Ishta Devata  

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An Ishta-deva or Ishta devata (Sanskrit ia-deva, literally "cherished divinity" from ia "desired, liked, cherished" and devata "godhead, divinity, tutelary deity" or deva "deity") is a term denoting a worshipper's favourite deity. It is especially significant to both the Smarta and Bhakti schools wherein practitioners choose to worship the form of God which inspires them the most. Within Smartism, one of five chief deities are selected. Even in denominations that focus on a singular concept of God, such as Vaishnavism, the istha deva concept exists. For example, in Vaishnavism, special focus is given to a particular form of Vishnu or one of his avatars, and similarly within Shaktism, focus is given to a particular form of the Goddess such as Parvati or Lakshmi. The Swaminarayan sect of Vaishnavism has a similar concept, but notably differ from practically all Vaishnavite schools in holding that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the same God.

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