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As far as I know, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's family were worshippers of Raghuveer and Narayana. It is also a well known fact that Ramakrishna had an initiated Vaishnava cousin named Haladhari. However, Ramakrishna's teachings are similar to the Smartha sect. So which sect did Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa belong to?

  • he worshipped Kali.. my guess is Shakta. But he practiced several faiths including christianity and islam. – ram Jan 1 '18 at 22:21
  • @ram No, I am sure his family wasn't a Shakta. Then, they would have worshipped the Goddess at home too. But Ramakrishna's family used to worship only Rama and Narayana. – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Jan 2 '18 at 2:59
  • He was born in a Vaishnava family. Their Kula Deity was Raghuveer or Rama. – Rickross Jan 2 '18 at 8:42
  • @Rickross Gaudiya Vaishnava? – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Jan 2 '18 at 8:57
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    @Rickross "BTW how do one decide whether one belongs to a Smarta family or not? I think one's adherence to a sect is decided based on who the Kula Devata of that family is." You can see what Acharya or Matham your family follows, if of course your family follows one. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 2 '18 at 11:29
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From the preface of the book "A short biography of Sri Ramakrishna":

This is in response to a great demand for a shorter biography of Sri Ramakrishna whose message is spreading far and wide with ever increasing rapidity. The matter is taken mostly from the Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by us, though other available books have been consulted and the plan is quite different.

So, this book is a condensed form of his biography. From it's chapter 2:

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century there lived in the village of Derepore in the District of Hooghly, Bengal, a Brahmin family of which Manik Ram Chattopadhyaya was the head. He was a pious and kind-hearted man. With fifty acres of land at his disposal, he was able to meet the needs of his family as also to lend a helping hand to the poor and distressed of the village in times of calamity. In about 1775 he was blessed with a son who was named Khudiram. Two other sons and a daughter were also subsequently born to him. After the death of Manik Ram, the entire charge of the family devolved on his eldest son, Khudiram, who, trained in the family traditions of an orthodox house, was eminently fitted to attend to the manifold religious and secular duties of the household. Both Khudiram and his wife, Srimati Chandramani, were exceptionally devoted to their tutelary deity Sri Ramachandra, and soon earned the love, respect, and admiration of the villagers for their charity, truthfulness, and kindness.

Hence, as i have said in the comments, Sri Rama was the Kula Devata of the family that Sri Ramakrishna was born into. So, he was a Vaishnava by birth.

Anymore information, like which sub-sect of Vaishnavism did the family belong to, is not available, as far as i know. Probably they did not subscribe to any such sub-sects.

(Actually, even today, i hardly find any Bengali who says that "I belong to such and such sub-sect of this larger sect". If he is a Vaishnava, then he will simply say "I am a Vaishnava")

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It's true that by birth he was a Vaishnava, but he adopted Shaktism later. So he was Shakta.But he also promoted equality between different religions and sects.

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I do not think Sri Ramakrishna's family was Vaishnavas in the sense the term is used. Because

  1. His elder brother Ramkumar Chattopadhyay was siddha in Devi Mantra.

  2. Sri Ramakrishna's family deities are a)Raghuveer shalgram shila that came to Sri Ramakrishna's father by a miraculous incident, b) a Vaneswara Shiva linga that His father brough from Rameshwaram and c) Sitala Devi worshipped in a ghata. So they worshipped Vishnu, Shiva and Devi.

  3. Sri Ramakrishna ate fish which traditional vaishnavas do not eat.They did not eat onion and garlic like other bengali brahmins of that time.

  4. Except one of His niece Lakshimani Devi, no one is known to wear tulasi mala or kanthi mala or have chandana tilakas on forehead and bodies as Vaishnavas use to have.During Sadhana period, Sri Ramakrishna took mala and tilaka of Ramayet mata and later of the other Vaishnava mata, but only for few days.

  5. He initially did NOT believe that Sri Chaitanya is an incarnation of God as He did not find any mention of His Name in our holy scriptures.At that time this view was quite normal for any one born in a high caste as the proverb goes : jaat khuiye boshtom (Vaishnavas are low caste peole).They were also looked down upon as 'nyda-nedi's. He also did not have high idea about the Gaudiya Vaishnavas and held the view that Sri Chaitanya's avatarhood is just a construction by them.His idea about Sri Chaitanya changed when He got direct vision of Him with Sri Nityananda at Navadwip.(Ref. Sri Sri Ramakrishnaleelaprasanga,2nd volume/1st part/ page 131-32).

  6. He has always been criticising the opinions of different sects like Vaishnava (Reference: Sri Sri Ramakrishnakathamrita, page 492 {3 July 1884}page 239{21 July 1883}) also and Shakta as dogmatic views whenever these have expressed slightest bigotry and branded own opinions or deities as Superiors. He also did not like the deena bhava of the vaishnavas (Ref. kathamrita,page 500{3 July 1884}), as He believed that as the wards or creations of God we must have our birth rights on Him or Her.

Its therefore clear that Sri Ramakrishna's family members were smarta brahmins. They had special love and devotion for Sri Ramachandra no doubt, as so many of His family members were named after Sri Ramachandra.Sri Ramachandra was their Kuladevata. But they respected all forms of Hindu deities.Rama worshipper smarta brahmins are rare in Bengal.

After His illumination, Sri Ramakrishna had got all His family members initiated by Shakti mantra also.

And His cousin Haldhari (original name 'RamaTarak' was also not a vaishnava as mentioned in thevquestion. His liking was for jnanamarga and so the advaitabhava and He did not like the worship of God with form. But He has to do that worship as it was his profession.

Reference: 1. Sri Sri Ramakrishnaleelaprasanga by Swami Saradananda, vol 1 and 2 2.Sri Ramakrishnake je roop dekhiachi compiled and edited by Swami Chetanananda. 3. Sri Sri Ramakrishnakathamrita -Akhanda Udbodhan published both the books.

  • I know many Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnavas who eat fish. Also worshipping Shiva and Devi is not prohibited in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Jan 25 at 17:08
  • Do you have any reference for him looking down upon Sri Chaitanya? – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Jan 25 at 17:11
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    It is recommended to avoid trivial edits of emphasizing unnecessarily. Edits should be substantial and should add something new to the answers. Also why this emphasis that Vaishnavas are dogmatic and not for Shaktas? You should add that it is your own emphasis when you have selected specific text. Also, what is the source for that? – Sarvabhouma Jan 30 at 4:56
  • @sarvabhouma yes i have added new informations – user17294 Jan 30 at 4:57
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    You should not add emphasis for a single sect when mentioning as dogmatic. If Ramakrishna Paramahamsa criticised both, you should emphasis on both or none. Not belonging to Vaishnava has no relation with thinking or saying one sect is dogmatic. Your views should not come while giving emphasis. – Sarvabhouma Jan 30 at 6:04

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