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smārta


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An adjective applied to orthoprax brahmins who, through the medieval period, followed smṛti, in the sense of conforming to the prescriptions of Dharmaśāstra (Manusmṛti, etc.) in general, and varṇāśramadharma in particular. Smārtas are also referred to as paurāṇikas, in so far as their theology and ritual is drawn from the Purāṇas, notably in their performance of pañcāyatana pūjā, the domestic worship of the five deities, Devī, Gaṇeśa, Śiva, Sūrya, and Viṣṇu. (In this way they were distinguished both from śrautas, and from the followers of Tantric traditions.) Since about the 9th or 10th century ce, many smārtas have aligned themselves with Śaṅkara's Advaita Vedānta theology, at the same time showing a tendency to elevate Śiva above the other four deities, in so far as they equate him with the Advaitin's absolute brahman (neut.). The term ‘smārta’ is, however, also applied to brahmins in the Śrī Vaiṣṇava tradition. Today, the South Indian Aiyar smārta brahmins are notable for the role they play in Śaiva temple ritual at Cidambaram, where they help to conduct the ritual according to Vedic rather than Tantric rites (i.e they use Vedic mantras). Smārta practice remains an index of orthopraxy, and its followers exemplars of orthodoxy, even though in both their ideology and their ritual they clearly absorbed (and Brahmanized) elements from the esoteric Tantric traditions.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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