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Scholars place the start of this genre of texts to about the 7th or 8th century CE, and later.

Other texts

Mahabharata and Ramayana
The two Indian , the and the present Vaishnava philosophy and culture embedded in legends and dialogues.
(2023). 9781598842043, ABC-CLIO. .
The epics are considered the fifth Veda in Hindu culture.
(2023). 9789004185661, BRILL. .
The Ramayana describes the story of , an avatara of Vishnu, and is taken as a history of the 'ideal king', based on the principles of , morality and ethics.
(1986). 9788120800786, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Rama's wife , his brother , with his devotee and follower all play key roles within the Vaishnava tradition as examples of Vaishnava etiquette and behaviour. , the evil king and villain of the epic, is presented as an epitome of adharma, playing the opposite role of how not to behave.
(2023). 9780143066996, Penguin. .

The Mahabharata is centered around , presents him as the avatar of transcendental supreme being. The epic details the story of a war between good and evil, each side represented by two families of cousins with wealth and power, one depicted as driven by virtues and values while other by vice and deception, with Krishna playing pivotal role in the drama. The philosophical highlight of the work is the Bhagavad Gita.

The are an important source of entertaining narratives and histories, states Mahony, that are embedded with "philosophical, theological and mystical modes of experience and expression" as well as reflective "moral and soteriological instructions".

More broadly, the Puranic literature is encyclopedic,; "These are the true encyclopedic Puranas. in which detached chapters or sections, dealing with any imaginable subject, follow one another, without connection or transition." and it includes diverse topics such as , , genealogies of gods, goddesses, kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, folk tales, travel guides and pilgrimages,

(2023). 9780199718252, Oxford University Press. .
temples, medicine, astronomy, grammar, mineralogy, humor, love stories, as well as theology and philosophy.
(2023). 9780415172813, Routledge.
(2023). 9781570034497, The University of South Carolina Press.
The Puranas were a living genre of texts because they were routinely revised, their content is highly inconsistent across the Puranas, and each Purana has survived in numerous manuscripts which are themselves inconsistent. The Hindu Puranas are anonymous texts and likely the work of many authors over the centuries.
(1993). 9780791413821, State University of New York Press.
(2023). 9781439904640, Temple University Press. .

Of the 18 Mahapuranas (great Puranas), many have titles based on one of the avatars of Vishnu. However, quite many of these are actually, in large part, Shiva-related Puranas, likely because these texts were revised over their history. Some were revised into Vaishnava treatises, such as the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, which originated as a Puranic text dedicated to the (Sun god). Textual cross referencing evidence suggests that in or after 15th/16th century CE, it went through a series of major revisions, and almost all extant manuscripts of Brahma Vaivarta Purana are now Vaishnava (Krishna) bhakti oriented. Of the extant manuscripts, the main Vaishnava Puranas are , , Nāradeya Purana, , and . The is notable for the Adhyatma-ramayana, a Rama-focussed embedded text in it, which philosophically attempts to synthesize in god Rama with and ., "Among the texts considered to be connected with the Brahmanda, the Adhyatma-ramayana is undoubtedly the most important one".

(2023). 9788120802643, Motilal Banarsidass.
(2012). 9780791488560, State University of New York Press. .
While an avatar of Vishnu is the main focus of the Puranas of Vaishnavism, these texts also include chapters that revere Shiva, Shakti (goddess power), Brahma and a pantheon of Hindu deities.Barbara Holdrege (2015), Bhakti and Embodiment, Routledge, , pp. 113–114Edwin Bryant (2003), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God: Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Penguin, , pp. 10–12, "I want to stress the fact that it would be irresponsible and highly misleading to speak of or pretend to describe the religion of the Puranas."

The philosophy and teachings of the Vaishnava Puranas are oriented (often Krishna, but Rama features in some), but they show an absence of a "narrow, sectarian spirit". To its bhakti ideas, these texts show a synthesis of , Yoga and ideas.

(1993). 9788120809949, Motilal Banarsidass. .

In Gaudiya Vaishnava, Vallabha Sampradaya and Nimbarka sampradaya, Krishna is believed to be a transcendent, Supreme Being and source of all avatars in the Bhagavata Purana., Bhag. Purana 1.3.28 : : The text describes modes of loving devotion to Krishna, wherein his devotees constantly think about him, feel grief and longing when Krishna is called away on a heroic mission.

Sectarian texts
In the movement the following scriptures are considered sacred in addition to general body of the common writing:
  • Tukaram-Gatha
  • Sopandevi
  • Namdev-Gatha
  • Eknathi-Bhagwat

The Chaitanya movement has the following texts along with other theological sources.

Attitude toward scriptures
Chaitanya Vaishnava traditions refer to the writings of previous in their respective lineage or sampradya as authoritative interpretations of scripture. While many schools like and encourage interpretation of philosophically and metaphorically and not too literally, Chaitanya Vaishnavism stresses the literal meaning ( ) as primary and indirect meaning () as secondary: - "The instructions of the should be accepted literally, without fanciful or allegorical interpretations.", Sandarbha 29.26-27


The originated among Vaishnavas of during the 7th-century CE, spread northwards from Tamil Nadu through and towards the end of 13th-century, and gained wide acceptance by the fifteenth-century throughout India during an era of political uncertainty and Hindu-Islam conflicts.
(1987). 9788120802773, Motilal Banarsidass.

The , which literally means "those immersed in God", were Vaishnava poet-saints who sang praises of Vishnu as they travelled from one place to another.

(2023). 9780813540689, Rutgers University Press.
They established temple sites such as , and spread ideas about Vaishnavism. Their poems, compiled as Divya Prabhandham, developed into an influential scripture for the Vaishnavas. The 's references to the South Indian Alvar saints, along with its emphasis on bhakti, have led many scholars to give it South Indian origins, though some scholars question whether this evidence excludes the possibility that bhakti movement had parallel developments in other parts of India.
(1996). 9788170418597

Vaishnava bhakti practices involve loving devotion to a Vishnu avatar (often Krishna), an emotional connection, a longing and continuous feeling of presence.

(2023). 9780195351903, Oxford University Press. .
All aspects of life and living is not only a divine order but divinity itself in Vaishnava bhakti. Community practices such as singing songs together ( or ), praising or ecstatically celebrating the presence of god together, usually inside temples, but sometimes in open public are part of varying Vaishnava practices. These help Vaishnavas socialize and form a community identity.

Vaishnavas mark their foreheads with made up of Chandana, either as a daily ritual, or on special occasions. The different Vaishnava sampradayas each have their own distinctive style of tilaka, which depicts the of their particular lineage. The general tilaka pattern is of a parabolic shape resembling the letter U or two or more connected vertical lines on and another optional line on the nose resembling the letter Y, in which the two parallel lines represent the Lotus feet of Krishna and the bottom part on the nose represents the tulasi leaf. Vaishnavism

In tantric traditions of Vaishnavism, during the initiation () given by a under whom they are trained to understand Vaishnava practices, the initiates accept Vishnu as supreme. At the time of initiation, the disciple is traditionally given a specific , which the disciple will repeat, either out loud or within the mind, as an act of worship to Vishnu or one of his avatars. The practice of repetitive prayer is known as .

In the Gaudiya Vaishnava group, one who performs an act of worship with the name of Vishnu or Krishna can be considered a Vaishnava by practice, "Who chants the holy name of Krishna just once may be considered a Vaishnava." Chaitanya Charitamrita: Madhya-lila, 15.106

Pilgrimage sites
Important sites of pilgrimage for Vaishnavas include , , , , Mathura, , Tirupati, , , Nira Narsingpur (Narasimha), , , , Udipi (Karnataka), Shree Govindajee Temple (Imphal), Govind Dev Ji Temple (Jaipur) and .
(2023). 9781851682133, Oneworld Publications. .

Holy places
is considered to be a holy place by several traditions of Krishnaism. It is a center of Krishna worship and the area includes places like and associated with Krishna from time immemorial. Many millions of bhaktas or devotees of visit these places of pilgrimage every year and participate in a number of festivals that relate to the scenes from Krishna's life on Earth.

On the other hand, is considered the eternal abode of , according to some schools, including Gaudiya Vaishnavism and the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. The scriptural basis for this is taken in and .


Four sampradayas and other traditions
The Vaishnavism traditions may be grouped within four , each exemplified by a specific Vedic personality. They have been associated with a specific founder, providing the following scheme: Sri Sampradaya (), Brahma Sampradaya (), Rudra Sampradaya (, ),
(2023). 9780786459735, McFarland. .
Kumaras Sampradaya (). These four sampradayas emerged in early centuries of the 2nd millennium CE, by the 14th century, influencing and sanctioning the .

The philosophical systems of Vaishnava sampradayas range from qualified of Ramanuja, to theistic of Madhvacharya, to pure nondualistic of Vallabhacharya. They all revere an avatar of Vishnu, but have varying theories on the relationship between the soul () and , on the nature of changing and unchanging reality, methods of worship, as well as on spiritual liberation for the householder stage of life versus (renunciation) stage.

Beyond the four major sampradayas, the situation is more complicated, with the Vaikhanasas being much older than those four sampradayas, and a number of additional traditions and sects which originated later, or aligned themselves with one of those four sampradayas. Krishna sampradayas continued to be founded late into late medieval and during the era, such as the Radha Vallabh Sampradaya, , Gaudiya and others.

+ TABLE OF VAISHNAVA TRADITIONS ! Sampradaya ! Main theological preceptor ! Philosophy ! Founder ! (Sub)schools ! Founded ! (Sub)school-founder ! Worship
Historical traditions (Vasudevism)1st millennium BCEunknownVāsudeva,
3rd century BCESage
4th century CESage Vaikhanasa

("qualified monism")
(10th century)
12th–14th centuryPillai Lokacharya
Manavala Mamunigal
14th century +
Brahma Sampradaya ("the realist viewpoint")
or ("dualism")
and 13th-14th century / Lord / () +
Achintya Bheda Abheda
("difference and non-difference")
Gaudiya Vaishnavism16th centuryChaitanya Mahaprabhu
Mahanam Sampradaya1890sPrabhu Jagadbandhu

("pure nondualism")
c. 1500,
Charan Dasi18th centuryCharan Das a Dhusar of Dehra
Nimbarka Sampradaya

("duality in unity")
7th or 12th–13th century
Sant () traditions 13th century
Ramanandi Sampradaya14th century
Encyclopædia Britannica, "Kabir" Accessed: 23 April 201915th century, a disciple of Ramananda, , , IV.XXV.I
Dadu panth16th–17th centurynon-sectarian
Other traditions Vaishnavism ()Early Middle Ages
12–13th centuryPancha-
15th century,
16th centurySrimanta Sankardeva
Radha Vallabh Sampradaya16th centuryHith Harivansh Mahaprabhu,
Pranami Sampradaya17th centuryDevchandra Maharaj
Swaminarayan Sampradaya1801, ,
Ramsnehi Sampradaya1817Ram Charan (inspirator)Rama
Haridasi Sampradaya
(2023). 9781610692113, Abc-Clio. .
16th century|rowspan=1 align=center ,
Sage ,

Early traditions

The Bhagavats were the early worshippers of Krishna, the followers of Bhagavat, the Lord, in the person of , , or . The term bhagavata may have denoted a general religious tradition or attitude of theistic worship which prevailed until the 11th century, and not a specific sect, and is best known as a designation for Vishnu-devotees. The earliest scriptural evidence of Vaishnava bhagavats is an inscription from 115 BCE, in which Heliodoros, ambassador of the Greco-Bactrian king Amtalikita, says that he is a bhagavata of Vasudeva. It was supported by the Guptas, suggesting a widespread appeal, in contrast to specific sects.

The Pāñcarātra is the tradition of Narayana-worship. The term pāñcarātra means "five nights," from pañca, "five,"and rātra, "nights," and may be derived from the "five night sacrifice" as described in the Satapatha Brahmana, which narrates how Purusa-Narayana intends to become the highest being by performing a sacrifice which lasts five nights.

The Narayaniya section of the Mahabharata describes the ideas of the Pāñcarātras. Characteristic is the description of the manifestation of the Absolute through a series of manifestations, from the vyuha manifestations of Vasudeva and pure creation, through the of mixed creation into impure or material creation.

The Pāñcarātra Samhitas developed from the 7th or 8th century onward, and belongs to Agamic or Tantras, setting them at odds with vedic orthodoxy. Vishnu worshipers in south India still follow the system of Pancharatra worship as described in these texts.

Although the Pāñcarātra originated in north India, it had a strong influence on south India, where it is closely related with the Sri Vaishnava tradition. According to Welbon, " Pāñcarātra cosmological and ritual theory and practice combine with the unique vernacular devotional poetry of the Alvars, and Ramanuja, founder of the Sri Vaishnava tradition, propagated Pāñcarātra ideas." Ramananda was also influenced by Pāñcarātra ideas through the influence of Sri Vaishnavism, whereby Pāñcarātra re-entered north India.

The Vaikhanasas are associated with the Pāñcarātra, but regard themselves as a Vedic orthodox sect. Modern Vaikhanasas reject elements of the Pāñcarātra and Sri Vaishnava tradition, but the historical relationship with the orthodox Vaikhanasa in south India is unclear. The Vaikhanasas may have resisted the incorporation of the devotic elements of the Alvar tradition, while the Pāñcarātras were open to this incorporation.

Vaikhanasas have their own foundational text, the Vaikhanasasmarta Sutra, which describes a mixture of Vedic and non-Vedic ritual worship. The Vaikhanasas became chief priests in a lot of south Indian temples, where they still remain influential.

Early medieval traditions

The Smarta tradition developed during the (early) Classical Period of Hinduism around the beginning of the Common Era, when Hinduism emerged from the interaction between Brahmanism and local traditions. According to Flood, Smartism developed and expanded with the genre of literature. By the time of Adi Shankara, it had developed the pancayatanapuja, the worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal, namely , , , and (Shakti), "as a solution to varied and conflicting devotional practices."

Traditionally, Sri Adi Shankaracharya (8th century) is regarded as the greatest teacher and reformer of the Smarta. According to Hiltebeitel, Adi Shankara Acharya established the nondualist interpretation of the Upanishads as the touchstone of a revived smarta tradition.

The Alvars, "those immersed in god," were twelve poet-saints of who espoused (devotion) to the god or his in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service. The Alvars appeared between the 5th century to the 10th century CE, though the Vaishnava tradition regards the Alvars to have lived between 4200 BCE - 2700 BCE.

The devotional writings of Alvars, composed during the early medieval period of Tamil history, are key texts in the . They praised the , 108 "abodes" (temples) of the Vaishnava deities. The collection of their hymns is known as the . Their Bhakti-poems has contributed to the establishment and sustenance of a culture that opposed the ritual-oriented Vedic religion and rooted itself in devotion as the only path for salvation.

Contemporary traditions
Gavin Flood mentions five most important contemporary Vaishnava orders.

Nimbarka Sampradaya
Nimbarka Sampradaya, also called Kumara Sampradaya is one of the four bonafied Vaishnavism tradition. It worship with his chief consort, . The tradition was founded by around 7th CE-12 CE. Nimbarka's philosphical position is dualistic monism and he centered all his devotion to the unified form of the divine couple in Sakhya bhav.
(1996). 9788175330016, M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd.. .
Sharda Arya, Sudesh Narang, Religion and Philosophy of the Padma-purāṇa: Dharmaśāstra. Miranda House (University of Delhi). Dept. of Sanskrit, India University Grants Commission, 1988. 547, p.30Melville T. Kennedy, The Chaitanya Movement: A Study of the Vaishnavism of Bengal, 1925. 270, p.7

Sri Vaishnavism
Sri Vaishnavism is one of the major denomination within Vaishnavism that originated in , adopting the prefix Sri as an homage to Vishnu's consort, . The Sri Vaishnava community consists of both Brahmans and non-Brahmans. It existed along with a larger Purana-based Brahamanical worshippers of Vishnu, and non-Brahmanical groups who worshipped and also adhered by non-Vishnu village deities. The Sri Vaishnavism movement grew with its social inclusiveness, where emotional devotion to the personal god (Vishnu) has been open without limitation to gender or caste.

The most striking difference between Sri Vaishnavas and other Vaishnava groups lies in their interpretation of Vedas. While other Vaishnava groups interpret Vedic deities like Indra, Savitar, Bhaga, Rudra, etc. to be same as their Puranic counterparts, Sri Vaishnavas consider these to be different names/roles/forms of , claiming that the entire Veda is dedicated for Vishnu-worship alone. Sri Vaishnavas have remodelled Pancharatra homas like the Sudarshana homa to include Vedic Suktas in them, thus giving them a Vedic outlook.

Sri Vaishnavism developed in in the 10th century. It incorporated two different traditions, namely the tantric Pancaratra tradition, and the Puranic Vishnu worship of northern India with their abstract Vedantic theology, and the southern bhakti tradition of the Alvars of Tamil Nadu with their personal devotion. The tradition was founded by (10th century), who along with , combined the two traditions and gave the tradition legitimacy by drawing on the Alvars. Its most influential leader was (1017-1137), who developed the ("qualified non-dualism") philosophy. Ramanuja challenged the then dominant interpretation of the Upanishads and Vedas, by formulating the Vishishtadvaita philosophy foundations for Sri Vaishnavism from Vedanta.

(2023). 9781136853067, Routledge. .

Sri Vaishnava includes the ritual and temple life in the tantra traditions of , emotional devotion to Vishnu, and the contemplative form bhakti, in the context of householder social and religious duties. The tantric rituals refers to techniques and texts recited during worship, and these include Sanskrit and Tamil texts in South Indian Sri Vaishnava tradition. According to Sri Vaishnavism theology, moksha can be reached by devotion and service to the Lord and detachment from the world. When moksha is reached, the cycle of reincarnation is broken and the soul is united with Vishnu after death, though maintaining their distinctions in , Vishnu's abode. Moksha can also be reached by total surrender and saranagati, an act of grace by the Lord. Ramanuja's Sri Vaishnavism subscribes to videhamukti (liberation in afterlife), in contrast to jivanmukti (liberation in this life) found in other traditions within Hinduism, such as the Smarta and Shaiva traditions.

(1996). 9780791427064, SUNY Press. .

Two hundred years after Ramanuja, the Sri Vaishnava tradition split into the (northern art) and (southern art) sects. The Vadakalai regard the Vedas as the greatest source of religious authority, emphasising bhakti through devotion to temple-icons, while the Tenkalai rely more on Tamil scriptures and total surrender to God. The philosophy of Sri Vaishnavism is adhered to and disseminated by the community.

(2008). 9780191544194, OUP Oxford. .

Sadh Vaishnavism
Sadh Vaishnavism is one of the major denominations within Vaishnavism that originated in , , adopting the prefix Sadh which means 'true'. Madhvacharya named his Vaishnavism as Sadh Vaishnavism in order to distinguish it from the Sri Vaishnavism of Ramanuja. Sadh Vaishnavism was founded by the thirteenth-century philosopher .
(2023). 9780791483411, SUNY Press. .
(1999). 9788176291552, Deep & Deep Publications. .
It is a movement in that developed during its classical period around the beginning of the Common Era. Philosophically, Sadh Vaishnavism is aligned with , and regards as its founder or reformer.
(2023). 9788182200722, Global Vision Pub House. .
The tradition traces its roots to the ancient and texts. The Sadh Vaishnavism or Madhva Sampradaya is also referred to as the Brahma Sampradaya, referring to its traditional origins in the succession of spiritual masters (gurus) have originated from .
(1987). 9780887065729, SUNY Press. .

In Sadh Vaishnavism, the creator is superior to the creation, and hence comes only from the grace of , but not from effort alone.

(2016). 9781610692113, ABC-CLIO. .
Compared to other Vaishnava schools which emphasize only on Bhakti, Sadh Vaishnavism regards , and as necessary steps for moksha. So in Sadh Vaishnavism , and are equally important in order to attain liberation. The movement, a bhakti movement originated from is a sub-branch of Sadh Vaishnavism. Sadh Vaishnavism worships Vishnu as the highest Hindu deity and regards , whom they consider to be an incarnation of Vishnu's son, , as an incarnate saviour.
(2023). 9780717201396, Scholastic Library Publishing. .
Madhvism regards Vayu as 's agent in this world, and , , and to be his three incarnations; for this reason, the roles of Hanuman in the and Bhima in the are emphasised, and Madhvacharya is particularly held in high esteem. Vayu is prominently shown by Madhva in countless texts.

The most striking difference between Sadh Vaishnavas and other Vaishnava groups lies in their interpretation of Vedas and their way of worship. While other Vaishnava groups deny the worship of Vedic deities such as Rudra, Indra etc., Sadh Vaishnavas worship all devatas including Lakshmi, Brahma, Vayu, Saraswati, Shiva (Rudra), Parvati, Indra, Subrahmanya and Ganesha as per "Taratamya". In fact, Madhvacharya in his Tantra Sara Sangraha clearly explained how to worship all devatas. In many of his works Madhvacharya also explained the Shiva Tattva, the procedure to worship Panchamukha (Rudra), the Panchakshari Mantra and even clearly explained why everyone should worship Shiva. Many prominent saints and scholars of Sadh Vaishnavism such as composed "Laghu Shiva Stuti", Narayana Panditacharya composed and Satyadharma Tirtha wrote a commentary on (Namaka Chamaka) in praise of Shiva. Indologist B. N. K. Sharma says These are positive proofs of the fact that Madhvas are not bigots opposed to the worship of Shiva. Sharma says, Sadh Vaishnavism is more tolerant and accommodative of the worship of other gods such as , , , and others of the Hindu pantheon compared to other Vaishnava traditions. This is the reason why though under the influence of Tathacharya in his early life did not subscribe wholly to the dogmas of against the worship of etc., and later became the disciple of .

The influence of Sadh Vaishnavism was most prominent on the Chaitanya school of Vaishnavism, whose devotees later started the devotional movement on the worship of as International Society for Krishna Consciousness () - known colloquially as the Hare Krishna Movement. It is stated that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1496–1534) was a disciple of Isvara Puri, who was a disciple of Madhavendra Puri, who was a disciple of Lakshmipati Tirtha, was a disciple of (1469–1539), of the Sadh Vaishnava Sampradaya of Madhvacharya. Connection between Gaudiya and Madhva Sampradayas(pdf) The Madhva school of thought also had a huge impact on Gujarat Vaishnava culture. The famous bhakti saint of Vallabha Sampradaya, was a direct disciple of of Madhva Vaishnavism. Hence Sadh Vaishnavism also have some influence on Vallabha's Vaishnavism as well.

(2023). 9788126137404, Anmol Publications. .

Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Gaudiya Vaishnavism, also known as Chaitanya Vaishnavism Hindu Encounter with Modernity, by Shukavak N. Dasa " and Hare Krishna, was founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533) in India. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region (present day /) with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of or ". Its philosophical basis is primarily that of the and .

The focus of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the devotional worship ( ) of and , and their many divine as the supreme forms of , . Most popularly, this worship takes the form of singing Radha and Krishna's names, such as "Hare", "Krishna" and "Rama", most commonly in the form of the Hare Krishna (mantra), also known as . It sees the many forms of Vishnu or Krishna as expansions or incarnations of the one Supreme God.

After its decline in the 18-19th century, it was revived in the beginning of the 20th century due to the efforts of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. His son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura founded sixty-four Gaudiya Matha monasteries in India, Burma and Europe. Thakura's disciple went to the west and spread Gaudiya Vaishnavism by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

The Manipuri Vaishnavism is a regional variant of Gaudiya Vaishnavism with a culture-forming role among the in the north-eastern Indian state of . There, after a short period of Ramaism penetration, Gaudiya Vaishnavism spread in the early 18th century, especially from beginning its second quarter. Raja Gharib Nawaz (Pamheiba) was initiated into the Chaitanya tradition. Most devotee ruler and propagandist of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, under the influence of 's disciples, was raja Bhagyachandra, who has visited the holy for the Chaytanyaits .

Warkari tradition
The Warkari sampradaya is a non-; "Varkari cult is rural and non-Brahman in character"; "the more or less anti-ritualistic and anti-brahmanical attitudes of Warkari sampradaya." bhakti tradition which worships , also known as Vitthal, who is regarded as a form of Krishna/Vishnu. Vithoba is often depicted as a dark young boy, standing arms akimbo on a brick, sometimes accompanied by his main consort Rakhumai (a regional name of Krishna's wife ). The Warkari-tradition is geographically associated with the Indian state of .

The Warkari movement includes a duty-based approach towards life, emphasizing moral behavior and strict avoidance of alcohol and , the adoption of a strict lacto-vegetarian diet and fasting on day (twice a month), self-restraint ( ) during life, equality and humanity for all rejecting discrimination based on the caste system or wealth, the reading of , the recitation of the every day and the regular practice of and . The most important festivals of Vithoba are held on the eleventh ( ekadashi) day of the lunar months" in the month of , and Prabodhini Ekadashi in the month of Kartik.

The Warkari poet-saints are known for their devotional lyrics, the , dedicated to Vithoba and composed in . Other devotional literature includes the Kannada hymns of the Haridasa, and Marathi versions of the generic songs associated with rituals of offering light to the deity. Notable saints and of the Warkaris include Jñāneśvar, , , , and , all of whom are accorded the title of Sant.

Though the origins of both his cult and his main temple are debated, there is clear evidence that they already existed by the 13th century. Various have proposed a prehistory for Vithoba worship where he was previously a , a pastoral deity, a manifestation of , a , or even all of these at various times for various devotees.

Ramanandi tradition
The Ramanandi Sampradaya, also known as the Ramayats or the Ramavats, is one of the largest and most egalitarian Hindu sects India, around the , and Nepal today. It mainly emphasizes the worship of , as well as directly and other incarnations. Most Ramanandis consider themselves to be the followers of , a saint in medieval India. Philosophically, they are in the ( ) tradition.

Its ascetic wing constitutes the largest Vaishnava monastic order and may possibly be the largest monastic order in all of India. ascetics rely upon meditation and strict ascetic practices, but also believe that the grace of god is required for them to achieve liberation.

Northern Sant tradition
was a 15th-century Indian and sant, whose writings influenced the , but whose verses are also found in Sikhism's scripture .Ronald McGregor (1984), Hindi literature from its beginnings to the nineteenth century, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, , p. 47 His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader , he becomes a Vaishnavite with universalist leanings. His followers formed the .Ronald McGregor (1984), Hindi literature from its beginnings to the nineteenth century, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, , pp. 43–44
(1990). 9780824812874, University of Hawaii Press. .
Rekha Pande (2014), Divine Sounds from the Heart—Singing Unfettered in their Own Voices, Cambridge Scholars, , p. 77

(1544—1603) was a poet-sant from , a religious reformer who spoke against formalism and priestcraft. A group of his followers near , Rajasthan, forming a Vaishnavite denomination that became known as the Dadu Panth. "Dadu (Hindu saint)" at Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 31 December 2018.

Other traditions

Odia Vaishnavism
The Vaishnavism ( Jagannathism)—the particular cult of the god () as the supreme deity, an abstract form of Krishna, the , and —was origined in the Early Middle Ages. Jagannathism was a regional state temple-centered version of , but can also be regarded as a non-sectarian syncretic Vaishnavite and all-Hindu cult. The notable Jagannath temple in , Odisha became particularly significant within the tradition since about 800 CE.

Mahanubhava Sampradaya
The Mahanubhava Sampradaya/Pantha founded in during the period of 12-13th century. Sarvajna a acharya was the main propagator of this Sampradaya. The Mahanubhavas venere Pancha- ("five Krishnas"). Mahanubhava Pantha played essential role in the growth of literature.

Sahajiya and Baul tradition
Since 15th century in Bengal and flourished Vaishnava-Sahajiya inspired by Bengali poet , as well as related to it Baul groups, where Krishna is the inner divine aspect of man and Radha is the aspect of woman.

Ekasarana Dharma
The Ekasarana Dharma was propagated by in the region of India.It considers as the only God. Satras are institutional centers associated with the Ekasarana dharma.

Radha-vallabha Sampradaya
The -centered Radha Vallabh Sampradaya founded by the bhakti poet-saint Hith Harivansh Mahaprabhu in the 16th century occupies a unique place among other traditions. In its theology, Radha is worshiped as the supreme deity, and Krishna is in a subordinate position.

Pranami Sampradaya
The Pranami Sampradaya (Pranami Panth) emerged in the 17th century in , based on the Radha-Krishna-focussed syncretic Hindu- teachings of Devchandra Maharaj and his famous successor, Mahamati Prannath.

Swaminarayan Sampradaya
The Swaminarayan Sampradaya was founded in 1801 in by from , who is worshipped as , the supreme manifestation of God, by his followers. The first temple built in in 1822.

Vaishnavism and other Hindu tradition table
The Vaishnavism sampradayas subscribe to various philosophies, are similar in some aspects and differ in others. When compared with Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism, a similar range of similarities and differences emerge.

+Comparison of Vaishnavism with other traditions
(1970). 9781474280808, Bloomsbury Academic. .
(2023). 9780800699703, Fortress Press. .
(2023). 9789812307545, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. .
(2023). 9789042015104, Rodopi. .
Stephen H Phillips (1995), Classical Indian Metaphysics, Columbia University Press, , p. 332 with note 68
(1992). 9780195070453, Oxford University Press.
(2023). 9781590562819, Lantern. .
(1998). 9780299159047, University of Wisconsin Press. .
John A. Grimes, A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, State University of New York Press, , p. 238Eliott Deutsche (2000), in Philosophy of Religion : Indian Philosophy Vol 4 (Editor: Roy Perrett), Routledge, , pp. 245–248
(2023). 9780195347135, Oxford University Press. .
(2023). 9789004152113, Brill. .
(2023). 9788180695445, Concept. .

There is no data available on demographic history or trends for Vaishnavism or other traditions within Hinduism. The global religious landscape: Hindus, Pew Research (2012)

Estimates vary on the relative number of adherents in Vaishnavism compared to other traditions of Hinduism. Klaus Klostermaier and other scholars estimate Vaishnavism to be the largest Hindu denomination.

(2023). 9781137009449, Springer. .
, Quote: "Klostermaier 1998, p. 196 Vaishnavite - devotees of the deity Vishnu, and the largest, numerically, part of mainstream Hinduism, which is divided up into several sects."
(2023). 9780275990060, Greenwood. .
} The denominations of Hinduism, states Julius Lipner, are unlike those found in major religions of the world, because Hindu denominations are fuzzy, individuals revere gods and goddesses polycentrically, with many Vaishnava adherents recognizing Sri (Lakshmi), Shiva, Parvati and others reverentially on festivals and other occasions. Similarly, Shaiva, Shakta and Smarta Hindus revere Vishnu.Julius J. Lipner (2009), Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, 2nd Edition, Routledge, , pp. 40–41, 302–315, 371–375
(2023). 9780470998687, John Wiley & Sons. .

Vaishnavism is one of the major traditions within Hinduism.

(2023). 9781317092230, Routledge. .
Large Vaishnava communities exist throughout India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as western , , and and Southwestern . Other major regions of Vaishnava presence, particularly after the 15th century, are , and northeastern India (, ).
(2023). 9788120817784, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Dvaita school Vaishnava have flourished in where Madhavacharya established temples and monasteries, and in neighboring states, particularly the region.
(2023). 9788120815759, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Substantial presence also exists in and .

Krishnaism has a limited following outside of India, especially associated with 1960s counter-culture, including a number of celebrity followers, such as , due to its promulgation throughout the world by the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

(2023). 9780830718986, Gospel Light Publications.
(1997). 9780306807473, Da Capo Press.

Academic study
Vaishnava theology has been a subject of study and debate for many devotees, philosophers and scholars within India for centuries. Vaishnavism has its own academic wing in University of Madras - Department of Vaishnavism. In recent decades this study has also been pursued in a number of academic institutions in Europe, such as the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Bhaktivedanta College, and Syanandura Vaishnava Sabha, a moderate and progressive Vaishnava body headed by Gautham Padmanabhan in Trivandrum which intends to bring about a single and precise book called Hari-grantha to include all Vaishnava philosophies.


  • Om Namo Narayanaya
  • Hare Krishna Mantra
  • Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

  • Jai Shri Ram
  • Jai Shri Krishna
  • Jai Siya Ram

See also
  • Hindu denominations
  • Divya Prabhandham
  • Nanaghat Inscription – a 1st-century BCE Vaishnava inscription
  • Vasu Doorjamb Inscription – a 1st-century CE inscription from Vaishnava temple

Explanatory notes


General sources

Printed sources

  • (2023). 9781138561793, Routledge.
  • Chatterjee, Asoke: Srimadbhagavata and Caitanya-Sampradaya. Journal of the Asiatic Society 37/4 (1995)1-14.
  • (2023). 9781134608751, Routledge. .
  • Clementin-Ojha, Catherine: La renaissance du Nimbarka Sampradaya au XVI'e siècle. Contribution à l'étude d'une secte Krsnaïte. Journal asiatique 278 (1990) 327–376.
  • Couture, André: The emergence of a group of four characters (Vasudeva, Samkarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha) in the Harivamsa: points for consideration. Journal of Indian Philosophy 34,6 (2006) pp. 571–585.

  • 2nd impression.
  • (2023). 9780674187467, Harvard University Press. .
  • (2023). 9788189211042, Bharatiya Granth Nikethan. .
  • Hudson, D. (1993). "Vasudeva Krsna in Theology and Architecture: A Background to Srivaisnavism". Journal of Vaiṣṇava Studies (2).

  • Patel, Gautam: Concept of God According to Vallabhacarya. In: Encyclopaedia of Indian Wisdom. Prof. Satya Vrat Shastri Felicitation Volume. Vol. 2. Editor: Ramkaran Sharma. Delhi, Varanasi 2005, pp. 127–136.
  • (2023). 9788124603451, DK Printworld.
  • Alt URL
  • Pauwels, Heidi: Paradise Found, Paradise Lost: Hariram Vyas's Love for Vrindaban and what Hagiographers made of it. In: Pilgrims, Patrons, and Place: Localizing Sanctity in Asian Religions. Ed. by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara. (Asian Religions and Society Series). Vancouver, Toronto 2003; pp. 124–180.
  • (1984). 9780895812261, Motilal Banarsidass. .

  • (2023). 9780791467084, State University of New York Press.
  • (1986). 9783447025225, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
  • Rosenstein, Ludmila L.: The Devotional Poetry of Svami Haridas. A Study of Early Braj Bhasa Verse. (Groningen Oriental Studies 12). Groningen 1997

External links

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