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published: 2/17/05
updated: 11/22/13

Hindu Denominations, Sects and Schools




What are the sects and denominations in Hinduism?

Modern Hinduism is divided into four major devotional sects: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism and Shaivism are generally regarded as monotheistic sects: each believes in one supreme God, who is identified as Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism.

Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism are the most prevalent Hindu sects; among these, Vaishnavism is the largest. The devotional sects do not generally regard other sects as rivals, and each sect freely borrows beliefs and practices from others.

In addition to the four theistic sects, there are six schools of Vedantic philosophy within Hinduism. These schools tend to emphasize Ultimate Reality as Brahman, the great "Self" who must be realized to attain liberation.





The six Astika (orthodox; accepting the authority of the Vedas) schools of Hindu philosophy are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (also called just 'Mimamsa'), and Uttara Mimamsa (also called 'Vedanta'). Of these six, three continue to be influential in Hinduism: Purva Mimamsa, Yoga, and Vedanta.

Click on the links below for more information on each of these sects and schools of Hinduism.

Four Theistic/Devotional Sects of Hinduism

Six Philosophical Schools of Hinduism

  • Yoga
  • Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsa)
  • Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta)
  • Nyaya
  • Vaisheshika
  • Samkhya
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