If you are interested in religion and have been brought up in India, there is no doubt that you have heard about ‘Arya Samaj’ and ‘Sanatan Dharma’. But what exactly is the broad difference between the two?

Let me begin by an epiphany I just had. My grandparents on both sides are fairly religious, but somehow I’ve only ever heard my maternal grandmother tell me stories of various Gods and Goddesses. My maternal side happens to perform rather frequent ‘hawans’ or chantings around fire. This is often also called ‘Agni Puja’ or the prayer of fire. I recently realized that I have never heard tales of Gods and Goddesses from my maternal grandmother, and I have never seen a ‘hawan’ take place at my paternal side of the family.

They both happen to belong to different “sects” of Hinduism, if you will. While Sanatan Dharma believes in the presence of Gods and Goddesses and considers Ramayana and Maha-bharata sources of religious texts, the hawan-performing Arya Samajis believe in no such thing and strictly draw their religious knowledge from the vedas. They do not believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses, and perform nature worship. In essence, you could call the the Hindu-version of pagans.

There… that is the difference between the two. I feel rather keenly towards both of these sections of people but I appreciate the difference as well.  Hope this helped clear some concepts because I can’t believe that I only noticed the difference after 22 years of living in India…