Adherents of the smriti or tradition, which has a numerous following amongst southern Brahmans, and, whilst professing Sankara's doctrines, is usually classed as one of the Saiva sects, its members adopting the horizontal sectarial mark peculiar to Saivas, consisting in their case of a triple line, the tripundra, prepared from the ashes of burnt cow-dung and painted on the forehead.
The high-caste Brahman will probably keep at his home asalagram stone, the favourite symbol of Vishnu, as well as the characteristic emblems of Siva and his consort, to both of which he will do reverence in the morning; and when he visits some holy place of pilgrimage, he will not fail to pay his homage at both the Saiva and the Vaishnava shrines there.
His doctrine, which may be said to constitute a kind of reaction against the severe sacerdotalism of Sankara, has spread over all classes of the southern community, most of the priests of Saiva temples there being adherents of it; whilst in northern India its votaries are only occasionally met with, and then mostly as mendicants, leading about a neatly caparisoned bull as representing Siva's sacred bull Nandi.
The apprehension of God in the last of these five as ether is, according to the Saiva school of philosophy, the highest form of worship, for it is not the worship of God in a tangible form, but the worship of what, to ordinary minds, is vacuum, which nevertheless leads to the attainment of a knowledge of the all-pervading without physical accessories in the shape of any linga, which is, after all, an emblem.
Whilst the Saiva philosophers do not approve of the notion of incarnations, as being derogatory to the dignity of the deity, the Brahmans have nevertheless thought fit to adopt it as apparently a convenient expedient for bringing certain tendencies of popular worship within the pale of their system, and probably also for counteracting the Buddhist doctrines; and for this purpose Vishnu would obviously offer himself as the most attractive figure in the Brahmanical trinity.
What has made this cult attach itself more especially to the Saiva creed is doubtless the character of Siva as the type of reproductive power, in addition to his function as destroyer which, as we shall see, is likewise reflected in some of the forms of his Sakti.
To a certain extent this is indeed the case; but though Vaishnavism, and especially the Krishna creed, with its luxuriant growth of erotic legends, might have seemed peculiarly favourable to a development in this direction, it is practically only in connexion with the Saiva system that an independent cult of the female principle has been developed; whilst in other sects - and, indeed, in the ordinary Saiva cult as well - such worship, even where it is at all prominent, is combined with, and subordinated to, that of the male principle.
Of Saiva mendicant and ascetic orders, the members of which are considered more or less followers of Sankara Acharya, the following may be mentioned: (I) Dandis, or staff-bearers, who carry a wand with a piece of red cloth, containing the sacred cord, attached to it, and also wear one or more pieces of cloth of the same colour.