Orthodoxy in Christianity is the holding to the oldest beliefs. It is of course impossible for the religion not to evolve at all as new questions and there answer have to addressed. The "Orthodox" version is often considered to be the least evolved sect of a religion. Does the concept of Orthodox apply in Hinduism?


3 Answers 3


Today all most all of Hinduism is Orthodox. Due to the classification of Buddhism and Jainism as separate religion they are no longer treated as part of Hinduism. Hence, as what is left in Hinduism is being primarily based on the Vedas (the revealed scriptures) all of Hinduism is orthodox.

The definition of unorthodox in Hinduism is Veda neendako nâstikaha. That is, the school of thought that doesn't accept authority of the Vedas is unorthodox. Previously Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika school of thought came into formation in India by rejecting the Vedas, hence they were considered unorthodox. But after their classification as separate religion, most of Hinduism is Orthodox except certain sects that follow scriptures that are not based on the Vedas.

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    Don't Nastika, Purva Mimamsa, NirIshvara Dharshana reject the Vedas?
    – Naveen
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 21:44

It is hard to classify Hinduism as Orthodox & Heterodox. Hinduism has always been fluid with many Sampradayas(traditions/philosophical views) existing at the same time and evolving together.

With respect to Christianity, the religion was centrally controlled and codified and what prevailed became Orthodoxy(all sects which subscribe to Nicene Creed are actually orthodox) and other views became Heratical and was sidelined. This was not the case with Hinduism as Hinduism was a highly de-centralized tradition and every view was allowed to grow and flourish.

There are historians who incorrectly classify the Āstika darshanas(Nyāyá,Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mimāṃsā, Vedanta) as orthodox & Nāstika darshanas(Jain, Buddhist, Cārvāka) as Hetrodox. But this labeling is incorrect since each darshana had a different notion of who was an Āstika and who was a Nāstika.

  • I believe that for the most part Hinduism if orthodox. Followers of hinduism tend to continue traditions and norms (though in distorted forms and without understanding). It is only for some reformist movements as late as 19th century that some section of the society began to find reason in traditions. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:18
  • For that matter, any ancient religion is Orthdox - Jeduaism, Christianity, Islam. But the difference is, in those 1 thought prevailed but in Hinduism all thoughts were allowed to prevail and what we have is a mixture of all the different schools which originated in different times.
    – Bharat
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:20
  • The mixing of cultures could well be attributed to geography of the region where Hinduism flourished. So may be others didn't have that opportunity ? There is this thing, while Christianity and Islam seek followers, one can become a hindu only by birth. May be this was the reason why the fusion didn't take place the other way round. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:25
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    Yes, but anyone can follow Hindu principles and be called a Hindu. There is no baptism or initiation rites. Not necessary that if one was not born a Hindu he can never be a Hindu. Mixing of cultures was not geography but also the non-exclusivity of Hindu thought. Every view was accommodated. You can see this in the way village deities have been accommodated into the vedic system as they were without suppressing them. Islam & Christianity believes in exclusivity i.e only they are the key to salvation & suppressed local deities as being false.
    – Bharat
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:35
  • @AmanMittal They did have the chance, case in point: the pagans were persecuted so much in late Roman empire when Christianity started to take hold.
    – kumarharsh
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 11:22

While there is no single school of thought that is called "Orthodox Hinduism", there are six schools of thought that are lowercase-o "orthodox Hinduism". These are called the āstika schools (the conventional translation is indeed "orthodox"), and they are contrasted with the "unorthodox" nāstika schools. The āstika schools are those that accept the Vedas as authoritative; the nāstika schools are those that do not.

Some of the nāstika schools are well-known to the wider world - the term nāstika is primarily applied to traditions that originated in Hinduism, but that we would not today view as Hindu, e.g. the Buddhists and the Jains. The extinct Charvaka school is also considered nāstika. The āstika schools are not so well-known among non-Hindus: they are Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.

Note that this classification is an external classification - it reflects an outside observer's position on what constitutes orthodoxy and heterodoxy in the context of Hinduism. It does not reflect the internal view of Hindu groups on one another - some of the āstika groups will consider other āstika groups to be nāstika, and so forth.

So in sum, yes - the concept of orthodoxy exists in Hinduism, though it isn't really all that similar to the idea of Orthodox Christianity.

  • I would not agree with classifying schools which believe in Vedas as Orthodox & ones which don't as Heterodox. The question mentions "holding to the oldest beliefs" as being Orthodox. In that case Jain school is orthodox since it evolved before any of the 6 darshanas did and before the vedas were completed.
    – Bharat
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 19:14
  • @RBK Are you sure you have your chronology right? The Atharvaveda is thought to have been completed around 1000 BCE, while Jainism is only thought to have originated after that. In any case, the classification you posit in your answer is certainly a valid way of discussing the idea of orthodoxy in Hinduism, but the one in my answer is widely held to by some scholars of Hinduism, and also merits a mention.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 19:17
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    I agree that your version is popular classification but I feel that tries to map non-Indian categories onto Indian tradition and comes with with Astika vs Nastika. About Jainism's timeline. Jain thought existed before Mahavira and dates back to 12th century BCE according to P.T.Raju, which means it predates Atharva Veda(but not other Vedas): books.google.com/…
    – Bharat
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:01
  • @RBK The 12th century BCE? Interesting, I didn't know that. Is there a particular page in that book you could point me to that talks about this?
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:03
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    its pg 104, chapter IV. Some authors consider that Jain thought existed before the first Tirtankara but I am not sure if that claim is valid since the Rishaba, the first Tirtankara lived in 9th century BCE. Maybe it is valid if we consider that the idea of Jainism existed before Rishaba and he formalized it, thus dating it back to 12th century BCE.
    – Bharat
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:10

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