Historical Vishnuism

Historical Vishnuism as early worship of the deity Vishnu is one of the historical components, branches or origins of the contemporary and early Vaishnavism,cite book |author=Beck, Guy L. |title=Sonic theology: Hinduism and sacred sound |publisher=University of South Carolina Press |location=Columbia, S.C |year=1993 |pages=p. 170 |isbn=0-87249-855-7] which was subject of considerable study,cite book
author = Gonda, J.
year = 1993
title = Aspects of Early Visnuism
publisher = Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
isbn =
] and often showing that Vishnuism is a distinctive worship — a sect. [Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin, T"he Story of Vedic India as Embodied Principally in the Rig-Veda", G. P. Putnam's sons, 1895, [http://books.google.co.in/books?ei=Bo-TSOnkIZ7QigHPn4jOCA&client=firefox-a&id=QslGAAAAIAAJ&dq=Vishnu+Rig+Veda+worship+Vishnuism&q=Vishnuism+as+a+distinctive+worship&pgis=1#search p. 328] ] The tradition was forming in the context of Puranic Vaisnavism evolving in the process of revitalizing religion of Brahmanism, of which Vishnuism is believed to be a part of, through assimilating a number of orthodox, non-conformist and tribal elements; the absorption of mother goddess worship, into what now known a Vaishnava sampradayas.cite book |author=Suvira Jaiswal |title=The Origin and Development of Vaisnavism: Vaisnavism from 200 BC to AD 500 |publisher=South Asia Books |location=Columbia, Mo |year=1981 |pages= |isbn=0-8364-5591-6] It is a tradition of the historical Vedic religion and is distinguished from other historic schools later forming the Vaishnavism by its primary worship of Vishnu, later identified as the source of all avatars.cite book
author = Goswami, B.K.
year = 1965
title = The Bhakti Cult in Ancient India
publisher = Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office
isbn =
] It was later expressed as a historically the first structured Vaishnava religion as the "Vishnuism, in a word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India." [Hopkins,"The Religions of India", p.690] A number of separate cults or traditions merged with each representing the names of god of Vaishnavism. In contemporary Vaishnavism God is also known as Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna and behind each of those names is a devine figure with attributed supremacy in Vaishnavism, that relates to historic traditions that some scholars theorize to be separate and distinct historically.cite book
author=Matchett, Freda
title=Krsna, Lord or Avatara? the relationship between Krsna and Visnu: in the context of the Avatara myth as presented by the Harivamsa, the Visnupurana and the Bhagavatapurana
p. 4] It is distinct from Krishnaism, as in the revival of Bhakti, found in the Bhagavata it is referred as Vishnuism. [ [http://www.jstor.org/pss/2753385 Review: by Kenneth Scott Latourette] India and Christendom: The Historical Connections between Their Religions. by Richard Garbe; Lydia Gillingham Robinson Pacific Affairs, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Autumn, 1961), pp. 317-318.]

The followers of Vaishnavism are referred to as "Vaishnava(s)" or "Vaishnavites". According to recent statistics, a majority of Hindus are Vaishnavas, [ [http://www.adherents.com/adh_branches.html#Hinduism Major Branches - Hinduism] from adherents.com ] with the vast majority living in India. The name Vaishnavite is a direct translation of Vishnite and often lead to confusion. Some sources identify Visnuism with Vaishnavism, while others prefer to distinguish Vishnuism from Krishnaism and Ramaism.

In his "The Religions of India", Edward Washburn Hopkins presents an accepted distinction as to the assumption that Vishnuism is associated with Vedic brahmanism, and was part of brahmanism. Krishnaism was adopted much later, and it is for this reason, amongst others, that despite its modern iniquities Siva has appealed more to the brahmanas than Krishna. Its only later that Vishnuism merged with Krishnaism. [Hopkins,"The Religions of India", p. 530: "When, however, pantheism, nay, even Vishnuism, or still more, Krishnaism, was an accepted fact upon what, then, was the wisdom of the priest expended?"]


The term "Vaishnavism" and "Vishnuism", entered the English language in the 19th century, and was formed by attaching the suffix "-ism" to Sanskrit "Vaishnava" or "Vishnu" (IAST: IAST|vaiṣṇava or IAST|viṣṇu), where first is the "vriddhi" form of the second meaning "relating, belonging, or sacred to Vishnu" or "a worshiper or follower of Vishnu". ["Vaishnavism" in cite book |last= Simpson|first= John (Ed)| authorlink = John Simpson (lexicographer)| coauthors= Weiner, Edmund (Ed.)|title= Oxford English Dictionary |edition= Second edition|year=1989 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location= USA |isbn= 0198611862] However "Vaishnava" may also refer to worshiper of Rama, Nrisimha or Krishna, where as "Vishuite" more often refers to one who primerly worships Vishnu.

Principal beliefs

Vishnu: The Supreme

The principal belief of Vishnuism is the identification of Vishnu as supreme or principal worship of him as was the case in the Historical Vedic times. Hopiks writes: there is a passage like the great Ka hymn of the Rig Veda, 'whom as god shall one worship?' The sages say to Vishnu: "All men worship thee;" [Edward Washburn Hopkins, [http://books.google.com/books?id=Dj33XvXqJO8C&pg=PA581&dq=Vishnu+Rig+Veda+worship+Vishnuism&ei=Bo-TSOnkIZ7QigHPn4jOCA&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U3fNpHXjhFT0D1d-dEyGGYPiBOY4g The Religions of India p. 581] ] In the Rig Veda he is referred by his name of "trivikrama" (who took three strides) and is believed by some scholars as the starting point of the evidence of such worship.

History of Vishnu-centered Vaishnavism

Number of stages to the history of Vaishnavism place worship of Vishnu in different perspective according to the different theories by different authors. On the first stage, in its twofold aspect - historic and philosophical, is referred as by some as Bhagavata and is believed to be founded by Krishna-Vasudeva, of Yadava tribe. [Chrierson, "Narayani and the Bhagavatas", p. 3] [ Bhandakar, "Report on the Search for Sanskrit Manuscripts," pp. 72-74] [Grierson, "Monotheistic Religion of Anscient India",p. 6] The philosophical basis of this stage was that supreme being is eternal, infinite and full of grace, and that salvation consisted in a life of perpetual bliss near the Lord. [http://books.google.com/books?id=ot8YesdjROQC&pg=PA1077&dq=Visnu+Bhagavatism&lr=&ei=1SOSSMrcLYa4jgGcw_T5DA&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U0bwmnAGaoSWdFEIM6tqBiPfMbPzQ#PPA1076,M1 Encyclopaedia of Hinduism] , (ed) N.K. Singh, p.1076] During this stage some believe that Pancaratra entered into alliance with ancient Samkhya yogic system, in line with tendency to combine philosophy with religion. [Garbe, "Bhagavad Gita", p. 28] It is this period that is described as the stage when the cult of Narayana was absorbed into church of Krishna-Vasudeva. According to Grierson's views at this stage Bhagavatism became a cult of Brahmanised anti-Brahmanists. [Chrierson, "Narayani and the Bhagavatas", p. 7] Hopkins often remarked on the often expressed view, that Bhagavad Gita bears witness to the compromise thus arrived at between Brahmanism and Bhagavatism - "it is a Krishnaite version of a Vishnuite poem. [Hopkins, "Religions of India", p. 389] For this reason Krishna, the personal name of Vasudeva, was given "admission" into the circle of Brahminical gods as an avatara of Vishnu.

Adoption of Buddha as one of the avataras of Vishnu under Bhagavatism believed to be similarly a canalizing factor in assimilation in relationships during Gupta period 330-550 C.E. Thus Mahayana Buddhism is sometimes called "Buddha-Bhagavatism".cite book |author=Hāṇḍā, Omacanda |title=Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh: Up to 8th Century A.D. |publisher=South Asia Books |location=Columbia, Mo |year=1994 |pages=p. 40 |isbn=81-85182-99-X] It is in this period that it is commonly accepted among academics that the concept of avatara of Vishnu was fully developed. [cite web
title=CIH - Read history make history
last= Faculty For Indian History(Prabha IAS-IPS Coaching Centre)Arumbakkam, Chennai
first=INDIAN HISTORY - 2003 exams test papers
quote = 19) The crystallization of the Avatara Concept and the worship of the incarnations of Vishnu were features of Bhagavatism during the answer (d) Gupta period


Thus complex religion of Vaishnavism is often viewed as a synthesis of the worship of gods Vishnu, Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna which is archived by the time of Bhagavad Gita (c. 4 BCE to 3 century CE). Worship of Vishnu is called Vishnuism and the monotheistic worship of Vishnu was already well developed in the period of the Itihasas. [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9074641/Vaishnavism britannica.com] ]

This form of Vaishnavism flourished in South India during the seventh to tenth centuries CE, and is still commonplace, especially in Tamil Nadu, as a result of the twelve Alvars, saints who spread the sect to the common people with their devotional himns. The temples which the Alvars visited or founded are now known as Divya Desams. Their poems in praise of Vishnu and Krishna in Tamil language are collectively known as "Naalayira" (Divya Prabandha).cite book
author = Annangaracariyar, P.B.
year = 1971
title = Nalayira tivviyap pirapantam
publisher = Kanci: VN Tevanatan
isbn =
] cite journal
author = Seth, K.P.
year = 1962
title = Bhakti in Alvar Saints
journal = The University Journal of Philosophy

ee also

* Vaikhanasas
* Shaivism
* Shaktism
* Sri Sampradaya


External links

* [http://www.dvaita.org dvaita.org - Overview of Dvaita Siddhantha as propounded by Shri Madhvacharya]
* [http://www.srivaishnavan.com Ramanuja and Srivaishnavism] (srivaishnavan.com)
* [http://www.sadagopan.org/ Online library of articles on Vaishnavism and the Ramanuja Sampradaya] (sadagopan.org)
* [http://www.chinnajeeyar.org/QAs/QAPage2.asp chinnajeeyar.org - Q & A for major Sri Vaishnava issues]
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia Sripedia - general information on Sri Vaishnavism]
* [http://www.prapatti.com/index.html prapatti.com - Wonderful site for Sri Vaishnava and Vedic Mantras, Stotram and other prayes]
* [http://srimatham.com srimatham.com - Free downloads on basic tenets of Sri Vaishnavism]
* [http://swamydesika.tripod.com/index_text.html#top swamydesika.tripod.com - Good site for info. on Vedanta Desika and his writings]

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