A sect is a subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group. Although the term was originally a classification for religious separated groups, it can now refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles.
Sects are usually created due to perception of heresy by the subgroup and/or the larger group.
The Indologist Axel Michaels writes in his book about Hinduism that in an Indian context the word “sect” does not denote a split or excluded community, but rather an organized tradition.
The salience of ‘Sect’ in Indian Society vis-a-vis caste
1. Caste in India is undergoing rapid economic transformation and also because of the rising middle class, several sub castes are created and several others are becoming more assertive.
2. Karnataka, a sect of Lingayats and Veerashaiva want to be identified uniquely.
3. Owing to the rising socio-economic status of the sub-caste in India, they are asserting their dominance in political and socio sectors. E.g. Gujjar, Jats, Patidar etc.
The salience of ‘Sect’ in Indian Society vis-a-vis region
1. A common geographic region can also be divided into many sects for instance, Assam Himalayas has the following sects: Abor, Mishmi, Dafla, Nyshi and Nagas.
The salience of ‘Sect’ in Indian Society vis-a-vis religion
1. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism are different sects within Hinduism. These are sometimes referred to as the denominations of Hinduism, and they differ in the primary deity at the centre of the tradition.
2. The two different branches in Islam are Sunni and Shia sects.
Sects are usually formed in every realm of society when the society itself is undergoing rapid change both economically and socially.