Hinduism is the dominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. It comprises three major traditions, Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism, whose followers considered Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti (also called as Devi) to be the supreme deity respectively. Most of the other deities were either related to them or different forms (incarnations) of these deities. Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world, and many practitioners refer to Hinduism as "the eternal law". (Sanātana Dharma).
Hindus are persons that believe they may obtain moksha (union with Brahman) by practicing either good karma, bhakti, or jnana. The main denominations of Hinduism are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. These four denominations may share rituals, beliefs, and traditions, but each denomination has a different philosophy on how to achieve life's ultimate goal, Atma Jnana (self-realization). There are also smaller denominations, and newer movements. Cross-denominational influences are the Bhakti-movement, and the six orthodox schools of thought.
Shaivism - Shaivism or Saivism is one of the four most widely followed sects of Hinduism, which reveres the God Shiva as the Supreme Being. It is also known as śaiva paṁtha and Saivam. Followers of Shaivam are called "Shaivas". They believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer and concealer of all that is. Shaivism, like some of the other forms of Hinduism, spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Java, Bali, and parts of the Southeast Asian continent, including Cambodia.
Shiva is sometimes depicted as the fierce God Bhairava. Saivists are more attracted to asceticism than adherents of other Hindu sects, and may be found wandering India with ashen faces performing self-purification rituals. They worship in the temple and practice yoga, striving to be one with Shiva within.
Vaishnavism - Vaishnavism (Vaisnava dharma) is one of the major branches of Hinduism along with Shaivism, Smartism, Shaktism. It is focused on the veneration of Vishnu. Vaishnavites, or the followers of the Vishnu, lead a way of life promoting the central importance of Vishnu and his ten avatars.
Followers worship Vishnu, the Supreme Lord and preserver of the Hindu Trimurti ('three images', the Trinity), and his ten avatars, including Rama and Krishna. The adherents of this sect are generally non-ascetic, monastic and devoted to meditative practice and ecstatic chanting. They are deeply devotional. Vaishnavism is rich in saints, temples and scriptures.
Its beliefs and practices, especially the concepts of Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga, are based largely on the Upanishads, and associated with the Vedas and Puranic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, and the Padma Purana, Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana.
Shaktism - Shaktism or Shaktidharma is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Shakti or Devi - the Hindu Divine Mother - as the absolute, ultimate Godhead. It is, along with Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism one of the primary schools of devotional Hinduism and is especially popular in Bengal and Assam.
Shaktism regards Devi (lit., 'the Goddess') as the Supreme Brahman itself, with all other forms of divinity, considered to be merely her diverse manifestations. In the details of its philosophy and practice, Shaktism resembles Shaivism. However, Shaktas, practitioners of Shaktism, focus most or all worship on Shakti, as the dynamic feminine aspect of the Supreme Divine. Shiva, the masculine aspect of divinity, is considered solely transcendent, and his worship is usually relegated to an auxiliary role.
Cults of goddess worship are ancient in India. The branch of Hinduism that worships the goddess, known as Devi, is called Shaktism. Followers of Shaktism recognize Shakti as the power that underlies the male principle, and Devi is often depicted as Parvati the consort of Shiva or as Lakshmi the consort of Vishnu. She is also depicted in other guises, such as the fierce Kali or Durga. Shaktism is closely related with Tantric Hinduism, which teaches rituals and practices for purification of the mind and body. The Mother Goddess has many forms. Some are gentle, some are fierce. Shaktas use chants, real magic, holy diagrams, yoga and rituals to call forth cosmic forces.
Over the course of its history, Shaktism has inspired great works of Sanskrit literature and Hindu philosophy, and it continues to strongly influence popular Hinduism today. Shaktism is practiced throughout the Indian subcontinent and beyond, in numerous forms, both Tantric and non-Tantric; however, its two largest and most visible schools are the Srikula (lit., family of Sri), strongest in South India, and the Kalikula (family of Kali), which prevails in northern and eastern India.