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The Bhakti Sects: Bhagvatism, Vaishnavism & Shaivism


Bhagvatism was founded on Vasudeva Krishna's worship. He is recognised as having founded Bhagwatism. Krishna makes his first appearances as a teacher in the Jaiminiyae Brahamana and Tairminyae Upanishad.

The Bhagwad Gita represents Krishna's ideology at its peak. The primary characteristics of Bhagvatism are as follows:

  • Bhakti

  • Prapati (total surrender)

  • Nishkama Karma (selfless action)

  • Information

  • Abandonment of sacrifices and rituals

Bhagvatism also includes some parts of hero worship. Saint Saindaliya established the pancharatra system, which includes worshipping Krishna as well as the four Yadava heroes: Samkarsna, Pradyumna, Anirudh, and Samba.

Thus, Panchvirvada worship was a characteristic of it.

Bhagvatism was evolved into Vaishnavism during the Gupta dynasty. Krishna was worshipped as Hercules by the Greeks. Heliodorous, the Indo-Greek minister, converted to Bhagvatism and built a garuda pillar inscribed at Besnagar, Madhya Pradesh.

Bhagwatism is also known as Narayaniya, Ekantika, and Satvad. In Gita, Bhagvatism is referred to as yoga.


Vaishnavism began as a strong movement in the south, led by Tamil Vaishnava gurus known as Alvars.

Alvars were poets who were moved by Vaishnav bhakti. It was distinct from northern bhakti in terms of emotional components. In Tamil bhakti, the desire to make sacrifices for God was more prevalent.

It began as a national movement. They wrote devotional writing in Tamil, known as prabanda, about Lord Vishnu.

Perundevar was the first to translate the Mahabharata into Tamil.

The acharyas were the philosophers of Vaishnavism. Vsistadvaita was created by Ramanujacharya, whereas Dvaita was founded by Madhavacharya. Suddhadvaita was created by Vallabhacharya.


The cult of Shiva originated with the formation of a sect known as Pasupat, which is considered to be Shaivism's earliest branch. It began around 200 B.C.

  • From the first century A.D., Shiva was worshipped in the lingakara form of a shivaling. The earliest linga discovered at Gudimellan dates from 56 A.D.

For the first time, Panchakshri-"Om Namash Shivay"-is referenced for the first time in the Tamil epic Silappadhigaram.

It began as a strong movement in the south, led by Tamil Shaiva saints known as Nayanars. They created Thevaram, popularly known as Dravida Veda, religious literature about Lord Shiva.

The Shaiva Sect

  • Nakulim/Nakulisa formed the Pashupata sect, which is the most popular in northern India.

  • Kashmira Shaivism was the religion formed by Vasugupta in Kashmir. Trika is the mode of devotion in Kashmir Shaivism (mudra without mantra).

  • Agamanta, Mattamuyura, and Kalamukha are major sects in central India.

  • Kalasana, a follower of Nakulisa, formed the Kalamukha religious group. Tamilakam Srikanta formed the Shiva Advaita religious group in the south.

  • Basaveshwar created Veera Saivam in Karnataka. Mallikarjuna Pandit created Aaradya Shaivam in Andhra Pradesh.

Chekkilar, also known as Sekkilar, authored Periyarpurana, a work about the lives and teachings of Nayanars.


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