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Amnaya – Sacred Tradition In Ancient Hinduism

Amnaya comprises Vedas, family or national customs and received doctrines. In the sense of Vedas, it indicates the entire sacred lore of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), and the related disciplines of traditional study (Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads). In this sense it is a source and authority of dharma.

In the meaning of “usage and customs”, it is equivalent to the word sampradaya (conventions). In the sense of received doctrine and advice, it is taken to mean Vedanta philosophy and the religious temple traditions.

In this sense, the four institutions established by Shankaracharya (dated from 6th century BCE to 8th century CE) are very significant. Shankaracharya, the monistic interpreter of the philosophy of Upanishads, desired that knowledge should be made available to seekers in all corners of ancient India. He established four pithas under the stewardship of his four disciples. These four main institutions are called the Caturamnayapitha. The four Amnaya Pithas are: Sringeri (south), Puri (east), Dwaraka (west), and Badrinath (north). Each of these pithas have many sub-branches and all of them are looked upon as the custodians of Sanatana Dharma – the religion of the Hindus. Each of these pithas have adopted one sentence of instruction from the Upanishads as the key for their traditional teaching. Nepal also claims to be an Amnaya Pitha.