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In Hinduism, a sampradaya ( Sanskrit : सम्प्रदाय IAST sampradāya) can be translated as ‘tradition’, 'spiritual lineage' or a ‘religious system’.[1][note 1] It relates to a succession of masters and disciples, which serves as a spiritual channel, and provides a delicate network of relationships that lends stability to a religious identity.[1] The word identity in this respect is problematic. Where identity can be seen as static, sampradaya allows flexibility; one can leave one sampradaya and enter another.



Sampradaya is a body of practice, views and attitudes, which are transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers. Participation in sampradaya forces continuity with the past, or tradition, but at the same time provides a platform for change from within the community of practitioners of this particular traditional group.[1]


A particular guru lineage in guru-shishya tradition is called parampara, and may have its own akharas and gurukulas. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya.[1] One cannot become a member by birth, as is the case with gotra, a seminal, or hereditary, dynasty.


Membership in a sampradaya not only lends a level of authority to one’s claims on truth in Hindu traditional context, but also allows one to make those claims in the first place. An often quoted verse from the Padma Purana states:

Mantras which are not received in sampradaya are considered fruitless.[1][note 2]

And another verse states:

Unless one is initiated by a bona-fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the mantra he might have received is without any effect.[1][note 3]

As Wright and Wright put it,

If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as a bastard. The same social standard applies to religious organizations. If a religious group cannot prove its descent from one of the recognised traditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.[2]

Nevertheless, there are also examples of teachers who were not initiated into a sampradaya, Ramana Maharshi being a well-known example.[3][web 1] A sannyasin belonging to the Sringeri Sharada Peetham once tried to persuade Ramana to be initiated into sannyasa, but Ramana refused.[3]

Type of sampradayasEdit

Vaishnava sampradayasEdit

According to the Padma Purāṇa, one of the eighteen main Purāṇas, there are four Vaishnava sampradāyas, which preserve the fruitful mantras:[note 4]

All mantras which have been given (to disciples) not in an authorised Sampradāya are fruitless. Therefore, in Kali Yuga, there will be four bona-fide Sampradāyas.[4]

Each of them were inaugurated by a deity, who appointed heads to these lineages:

Main Deity Parampara lineage Acharya Primary Mathas Linked sampradaya
Śrī Devī (Laksmi) Sri Sampradaya Ramanujacharya Melukote, Srirangam, Vanamamalai, Tirukkurungudi, Kanchipuram, Ahobila, Parakala Ramanandi Sampradaya
Brahma Madhva Sampradaya Madhvacharya Sri Krishna Matha,
Madhva Mathas
Gaudiya Math, ISKCON
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Rudra Rudra Sampradaya Viṣṇusvāmī/Vallabhacharya Pushtimarg sect
Four Kumāras Kumara sampradaya Nimbarka Kathia Baba ka Sthaan, Nimbarkacharya Peeth, Ukhra Mahanta Asthal, Howrah Nimbarka Ashram

During the Kali yuga these sampradāyas appear in the holy place of Jaganatha Puri, and purify the entire earth.

Various sampradāyas emerged from these four, which are quite different from them. There are also other sampradāyas, such as Swaminarayan Sampradaya, which are not linked to these four sampradaayas.

The lineage of Sri Bramha Madhava Gaudiya Sampradāya founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu falls under the lineage of Bramha sampradaaya.

Shaivite sampradayasEdit

There are three main saivite sampradayas known as "Kailasa Parampara" (Lineage from Kailash)- Nandinatha Sampradaya, Adinath Sampradaya and Meykanda Sampradaya.[5]

In Balinese Hinduism, Dutch ethnographers further subdivided Siwa (shaivaites) into five – Kemenuh, Keniten, Mas, Manuba and Petapan. This classification was to accommodate the observed marriage between higher caste Brahmana men with lower caste women.[6]

The Nandinatha Sampradaya traces its beginning to at least 200 BCE. Its founder and first known spiritual preceptor was the Maha Rishi Nandinatha. Nandinatha is said to have initiated eight disciples (Sanatkumar, Sanakar, Sanadanar, Sananthanar, Shivayogamuni, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, and Tirumular) and sent them to various places to spread the teachings of non-dualistic Shaivism all over the world.[5] Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii identifies itself as principle Matha or monestory of lineage . Spiritual lineage of the Nandinatha Sampradaya : Maharishi Nandinath→ Tirumular→→→ unknown→Kadaitswami→ Chellappaswami→ Siva YogaswamiSivaya SubramuniyaswamiBodhinatha Veylanswami [5][7][8]

Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy is known as the descedent from the teaching of Sanatkumara, one of the Kumaras.(Sanatkumara→Satyanjana Darshini→Paranjyoti rishi→Meykandar.[9]

Sampradaya Gurus Sect nowadays Principle Mathas Note
Nandinatha Sampradaya[10] Tirumular Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta (Siddha Sampradaya) Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii Tirumantiramis one of the significant holy book along with other saivite text.
Meykandar Sampradaya[10][11] Meykandar Shaiva Siddhanta Saiva adheenams in South India trace its origin at Sanatkumara
Adinath Sampradaya[10] Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath Siddha Siddhanta (Nath Sampradaya) Nisargadatta Maharaj[12] and International Nath Order[13] Connected with Inchegiri branch
Trika Sampradaya Durvasa Vasugupta Kashmir Shaivism Swami Lakshmanjo Academy [14] and other Kashmir Saivite Mathas Also known as Ragasya Sampradaya and Trayambaka Sampradaya.[15][16] Starts its gurus at Srikantha, Vasugupta, and Somananda. Sometimes Durvasa also included.[16]

Nandinatha and Meykandar Sampradayas are associated with the Shaiva Siddhanta while Adinath Sampradaya is associated with Nath Shaivism. Other popular Saivite sampradayas are Veerashaiva Samprdaya, Lingayat Sampradaya and Srouta Sampradaya

Dashanami SampradayaEdit

Dashanami Sampradaya, "Tradition of Ten Names", is a Hindu monastic tradition of ēkadaṇḍi sannyasins (wandering renunciates carrying a single staff)[17][18][19] generally associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition. They are distinct in their practices from the Saiva Tridaṇḍi sannyāsins or "trident renunciates", who continue to wear the sacred thread after renunciation, while ēkadaṇḍi sannyāsins do not.[note 5]

The Ekadandi Vedāntins aim for moksha as the existence of the self in its natural condition indicated by the destruction of all its specific qualities.[20] Any Hindu, irrespective of class, caste, age or gender can seek sannyāsa as an Ekadandi monk under the Dasanāmi tradition.

The Ekadandis or Dasanāmis had established monasteries in India and Nepal in ancient times.[web 2] After the decline of Buddhism, a section of the Ekadandis were organized by Adi Shankara in the 8th century in India to be associated with four maṭhas to provide a base for the growth of Hinduism. However, the association of the Dasanāmis with the Sankara maṭhas remained nominal.

Advaita Vedanta sampradayaEdit

Advaita MathasEdit

(Vidyashankara temple) at Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Shringeri

Adi Sankara founded four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (monasteries) to preserve and develop his philosophies. One each in the north, south, east and west of the Indian subcontinent, each headed by one of his direct disciples.

According to Nakamura, these mathas contributed to the influence of Shankara, which was "due to institutional factors".[21] The mathas which he built exist until today, and preserve the teachings and influence of Shankara, "while the writings of other scholars before him came to be forgotten with the passage of time".[22]

The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.[web 3]

Direction Maṭha Mahāvākya Veda Sampradaya
Padmapāda East Govardhana Pīṭhaṃ Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman) Rig Veda Bhogavala
Sureśvara South Sringeri Śārada Pīṭhaṃ Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman) Yajur Veda Bhūrivala
Hastāmalakācārya West Dvāraka Pīṭhaṃ Tattvamasi (That thou art) Sama Veda Kitavala
Toṭakācārya North Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman) Atharva Veda Nandavala

The current heads of the mathas trace their authority back to these figures, and each of the heads of these four mathas takes the title of Shankaracharya ("the learned Shankara") after Adi Sankara.[citation needed]

According to the tradition in Kerala, after Sankara's samadhi at Vadakkunnathan Temple, his disciples founded four mathas in Thrissur, namely Naduvil Madhom, Thekke Madhom, Idayil Madhom and Vadakke Madhom.

Shakta SampradayaEdit

There are 2 Shakta Sampradayas, which are 1. Kalikula : Prevalent in Bengal, Assam, Nepal & Odisha. Primary deity is Kali 2. Srikula : Prevalent in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala & Sri Lanka.Primary deity is Lalita Devi

Buddha sampradayaEdit

Buda sampradaya or Buddha sampradaya is a classification based on the observance of Dutch ethnographers of Brahmana caste of Balinese Hinduism into two: Siwa and Buda. The other castes were similarly further sub-classified by these 19th-century and early-20th-century ethnographers based on numerous criteria ranging from profession, endogamy or exogamy or polygamy, and a host of other factors in a manner similar to castas in Spanish colonies such as Mexico, and caste system studies in British colonies such as India.[6] This concept of Budha Sampradaya could be applied to all Buddhist communities.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The word commands much more respect and power in the Indian context than its translations in English does.
  2. ^ Sampradayavihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
  3. ^ The original Sanskrit text found in Sabda-Kalpa-Druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary and Prameya-ratnavali 1.5-6 by Baladeva Vidyabhushana states: sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
    atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
    sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah
    catvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purusottamat
    ramanujam sri svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah
    sri visnusvaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah
  4. ^ Quoted in Böhtlingk's Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, entry Sampradāya.[4]
  5. ^ ek=one. ekadandi=of single staff. tridandi=of three staffs.


Further readingEdit

Written referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Gupta 2002.
  2. ^ Wright 1993.
  3. ^ a b Ebert 2006, p. 89.
  4. ^ a b Apte 1965.
  5. ^ a b c Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2003) "Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism" Himalayan Academy Publications ISBN 9780945497899
  6. ^ a b James Boon (1977). The Anthropological Romance of Bali 1597–1972: Dynamic Perspectives in Marriage and Caste, Politics and Religion. ISBN 0-521-21398-3.
  7. ^ "Lineage". Himalayan academy.
  8. ^ "Lineage". Himalayan accedamy.
  9. ^ [Civañān̲a Mun̲ivar (1985) "Sivajñāna Māpādiyam" Page 40]
  10. ^ a b c Hawaii Saiva siddhanta Church article
  11. ^ Mathew Chandrankunnel (2008) "Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics" P. 720 ISBN 8182202582
  12. ^ Nisargathatta maharaj
  13. ^ International Nath Order Archived 27 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Lakshmanjo Academy
  15. ^ P. N. K. Bamzai (1994) "Culture and Political History of Kashmir"
  16. ^ a b V. N. Drabu (1990) "Śaivāgamas: A Study in the Socio-economic Ideas and Institutions of Kashmir (200 B.C. to A.D. 700) Indus Publishing ISBN 9788185182384
  17. ^ Journal of the Oriental Institute (pp 301), by Oriental Institute (Vadodara, India)
  18. ^ Indian Sadhus by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye
  19. ^ Advaitic Concept of Jīvanmukti by Lalit Kishore Lal Srivastava
  20. ^ A History of Indian Philosophy by Jadunath Sinha.
  21. ^ Nakamura 2004, p. 680.
  22. ^ Nakamura 2004, p. 680-681.



  • Apte, V.S. (1965), The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary: containing appendices on Sanskrit prosody and important literary and geographical names of ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
  • Ebert, Gabriele (2006), Ramana Maharshi: His Life,
  • Gupta, R. (2002), Sampradaya in Eighteenth Century Caitanya Vaisnavism, ICJ
  • Michaels, Axel (2004), Hinduism. Past and present, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
  • Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
  • Wright, Michael and Nancy (1993), "Baladeva Vidyabhusana: The Gaudiya Vedantist", Journal of Vaisnava Studies