What are the Different
Branches of Hinduism?
Hinduism traditionally is
divided into five main branches:
Vaishnava or worshippers of Vishnu
Shaiva or worshippers of Shiva
Shakta or worshippers of the
Goddess (Devi or Shakti)
Ganapata or worshippers of Ganapati (Ganesha)
Saura or worshippers of the Sun (Surya)
These groups generally
coalesce into two, the Vaishnava and Shaiva. As Shakti is the
consort of Shiva, her worship can be included with his. As Ganesha
is the son of Shiva and Shakti, his worship usually goes along with
his parents. As Surya, the Sun, is generally related to Vishnu, his
worship usually goes along with that of Vishnu. There are many
Hindus, however who accept all five of these approaches, which for
most Hindus are intertwined anyway.
There is in addition the
Vedic or Brahmanical tradition. This is usually divided up according
to which of the four Vedas one follows:
Rig Vedis or followers of the
Sama Vedis or followers of
the Sama Veda
Atharva Vedis or followers of
the Atharva Veda
Yajur Vedis or followers of
the Yajur Veda
Yajur Vedis are the largest
group and divided into two main subgroups, the Shukla or White Yajur
Veda school which prevails in the north of India, and the Krishna or
Black Yajur Veda school which prevails in the south. Generally those
following Vedic traditions also belong to one of the five or six
divisions of Hinduism.
There are also Hindus of
various philosophical views like Vedanta, Sankhya, Yoga and Tantra.
All such divisions are only a convenient differentiation. Many other
groups and subgroups exist, including various recent or modern
groups like Arya Samaj or the Swami Narayan movement. In fact all
religions can be considered as different branches of a universal
religion or Sanatana Dharma.