What are the major sects of Hinduism?


Hinduism has many sects. It depends upon what perspective you are considering it from.

It all starts from the Vedas. However, Vedas being not consistent in their philosophies, different schools of thought emerged in India either by accepting or rejecting the authority of the Vedas. Those schools of thought which accept its authority are part of Hinduism and known as sad darshana (six philosophies) and the others became separate religion like Buddhism, Jainism, etc. or lost prominence like Charvak and Ajivika.

Now among the six schools of thought, not all accepted the existence of a personal God (Ishwara).

Nyāya System
Deals with: Logical methods for verifying the truth value of an information
God Exists?: Yes

Vaiśesika System
Deals with: Fundamental constitution of matter
God Exists?: No

Sāṃkhya System
Deals with: Cause and nature of the existence
God Exists?: No

Mīmāṃsā System (pūrva mīmāṃsā)
Deals with: interpretation of karma kānḍa (ritualistic) portion of the vedas
God Exists?: No

Yoga System
Deals with: Physical well being and cessation of mental tendencies
God Exists?: Yes

Vedānta System (uttara mīmāṃsā)
Deals with: interpretation of jñāna kānḍa portion of the vedas
God Exists?: Yes

In course of time the Vedanta school of thought, which says God exists, become prominent due to contribution of many scholars (acharyas) and philosophers. But then, it also got divided into two primary sects or schools of thought:

1. God is without form, attribute and qualities:

Under this the prominent school of thought goes the Advaita Vada philosophy of which Sankaracharya is the well known proponent. As per them, God alone is real, the world is an illusion. There is no difference between the individual soul (jiva) and supreme soul (Brahman). Both are one and identical.

2. God is with form, attribute and qualities:

Under this go the other remaining vedanta schools of thought:


  • Śrī Rāmānujāccārya was its founding proponent.
  • Brahma has attributes and qualities. It is quality less only in the sense that, it doesn’t have any negative qualities.
  • Jiva (the individual soul) and Brahman (God) are related like part and whole.


  • Śrī Nimbārkācārya was the founding acharya of this school of thought.
  • Shri Krishna is the Brahman (God).
  • Jiva and Brahma have both similarities and differences.


  • Śrī Mādhvācārya was the founding acharya of this school of thought.
  • Brahma is personal. He has attributes, qualities and form. He is Vishnu.
  • The individual soul is different and separate from Brahman (God). They are not identical.


  • Śrī Vallabhācārya was the founding acharya of this school of thought.
  • Brahma and jiva are essentially the same just like fire and the spark produced from it. And just like the spark, jiva is different from Brahma and just a part of it.
  • Krishna is the supreme God and devotion to Him is the way for salvation.

Now apart from these there is also Achintya Bhedabheda school of thought by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It also considers Shri Krishna as God Himself. So basically these Vedanta school of thought that say God has a form consider Vishnu or Krishna as the God Himself and say this world is real.

However, considering God has a form, there are also other sects depending upon who the God is. There are minimum five primary sects, some of which also have many sub-sects:

  1. Vishnu Worshippers
    • Has many sub-sects like Laxmi-sampradaya (tradition), Rudra-sampradaya, etc. Please see Vaishnavism.
  2. Shiva Worshippers
    • Has many sub-sects like pashupata, kapalika, etc. Please see Shaivasim.
  3. Shakti Worshippers
    • Has many sub-sects like srikula, kalikula, etc. Please see Shaktisim.
  4. Ganpati Worshippers
    • Worship Lord Ganesh.
  5. Surya Worshippers
    • Worship Sun.

Apart from these there are many other sects and sub-sects throughout India taking into account various local gods, goddesses and teachers. Those belonging to Smarta tradation chose whatever God they like to worship. So a Hinduism has so many sects that a complete list will become too huge. But above stated are the primary and major sects found in Hinduism.

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