Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or his associated avatars, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God.

The worship of Vishnu was already well developed in the period of the Itihasas. Hopkins says “Vishnuism, in a word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India.” Vaishnavism is expounded in a part of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita, which contains a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna is one of the avatars of Vishnu. In this dialogue, Krishna plays the role of Arjuna’s charioteer.

Many of the ancient kings, beginning with Chandragupta II (Vikramaditya) were known as Parama Bhagavatas, or Bhagavata Vaishnavas.

Vaishnavism flourished in predominantly Shaivite 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 hymns. 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).

In later years Vaishnava practices increased in popularity due to the influence of sages like Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Manavala Mamunigal, Vedanta Desika, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, and many others.

Large Vaishnava communities now exist throughout India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as western Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Important sites of pilgrimage for Vaishnavs include: Guruvayur Temple, Sri Rangam, Vrindavan, Mathura, Ayodhya, Tirupati, Puri, Mayapur, Nathdwara and Dwarka.

Since the 1900s Vaishnavism has spread from within India and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America however, the ISKON group is not considered as main stream Vaishnavism. Only Sri Vaishnava, Pushti Marg Vaishnava and Madhava sect is considered as main stream Vaishnavism.This is largely due to the growth of the ISKCON movement, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966.

Krishna murti(left) with Radha

Krishna murti(left) with Radha

Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England

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