Beliefs and practices
Smartism (or Smarta Sampradaya, Smarta Tradition, as it is termed in Sanskrit) is a denomination of the Hindu religion. The term Smarta refers to adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras.They mainly follow the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankara. But there have been instances when they have advocated or followed other philosophies.
In Sanskrit, Smārta means "relating to memory, recorded in or based on the Smrti, based on tradition, prescribed or sanctioned by traditional law or usage, (etc)", from the root smr ("remember"); smarana. Smārta is a vriddhi derivation of Smriti just as Śrauta is a vriddhi derivation of Śruti.The system they follow is referred to also as Srauta-Smartha as evidenced in the sankalpams they take during prayers. This joined reference srauta smartha cannot be separated in the context of an orthodox smartha brahmin because he would be expected to follow the sruti and thereby the smritis derived from them.
Smartas are followers and propagators of Smriti or religious texts derived from Vedic scriptures. It is from this that the name smarta is derived. This term is used with respect to a certain specialized category of Brahmins. Propagating texts derived directly from the Vedas, they are followers of Apastamba Sutra (as opposed to others following Manu Smriti).They give most importance to the sruti (the vedas)itself and therefore many of them,like a majority of Iyers can be classified as Srauta-Smarthas who learn the srutis and practis the smrithis derived from Sruti. It was Adi Shankaracharya who brought all the Vedic communities together. He removed the un-Vedic aspects that had crept into them. He said that any of the different Hindu gods could be worshipped, according to the prescriptions given in the smriti texts. He established that worship of various deities are compatible with Vedas and is not contradictory, since all are different manifestations of Brahman. His ideas were accepted as he succeeded in convincing brahmins of his day, that this is exactly what was indicated by the Vedas. He is believed to be a jagadguru by all such smarthas for this reason alone. But ideologically the smarthas don't have to follow Shankaracharya(though they usually do due to his preeminence), as their real loyalty is to the Vedas and the Smritis. Vedas by itself cannot be easily be separated from its smritis for the simple reason that the former is the collection of supreme prayers and representations of knowledge. The latter is necessary to use these representations as rituals, and to govern the conduct of brahmins following the rituals.The normal way a person becomes a member of this group is by being born to a family following this concept. In the modern context even though many members claim to believe in Vedas as well as fromally associate themselves with smritis, they do not necesarily understand fully either the implications of such an association and many a times even when they do, they choose to follow what is suitable in modern times. There is only a minuscule section that attempts to integrate its approach with the rules of the ancient times.
God, according to Smartas who happen to follow Advaita philosophy, is both Saguna and Nirguna. As a Nirguna he is pure consciousness dissociated from matter. He (the gender itself is meaningless here) has no attributes, and has no form. As a Saguna, there is quality that can be attributed. He is infinite and thus can have a multitude of attributes. Accordingly, the scriptures hold that Vishnu and Shiva are ultimately the same. The Smarta theologians have cited many references to support this point. For example, they interpret verses in both the Shri Rudram, the most sacred mantra in Shaivism, and the Vishnu Sahasranama, one of the most sacred prayers in Vaishnavism, to show this unity. Vishnu Purana carries a story about how Maha Vishnu becomes Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In other words, these forms and names are just different manifestations of Nirguna Brahman—the Ultimate Reality.
One of the previous Shankaracharya of Sringeri Math, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati (1892–1954), commentating on this, said. "you cannot see the feet of the Lord, why do you waste your time debating about the nature of His face?" 
It is most essential for Smarta Brahmins to specialize in the Karma Kanda of the Vedas and associated rituals diligently, and to teach the subsequent generations. This is the only reason that these families continue to be called Smartas.
Adi Shankara propagated the tradition of Shanmata (Sanskrit, meaning Six Opinions). In this six major deities are worshipped. This is based on the belief in the essential sameness of all deities, the unity of Godhead, and their conceptualization of the myriad deities of India as various manifestations of the one divine power, Brahman. Smartas accept and worship the six manifestations of God, (Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda) and the choice of the nature of God is up to the individual worshipper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent. Many Hindus, who may not understand or follow Advaita philosophy, in contemporary Hinduism, invariably follow the Shanmata belief worshiping many forms of God. One commentator, noting the influence of the Smarta tradition, remarked that although many Hindus may not strictly identify themselves as Smartas but, by adhering to Advaita Vedanta as a foundation for non-sectarianism, are indirect followers.  Additionally, many of the Hindu teachers of the modern era such as Ramakrishna, with the notable exception of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Vaishnava founder of the Hare Krishna movement, all had teachings that were in accord with this tradition. The Smarta view dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. Smartas believe that Brahman is essentially attribute-less (nirguna), all attributes (gunas) equally belong to It, within empirical reality.
Smartas believe that the worshipper is free to chose a particular aspect of God to worship. By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu or Krishna to be the true God who is worthy of worship and other forms as his subordinates. Accordingly, Vaishnavites, for example, believe that only Vishnu or Krishna can grant the ultimate salvation for mankind, moksha. Similarly, many Shaivites also hold similar beliefs about Shiva. Notably, many Shaivites believe that Shakti is worshipped to reach Shiva, whom for Shaktas is the impersonal Absolute. In Shaktism, emphasis is given to the feminine manifest through which the male unmanifested, Lord Shiva, is realized.
Smartas, like many Shaivites and Vaishnavites, consider Surya to be an aspect of God. Many Shaivites and Vaishnavites, for example, differ from Smartas, in that they regard Surya as an aspect of Shiva and Vishnu, respectively. For example, the sun is called Surya Narayana by Vaishnavites. In Saivite theology, the sun is said to be one of eight forms of Shiva, the Astamurti. Additionally, Ganesh and Skanda, for many Shaivites, would be aspects of Shakti and Shiva, respectively.
The last two named Yajnas are performed in only a few households today.
Adi Shankaracharya can be credited to have re-structured the present day practice of the Smarthas. He is accordingly revered by the Smarthas as their Guru. The Acharya recommended the Smartas to follow Panchayatana worship. This puja or worship includes the worship of the first five deities mentioned above. (In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Skanda is also worshipped). In this form of worship, the favorite family deity is placed in the center. All other Gods were placed around this central God in a particular order and worshipped.
There are different sets of rules for each stage of an individual's life. The stages of life prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are Brahmacharya Ashrama, Grihastha Ashrama, Vanaprastha Ashrama and Sannyasa Ashrama. These four orders normally proceed one after the other, depending upon one's age, maturity, mental dispositiona and qualification. Each stage has its own set of rules within which it is conducted.
All Smartas who take up the Brahmacharya Ashrama by undergoing Upanayana, are expected to learn the Vedas and Shastras besides leading a strict celibate Life. They are expected to adhere to a sattvic diet and adhere to other rules of the Smriti tradition of their respective families. In modern days, the SmArthas contend with learning at least the select portions (called Suktas) and other portions from the Aranyaka of the Veda.
Smartas are recommended to follow the Brahma form of Vedic marriage (a type of arranged marriage). The marriage ceremony is derived from Vedic prescriptions. Women acquire the traditions of her husband's family upon marriage.
Lienage is an important continuity for the SmArthas. It is called the Gotra. Each smArtha family belongs to a particular Gotra which is the progeny of an identified Rishi. People belonging to the same Gotra are deemed brothers & sisters and hence cannot marry each other.
Traditionally the Smartas also follow the Shrauta tradition. The Shrauta tradition emphasises on performance of Yajnas which are described in the Vedas. Today there are not many Smartas who follow Shrauta tradition. However in the southern states the Shrauta tradition is believed to be strong.
The few of the traditional Smarta religious institutions are:
The other Hindu mission that is closely allied to the Smarta traditions is:
Other modern Hindu missions which maintain close proximity to the Smartha traditions are;
The Smarta worldview is influenced by Advaita philosophy. Adi Shankaracharya, who founded the Advaita Mathas in Sringeri (Sharada Pītha), Dvaraka (Dwaraka Pītha), Puri (Govardhana Pītha) and Badrinath (Jyotirmaţha Pītha)kama, is considered to be the fountainhead of the Smarta tradition as it stands today. All the Jagadgurus (heads) of the Advaita Mathas (also known as Shankara Mathas) are Smartas.
Some of the prominent Smarta Advaitins are:
Some of the later advaitins who were all SmArthas include:
Smarta community has been very particular in carrying down through ages in various difficult times, two vocal tradition – (1) The Vedas and (2) Sangeeta.
Smarthas have normally considered both as very important part of their tradition and they both have hence survived over centuries. During the reign of Sringeri Jagadguru Sri Vidyaranya, Carnatic Sangeeta had many good works. The Vijayanagar partronage was always prominent for the carnatic music tradition. Later under the Tanjore Marahta house, there was a new bloom.
Three Musical Trinities have come up in the Tanjore soil, situated along the banks of river Cauvery. The first starting from Govindaraja Deekshita, Venkatanatha Makhi and Ramaswamy Dikshitar. Carnatic music saw its practical pinnacle under the Trinity – (Sangeetha Mummoorthigal, in Tamil) Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Sri Shyama Shastry, Sri Tyagaraja. The later were Maha VaidhyanAdaiyar, Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer and Konerirajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer. All were SmArthas.
Famous songs on Krishna, alaipayude is by Utthukadu Sri Venkatasubba Iyer, a Smarta. Swami Narayana Thirta has composed many songs, who again is a smArtha. Many major carnatic musicians including Chembai, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Violin maestro Kunnakudi Vaidiyanathan, Veena Balachandar, Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam, D.K Pattamal and Mandolin Srinivas are all Smartas.
Practically over the centuries, the SmArtha community has protected Carnatic tradition and handed over to the present. generation, again were leading artistes are SmArtha Brahmins
Smartas follow the Hindu scriptures. These include:
The Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda). These are considered primary spiritual resources; every Brahmin family is affiliated to one or more of the Vedas. The Upanishads, which are part of the Vedas, are often mentioned separately, given their especial importance as products of past intellectual ferment. The Smritis" are religious books based on Vedas and are written by important Sages/Rishis of the past. Each of them contains recommendations and practices unique to itself. The Book an individual followed depended on his family. Thus, ritual practices sometimes varied from family to family, depending on family tradition. Some of the more common religious law books were the Manu Smriti, the Apastamba Smriti and the Bodhyayana Smriti. The Puranas contain the lore and explanations of the theology of the Vedas. They are basically a collection of sacred historical events that were passed from one generation to the next in the form of mythological stories. Smarta philosophers use the puranas to get a better understanding of Vedas, but do not consider them as completely authentic texts. However, the eighteen Puranas are revered by Smartas, just like any other Hindus. Today the Puranas are the main inspiration for many Smartas.
Smarta communities of South India are: