Showing posts with label Tantra Meaning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tantra Meaning. Show all posts

Tantra - Tantra Sculptures & Erotic Sacred Art

Both the words mukti and bhukti refer to conflicting ideals in the history of Indian civilization. 

Pleasure, especially sexual pleasure (kama), has a long history as one of the four legitimate life objectives (purusdrtha), alongside dharma, wealth (artha), and liberation (moksa). 

  • While one of the most important books of tradition, the Bhagavad-gita, is almost quiet on the topic of kama, other literatures, most notably the kamasastra, of which the Kamasutra is the most renowned work, address it methodically and thoroughly. 
  • This literature celebrates sexual pleasure and, while it may appear mechanistic in comparison to Sanskrit erotic poetry and even sexist to modern Western sensibilities, it demonstrates the importance and legitimacy of sexual desire in classical Indian civilization prior to the rise of Islam and the arrival of puritanical colonialism. 
  • Traditionally, liberation was a transcending (visvottirna) condition attained by world renouncers via asceticism and celibacy; the reversal of the body's movement outwards towards the objects of desire. 
  • Sanskrit literature is full of stories of sages who are tempted by beautiful women, typically sent by gods like Indra who are afraid of the power generated by their abstinence and austerity, illustrating the conflict between cultural ideals and the difficulties of transcending earthly concerns. 

The importance of the householder and the renouncer were emphasized by Dumont. 

  • While we may debate who is a householder and if the Brahman is closer to the renouncer than Dumont's 'man-in-the-world,' the distinction does hint to an ambiguity in Indian civilization. 
  • Part of the tantric worldview, especially in the more intellectual interpretations, is that freedom and the world affirming value of desire are not mutually exclusive, but that desire may be utilized to transcend desire. 

The distinction between desire in broader Indian civilization and tantric traditions may be observed right here. 

  • Pleasure, the consequence of desire (the word kama may imply both 'pleasure' and 'desire'), is a goal in itself for the kamasastra. 
  • In this environment, sexual pleasure serves no purpose other than to satisfy itself. 
  • In contrast to the ideal and value of dharma, which places a great emphasis on producing offspring, the goal of kama is pleasure for its own reason. 
  • Kama is barren and, in this sense, a dharma transgressor. 
  • The aim is pleasure rather than progeny. 

Although desire is often mentioned in Tantrism, it is different from tantric usage in the kamasastric meaning, however the lines between tantric and non-tantric kama have been blurred even within the tradition. 

  • Sexual desire was employed to create sexual fluids, power compounds, that were to be given to the deities of the mandala, in early tantric traditions of the extreme left. 
  • We also see the advocation of eating bodily waste products in these extreme writings, and one thinks of extreme Buddhist Tantras like the Candamaharosana-tantra, where waste products are to be swallowed as the diet 'eaten by all the Buddhas' without 'any mild distaste.' 
  • Through their transgressive usage in a ritual setting, all body products are believed to possess power. 

Kama is only later in tantric traditions that it is considered as a method of transition to the deity's state. 

  • Thus, we see a transition from appeasing fierce and erotic deities via the 'sacrifice' of sexual ingredients to the ritual practice of sexual union as the transmutation of desire, with the sensation of coition believed to mirror or recapitulate Siva and Sakti's pleasure. 
  • We also have the use of intercourse to create sexual fluids, which are subsequently contracted back into the male partner in the vajroli mudra, which is an often complex ritual. 

In each of these ways, kama differs from kama as defined by the kamasastra. 

  • The left kama is not a goal in itself in tantric traditions, but rather a means to an end; desire is utilized to transcend itself, much as a thorn may be removed by a thorn, or perfection is achieved by those things that would usually cause one to slip off the path, in the image of the Kulamava-tantra. 
  • And because of the strong connections between sensuality and mortality, Tantrism takes sexual desire even farther away from the kamasastras. 
  • Tantrism, displays a "barren eroticism." 
  • Indeed, the left's extreme antinomian behaviors cannot be seen as pleasurable; there are other times when promiscuity may occur, such as at festivals like Holi.

The difference between kama in the Tantras and kama in erotic science is conceptually obvious, with the former being teleological (the aim being power and/or liberation) and the latter being an end in itself, although there is some blurring of the line. 

  • The sexual images carved on the temple walls, renowned to gawking visitors and laughing kids, are a noteworthy aspect of medieval India's beautiful temples. 

These sculptures have been seen as epitomizing 'tantric art,' but considering that 'tantric eroticism' is a different kind of 'tantric eroticism,' do these sculptures have any connection to tantric civilization, and if so, what might it be? 

  • This is a tough issue to answer, and many theories have been proposed, including that they are protective against demonic forces, that they mirror what happens in the skies, and that they are pictures of tantric ritual activities. 
  • Erotic sculpture is a frequent element of medieval and subsequent temples, and may still be seen on temples in the South, but little survives in the North, owing to temple destruction. 
  • The sculptures, according to Fred Hardy, are designed to keep demons away from the pristine sanctuary, serving as mirrors to reflect the demons' obscenity back on themselves. 
  • This idea was originally conveyed to him by locals in the temple's surroundings. 
  • This is a very reasonable theory, given that the world was filled with supernatural forces, both good and bad, and the temple was thought to be a pure dwelling of the god. 

Indeed, the pantheons of deities that constitute the outside wall (avarana) of the primary deity's authority, especially the guardians of the directions and the guardians of the entrances, may be seen on temple façade. 

  • This atmosphere of mystical protection lends itself nicely to erotic art. 
  • However, no source supports this claim, and at least one text, the Silpa-prakasa, connects such sculptures to the kamasastra . 

Furthermore, many of these sculptures exude tremendous elegance and beauty, and one would anticipate the grotesque to serve in this capacity rather than the beautiful. 

  • White, on the other hand, has claimed that there is a link between Tantrism and sexual temple sculpture's coital couples (maithunas), pointing out that there are remains of Yogini temples strewn throughout central India where Kaula rituals were conducted in the royal palaces. 
  • White claims that the maithunas on the walls of early temples most likely represent tantric rites since they seem to follow a pattern, using the Bheraghat Yogini temple in Orissa as an example. 

Such representations survived for a brief period (White estimates little more than two hundred years), after which the maithuna motif was decontextualized from its ceremonial setting. 

  • To put it another way, erotic portrayals move from tantric sexuality representations, which indicate to the transcendence of sex as activity for its own purpose, to pictures of sex more in line with kamasastra. 
  • Whether these representations are connected to transgressive tantric practice or to kamasastra, it is unlikely that they are linked to 'fertility cults' in any manner other than a broad and generic sense. 

This was obviously the case by the time of the Silpaprakasa, a book on temple building written between the ninth and twelfth centuries in Orissa by a tantric practitioner named Ramacandra Kulacara. 

  • The construction of a temple is described in this literature as portions of the deity's body, the deity being the foundational god Mahapurusa. 
  • It's worth noting that the book explicitly connects the temple to the concept of desire and the science of erotics, the kamasastra. 
  • According to the scripture, desire (kama) is the basis of the world, from which all things are created, and via desire, everything is reabsorbed into primordial matter (mulabhuta). 
  • Creation would be an illusion without Siva and Sakti. 

There would be no life, birth, or death without the activity of desire (kamakriya).' 66 This is consistent with a prominent motif in Sanskrit literature, which places desire as the most essential purpose of existence. 

Furthermore, the text connects maithuna couples to the kamasastra, stating that there should be no portrayals of sexual union (samghama) but only depictions of love play, since the kamasastra contains many different kinds of love play. 

The reality of temple sculpture, on the other hand, contradicts this advice, since there are many instances of completely coital depictions on temple walls, including scenarios involving multiple performers.

  • The 'orgy' sceneries on the slopes of Khajuraho or Konarak are against dharma standards, but they are not at odds with kamasastra, and some texts even include instances of 'orgiastic' devotion. 
  • What's more, maithuna couples are thus explicitly connected to the kamasastra, a major change in moving eroticism to an artistic setting. 
  • Eroticism is shorn of its ferocity and connection to death found in early tantric appeasing and taboo breaking with the erotic sculptures on temple walls. 
  • The portrayal of the body on temple walls is a representation of the body in a text-based idealized sensuality; an eroticism that revels in the flesh while pointing beyond it to a heavenly transcendence. 
  • The depiction of the flesh here is divinized and textualized in a manner that goes beyond transgression or protection. 

Indeed, as other goddesses on temple facades are manifestations, such representations refer to the sexualized body as a manifestation of the deity: the temple is the deity's body and is not devoid of sexuality.

You may also want to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Yoga, and related Hindu Paths, Practices and Philosophies here.

Tantra - Tantric Temples - A Place Of Worship

While tantric deities' main and most essential forms are usually mantras rather than physical representations, there is considerable overlap between tantric and puranic literature in terms of temple-building and iconography. 

  • The temple deity is energized via the proper rituals, much as the king's flesh is divinized in the rite of anointing (as in standard temple Hinduism). 
  • There is a parallelism between the temple and the palace, and the divine body of the monarch in the palace recapitulates the divine body of the god in the temple. 
  • Temples are a major topic in tantric literature, and the Saiva Siddhanta contains a lot of information on temple building, deity placement, and temple rituals. 

The Rauravottaragama specifies octagonal (dravida), round (vesara), and square (nagara) temple styles, as well as the deities to be placed. 

  • The book recounts the installation of the primary deity, the Siva linga on its pedestal (pitha), the Goddess and her marriage to Siva, and the guards of the doors (dvdrapdla), descriptions that may also be found in other Tantras with minor variations. 
  • Temple tantrism is still practiced at temples in Tamil Nadu and, particularly, Kerala, where 'tantric Hinduism' is the norm, with certain Nambudiri families relying on the Tantrasamuccaya, a fifteenth-century book. 

Even the most extreme goddess cults, the Yoginis, were expressed in temples throughout the early medieval era. 

  • According to traditional puranic tradition, such temples may be seen as the deity's body, and the difference between tantric and non-tantric gets muddled while discussing the temple. 

  • Within the institution of that temple, for example, the great Saiva temple at Cidambaram, a center of orthodox power and learning, performed temple rites according to Saiva Siddhanta texts, but there were also non-dualist theologians such as Mahesvarananda writing against dualist interpretations of scripture. 

Along with guardians and protectors, medieval temple façade are known for their erotic sculpture, which has sparked widespread attention and is frequently linked with 'Tantrism' and 'tantric art,' particularly in the West, since it seems to blur the line between 'religion' and'sexuality.' 

Indeed, the existence of sexual art connected with Tantrism has strengthened the notion that bhukti is mukti, pleasure is freedom, and that bhoga is yoga, pleasure is the technique, in later tantric culture. 

However, in order to comprehend these pictures, we must first consider their context and the value systems in place at the time of their creation.

You may also want to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Yoga, and related Hindu Paths, Practices and Philosophies here.

Tantra Power & Polity

Tantric Power 

In the medieval era, kingship was shaped by historical circumstance and justified by textual tradition. 

The rise of feudal kingdoms and the increasing awareness of regional identity with the rise of important regional centers focused on temples and the development of region-specific styles of art and architecture characterize India's history in political terms from the early medieval period to the rise of the Delhi Sultanate. 

Kingdoms such as the Rastrakutas in the Deccan, an early form of the Rajputs known as the Gurjura-Pratiharas of Malava-Rajasthan, and the Palas of Bengal were engaged in bitter rivalry after the Gupta empire collapsed, and generally from the mid-eighth century. 

Kings and princes pursued policies of military adventurism, and an ideology of warfare developed, which shown them as divine beings, the king was the male consort of the Goddess's realm. 

During this time, Brahmans were granted land in exchange for legitimizing the new rulers and initiating a process of Sanskritization, in which local traditions and deities were absorbed into the overarching, Brahmanical paradigm. 

  • The Candella clan of the Gond tribe, for example, is responsible for the renowned Khajuraho monuments. 
  • They had significant authority and influence, and could, for example, restore their nominal Pratihara ruler, Mahipala, to his throne (c. 900). 
  • The Chalukya and Cola empires (c. 870-1280 CE) succeeded the Pallavas as the most powerful dynasty in the Deccan, but it was the Pallavas who introduced the worship of the divine monarch to Southeast Asia in the kingdom of Fu-nan, which fell to the Khmers. 
  • Indeed, Indie kingdoms flourished throughout Southeast Asia, with the Sailendras of Orissa's Indonesian empire reaching colonies as far as Bali and Java. 

An inscription from Cambodia dating from 1072 ce (Saka period 974) mentions the entrance of Tantras into the Khmer kingdom under the reign of Jayavarman II, with the continuing of writings from the left stream, which had been banned in India, in Cambodia and Java. 

These are known from the Sdok kak Thorn inscription in Cambodia. 

With the Cholas, we witness the rise of Tamil culture and the magnificent temple towns of Thanjavur (the Cola capital), Cidambaram, Darasuram, and Gangaikondacolapuram, whose Saiva temples show not just imperial strength but also a vibrant Brahmanical, Agamic civilization. 

Tantric culture, on the other hand, disappeared in Kashmir from about 1320 to 1819 ce, when the region was under nearly continuous Muslim control and the bulk of the people converted to Islam. 

The rulers of these medieval countries had a divine kingship philosophy, in which the monarch was a god or a manifestation of a deity. 

This resulted in the "feudalization of divinity," in which "the gods were seen as warriors and rulers of the world." 

  • As reflected in the word deva, which may signify both deity and monarch, the king is not simply a'secular' ruler, but a divine king, a god incarnate. 
  • The monarch, became the pinnacle of the social system associated with the sun, with the rest of society below. 
  • The queen is associated with the ground, whereas officialdom is associated with lesser gods of the sky. 
  • The commoners who lived underneath it were likewise a part of the overall system. 

The divinity of that kingship may be viewed as a problem of "reason" and "will" in the creation and re-formation of political communities in ancient India, according a "world ordering rationality." 

  • The universe was ordered by kingship, and a world without a monarch (arajaka) was chaotic. 
  • It's also important to note that the medieval Hindu kingdom was not the same as a European monarchy. 
  • Rather, it was segmentary in nature, consisting of a pyramid of nested socio-political institutions. 
  • The village was embedded inside the locality, the locality within the supralocality, and the supralocality within the kingdom, according to this structure. 
  • Lesser monarchs paid ceremonial homage to higher, more powerful rulers within this hierarchy. 
  • As a result, Tantric ideas of kingship are readily incorporated into an already established organization. 

Although the concept of divine kingship has been criticized, particularly in a postcolonial setting, it is necessary to keep it in mind in order to comprehend monarchy and its legitimization in the tantric context. 

  • The king's duties, according to dharma literature, are to protect the people, to preserve social order via the preservation of caste boundaries, and to administer justice. 
  • The monarch is also the patron of ritual, taking on the traditional vedic function of sacrificial patron (yajamana). 
  • The king, according to Manu, is the guardian of caste (varna) and dharmic phases of life (asrama). 

However, according to the new tantric view of monarchy, the king is a divine warrior whose strength is drawn from the violent and sexual warrior goddesses adored as the retinue of a deity such as Bhairava, who is worshipped at a certain degree of revelation. 

  • The king's authority was connected to the Goddess or goddesses' power, which was bestowed at coronation or via tantric initiations by specialized priests. 
  • Indeed, these monarchs sought legitimacy from literary traditions via consecration and initiation, and sought power by connection with deities and the employment of their mantras. 
  • Even in the Laws of Manu, where the monarch is seen as containing pieces of the gods, there are continuities with more ancient notions of kingship. 
  • However, throughout the medieval era, a new concept of divinity emerged, as well as an aggressive, power-hungry lordship seeking legitimacy from religion. 
  • The Goddess's erotic violence is contained inside the monarch and regulated via a scripturally and ritually legitimated governmental system. 

The 'ancient texts,' or Puranas, formally concerned with the five topics of cosmogony (sarga), the regeneration of the cosmos (pratisarga), the genealogy of populations (vamsa), the great epochs of Manu (manvantara), and the genealogy of kings, were the first to achieve this legitimacy and new concept of kingship (vamsdnucarita). 

  • The Vimudharmottara-purdn  is an important text that illustrates this. 
  • Pancaratra, or tantric Vaisnava doctrine, was represented in these scriptures. 
  • Despite the fact that the scripture is not a Tantra, but rather the pinnacle of a 'scale of writings' within the Puranic, orthodox tradition, it reflects tantric Vaisnavism's theology
  • Unlike the Puranas, few tantric writings express explicit concern for the nature of kingship. 
  • While books like the Netra-tantra may come from courtly circles, they have a direct effect on the medieval concept of monarchy.
  • As we've seen, the Tantras are concerned with daily and infrequent rituals, mantra creation, cosmology, symbol placement, and temple construction. 

Although orthodox Brahmans kept a safe distance from hazardous or defiling tantric mantras, the impact of a tantric philosophy of power is firmly entrenched in medieval notions of monarchy, and the Puranas themselves are inspired by Tantrism, Tantrism's influence on kingship stretches from India to Southeast Asia. 

The ceremonial diagram, the mandala, is at the core of the tantric concept of kingship, in which the god and his spouse are surrounded by a retinue of deities who are either emanations or belong to the same sphere, clan, or lineage. 

  • The king of the clan Kulesvara and his spouse Kulesvarl, accompanied by deities such as the eight mothers, are the traditional paradigm.
  • The monarch is the Kulesvara equivalent, and his queen, from whom he gets authority via sex, is the Kulesvari analogue. 
  • Power passes from her to the monarch, then to the clan's deities, and finally to the rest of the community. 
  • White has persuasively shown that the goddesses of clans and land are at the heart of this system, and that the development of alliances between ruling families is crucial to this concept. 

At one level, the king is identified with the high god Visnu or Siva, and thus transcends specific political alliances within the kingdom, whereas the tutelary goddesses represent ties to land and powerful ruling families, who 'ratified and energized the pragmatic religious life of the kingdom as a whole.' 

This mandalic form of monarchy can be observed in Nepal, where three gods are essential for royalty and from whom the king gets his power: the sovereign deity Visnu, the master of ascetics and of Nepal, Pasupati, and the hidden tantric goddess Taleju. 

  • Indeed, the Goddess's power is based on monarchy among the Nepalese Newars. 

The king's consecration or anointing (abhiseka) is the most significant tantric ritual associated with monarchy, and the link between royal consecration and tantric initiation. 

  • The jfayakhya-samhitd connects the anointing (abhiseka) of four classes of initiates with four types of political actors in an intriguing way.
  • The samayin, putraka, sadhaka, and acarya processes include the rituals for anointing a military commander (senapati), a prime minister (mahamantrin), a prince (yuvarclja), and a king (yuvarclja) were modeled by (raja). 

The process of anointing is explicitly linked to a political institution, with the king similar to the master (acarya); just as the master embodies the deity revealed by the text, so does the monarch reveal the god. 

  • At Viyajanagara, and an early monarch of Nepal, for example, there is historical proof that rulers were consecrated with tantric mantras, a tradition that lasted until modernity. 
  • These tantric rituals of anointing during coronation with tantric mantras fit neatly into a divine kingship worldview, and merely added another layer of literary empowerment to the puranic system. 

The institution of kingship taps and controls the tantric deities' transgression violence and sexuality. 

It is clear from a number of sources such as Jayanthabhatta's play, Agamadambara, which we have cited that this layer of further empowerment was regarded with suspicion by the orthodox in the case of Kashmir, but it is also the case that kingship was supported by wholly orthodox Brahmans who used Puranas as their core texts, but whose theology was tantric, as in the case Some tantric scriptures deal specifically with kingship. 

  • According to the Netra-tantra, the tantric instructor (acarya) must worship the eight mothers for the king's and kingdom's protection. 
  • He should draw a 'lotus' pattern for appeasement, prosperity, good luck, the protection of ladies and sons, and the protection of the monarch from other rulers. 
  • The instructor should utilize mantras for the king's health, protection from sickness, a good night's sleep, and proper digestion. 

The Isanasivagurudeva-paddhati includes some kingship content, and it is clear that its teachings are intended for both royalty and initiated Saivas. 

  • This is evident in the scriptures on wars as well as the lengthy sections on temple construction and architecture. 
  • Only kings go to battle with their armies, and although others may construct temples, it is kings who construct big, prominent temples that honor the god and therefore themselves. 

The scripture offers five birds associated with Siva's five acts and various mantric syllables in the chapter on combat defense. 

  • These birds are also linked to five phases in a king's life: 
    • childhood, 
    • youth, 
    • kingship, 
    • old age, and 
    • death, 

  • Which are linked to five activities: 
    • pleasure, 
    • sacrifice, 
    • marching to battle, 
    • governing, 
    • retirement or cessation of activity, and dying. 

  • We may predict the favorable or bad result of a fight for a certain individual by studying the omens of birds, and that person should prepare appropriately by, for example, donning armor for excellent physical protection (suguptadeha) or dividing his riches if the augury is gloomy. 

The monarch becomes the tantric Brahman's counterpart via consecration. 

  • The king's body is divinized in consecration, much as the practitioner's body becomes an indicator of a tradition-specific subjectivity, and the practitioner's body becomes an index of the broader societal body, as stated in the scriptures. 
  • The king's physique, in a manner reminiscent of medieval Europe, is a symbol of the society's overall health. 
  • In one sense, the king is the ideal householder, capable of achieving the goals of dharma in the projection of the people, artha in the pursuit of wealth and political success, and kama in the pursuit of pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure with courtesans; 
  • In another, he is similar to the Brahman in mediating transcendent power and, indeed, becoming divinized himself. 
  • The divine's violent and sensual force is absorbed by the monarch and transformed into political expansion and consolidation tactics. 
  • The king's ceremonial anointing, in which power falls upon him, is a formal empowering in which he becomes divinized. 
  • The king's body becomes divine, just as the practitioner's body becomes divine via initiation (and every day following that). 
  • The king's body gets entextualized via tradition-specific mantras as a practitioner.

You may also want to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Yoga, and related Hindu Paths, Practices and Philosophies here.

Tantra Spirituality - Divinization Of The Tantric Body

The Body's Divinization As A Root Metaphor In Tantra

Both representation and lived experience are needed to comprehend the body in tantra. 

It serves as a model for the hierarchical cosmos and methods of mapping the self on the one hand, and as a means of experiencing a world organized by literature and tradition on the other. 

The body's divinization is a key element of tantric civilization in both depiction and experience. 

  • This divinization of the body is a process in which the body is supposed to transform into the text and works on many levels. 
  • At the level of individual practice, the practitioner's body becomes divine via text-specific ritual building (as I demonstrate with particular examples). 
    • The king's body becomes divine in the political world via ceremonial building, which is similar to the divinization of the god in the temple. 
    • The deity's body is represented by the temple, which is the counterpart of the palace. 
    • The monarch is to the body politic and palace as the god is to the temple, which itself reflects divinity and universe. 
    • The body becomes divine in possession at a popular, typically low-caste, level (avesa). 

Indeed, ownership is the unifying theme of the tantric body, and that it is connected to language, particularly performative speech. 

However, the word 'possession' has negative connotations in English, and we could argue that divinization is a more appropriate term to describe a process that happens at many cultural levels, with varying functions. 

The divinization of the body is a necessary ritual step in the existential realization of that truth for the practitioner seeking liberation. 

    • For the king, the divinization of the body is political empowerment by the deity and the legitimization of his regime. 
    • Divinization enlivens the temple and its deities.
    • Divinization enlivens the low-caste. 
    • Divinization is possession, which can be an empowerment and bestowing. 

The conflict between 'institutionalized Tantra' and 'transgressive Tantra' (roughly corresponding to priestly and shamanic forms) complicates these divination procedures. 

  • Much of the material in the Bhairava and Tantras of the Southern transmission has focused on those texts that exceed the orthodox revelation of the Veda and whose practices violate orthodox dharma, especially in the emphasis on sexuality in worship and the brutality of its deities. 
  • However, institutionalized Tantra soon incorporates this violence and sensuality, especially where political power is involved. 
  • Tantrism does become orthodox as a result of governmental sponsorship as well as Brahmanical absorption. 
  • Sacred violence and sexuality become cultural motifs expressed in literature and art, and included in high tantric ritual, as a result of institutionalization. 
  • The temple is very significant in this area. 
    • Many Tantras, particularly the Saiva Siddhanta Tantras and Upagamas, include extensive sections on temple construction, icon placement, and temple worship. 
    • There are other writings dedicated particularly to tantric temple building, such as the MayamataTM, Diptagama 11 and Silpaprakdsa 11; and certain Tantras, such as the Ajitagama and Rauravottaragama, contain substantial portions dedicated to temple construction and icon placement. 
    • These writings detailed various temple designs and prescribed which deities should be put, including which deities should be placed on the temple façade (din murti). 

As a result, we seek to expand the boundaries by looking at the body's role as the internalization of text in terms of polity, temple art, and popular religion, especially ownership. 

  • I want to use two interconnected lines of reasoning to demonstrate that when tantric rituals are injected into the pre-existing framework of monarchy, the king becomes the tantric Brahman's counterpart, and that this must be understood in terms of the tantric revelation model of text internalization. 
  • The monarch is subjected to the process of bodily divinization. 
  • The importance of the body as an indicator of tradition-specific subjectivity, as well as the priority of revelation and its internalization in any understanding of tantric civilization, must be drawn from this. 
  • Clearly, macro-cultural forces such as economic constraints, trade, and caste play a role in the formation "imperial formation" in the medieval period, but what's important here is that sovereignty is mediated through revelation, via the internalization and en-textualisation structure. 

The fundamental tantric paradigm at the foundation of tantric civilization, the internalization of revelation, the body being deified via the mediation of literature and tradition, may be seen in the three realms of polity, temple sculpture, and possession.

You may also want to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Yoga, and related Hindu Paths, Practices and Philosophies here.

Tantra - Tantric Civilization Of India

Tantric Civilization is a term used to describe a society that is Tantric texts and ideas became increasingly influential from the early common era through their expansion in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, and while these traditions were largely attenuated due to Muslim polities in South Asia, their influence was felt well into the nineteenth century and later modernity.

  • We might even talk of a 'tantric civilization' blooming throughout the medieval era, prior to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate's rule, and continuing thereafter in the South and Nepal.
  • While the notion of civilization originated with the formation of historical awareness in the West, it is a word that can be usefully applied elsewhere, and we may use it simply as a shorthand for macro-cultural forces at work.
  • While the focus is on the micro rather than the macro level of culture, when considering texts and their expression in practice, we must consider the broader historical contexts in which these texts and practices arose, as well as propose ways in which the micro-structure of tantric revelation internalization articulates with broader social and political forces.

We can consider 'civilization' to be a broader concept than 'society,' in that a civilization may contain multiple social systems and, unlike a social system, is not teleological: 

  • A civilization is not functional in the way that a society is in directly maintaining the specificity of power relations such as kinship and family dynamics.
  • A civilization, unlike 'culture,' may include a polity or structural politics that articulates with culture and social structure and is physically situated across a specific geographic region.
  • In earlier literature, there are Sanskrit equivalents for the word 'civilization,' such as Aryavarta, the homeland of the Aryans, a region to the north of the Vindhya mountains, which is contrasted to the country of 'barbarians,' mleccha) outside of this.
  • Aryavarta is the realm of karmabhumi (ritual activity), where liberation is attainable and dharma is upheld.
  • There are other words for 'civilization' that imply refinement, politeness, and sophistication, such as sabhya, which means 'to be at court' or polished and courteous, and suslla, which means 'cultured.' 
  • 'Tantric civilization' does not have a literal translation, but it does communicate the essential notion that tantric traditions have historical depth, textual semantic richness, and ideals represented in art and politics.

The Tantras and their traditions are concerned not only with individual practice leading to personal objectives of power and/or liberation, but also with larger cultural and political developments, especially temple construction and, closely linked to this, monarch legitimization.

Tantric civilization arose within the 'Sanskrit cosmopolis,' a transcultural formation centered on Sanskrit as a written, literary language of culture articulated in 'literature' (kavya) and the 'praise poem' (prasasti) found particularly in inscriptions issued from the courts of kings.

  • Imperial forms adopted into the idea that a righteous monarch is one who encourages proper language (sadhusabda) , which helped legitimize their power, but it cannot be reduced to this.
  • However, although there was the growth of vernacular languages as the preferred medium for expressing identity and ethnicity from approximately 1000 to 1500 CE, there was also the formation of a Sanskrit cosmopolis across South and Southeast Asia throughout the early years of the common period.
  • These deliberately defined themselves in reference to the Sanskritic model; one has done it in regard to Kannada, while the other has done so in connection to Malayalam literature development.
  • The development of the Tantras must be understood within this cultural-linguistic backdrop, especially given that they were written in Sanskrit at a period when regional vernaculars were forming.

This Sanskrit is not polished and highly literate in many texts, a characteristic referred to as 'divine' (aim), implying that the authors and redactors of these texts were not entirely at ease in this environment but saw it as necessary to situate these texts and traditions within the larger, 'high' literary culture of the Sanskrit cosmopolis.

  • While the great edifice of Sanskrit literature and traditions cannot be reduced to a means of articulating and legitimizing political authority in medieval India, it did express and legitimize a kingship ideology that sees polity as the expression of divine power, with that power being expressed in the construction of temples. This structure is influenced by the Tantras.
  • Despite the fact that legitimizing monarchs is not their primary purpose, they have come to be utilized in this manner.
  • The tantric writings are part of the Sanskrit cosmopolis, and as such, they must be considered alongside literature that reflects ideals contained in the 'goals of life' (purusartha), on the one hand, and the development of vernaculars, on the other.

Tantrism did have an effect on popular devotionalism (bhakti), particularly in its sexual, Vaisnava forms, and tantric civilization is seen at the village level, where tantric deities, particularly fierce goddesses and guardians, become essential for the community's existence.

Tantra is essential to understanding India's medieval cultural, religious, and political history.

  • Tantra has been the primary religious paradigm of the vast majority of the people of the Indian subcontinent for over a millennium.
  • It is against this backdrop that Indian religious civilization has developed. 
  • The body, or more particularly the divinization of the body, which is its en-textualization, is probably the core metaphor of this civilization.

You may also want to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Yoga, and related Hindu Paths, Practices and Philosophies here.

Tantra Dictionary - A Repository of Common Terms and Meanings used in Tantra



Ahimsa: the first principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: simple kindness. Literal meaning is "nonharm."

Ajina Chakra: the sixth chakra; literal meaning is "perception plexus."

Anahata Chakra: the fourth chakra; literal meaning is "pure plexus."

Annamaya Kosa: the first layer of the mind (which is the body); literal meaning is "made of food."

Aparigraha: the fifth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: simplicity. Literal meaning is "nonacquisition."

Asana(s): physical exercises that harmonize the glandular system and thus can make the body fit for meditation.

Asteya: the third principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: responsibility. Literal meaning is "nontheft."

Atimanasa Kosa: the supramental layer of mind; literal meaning is "higher mind."

Aunkara (Aum): the sound of creation; sometimes heard in deep meditation. "A" is the creation, "U" is the maintenance of

balance, ''M(a)" is the destructive force.

Astaunga Yoga: an eightfold system of yoga practice organized by the sage Patanjali in India, based on earlier work by the

yoga master Astavarka. Literal meaning of astaunga is "eight parts."


Babanam Kevalam: a universal mantra used in chanting and meditation, meaning "all is one." (Babanam means "the name

of the Creator"; Kevalam means "is all there is.")

Brahma: the infinite consciousness from which everything arises.

Brahmachakra: the cycle of creation; the movement of consciousness from its infinite state into matter and then from the

dense to the subtle, merging again in pure consciousness.

Babanam Kevalam: a universal mantra used in chanting and meditation, meaning "all is one." (Babanam means "the name

of the Creator"; Kevalam means "is all there is.")

Brahma: the infinite consciousness from which everything arises.

Brahmachakra: the cycle of creation; the movement of consciousness from its infinite state into matter and then from the

dense to the subtle, merging again in pure consciousness.

Brahmacharya: the fourth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: perceiving everything as an expression of the Creator.

Literal meaning is "to follow God."


Chakra(s): nuclei located throughout the body's subtle structure; foci of psychic energy.


Dharma: "innate tendency," that which propels every living being toward oneness with the Creator.


Guru: "that which dispels darkness," according to Tantra, the only true Guru is infinite consciousness.

Guru Puja: the practice of surrendering all our fears and desires to the higher self after meditation.


Hiranyamaya Kosa: the subtle causal or "superconscious" layer of mind; literal meaning is "golden."


Iishvara Pranidhana: the tenth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: spirituality. Literal meaning is "taking shelter in the

Supreme Being."

Iccha Shakti: spiritual force developed by meditation and right conduct.


Kama: limited desires.

Kamamaya Kosa: the conscious layer of mind; literal meaning is "desire."

Karma: the result of samskaras; the reaction experienced as a result of actions and desires.

Kaoshikii: a dancing exercise that vitalizes the body, focuses the mind, and strengthens the will.

Kosa(s): the layers of the mind.

Kundalini: spiritual energy residing in every living being.


Manipura Chakra: the third chakra; literal meaning is "fiery plexus."

Manomaya Kosa: the subconscious layer of mind; literal meaning is "mental."

Mantra: a collection of sound vibrations used as a focus in meditation.

Muladhara Chakra: the first chakra; literal meaning is "root plexus."


Nadii(s): psychic pathways that channel energy through the chakras.

Niyama: five healthy practices that compose half of the Tantric Code of Ethics.


Prana: vital energy.

Pranayama: control of the vital energy through the practice of meditation with breathing exercises.

Pranendriya: the "sixth sense;" actually a type of psychic organ that regulates mental and physical functions.

Prema: limitless love.


Rajadhiraja Yoga: the first known teachings of yoga master Astavarka in India, 2,000 years ago. Literal meaning of

rajadhiraja: is "king of kings."

Rjuta: straightforwardness in character; a quality developed through proper meditation and right conduct.

Rta: the absolute truth, with or without the spirit of kindness.


Sadhana: meditation; literal meaning is "the effort that brings enlightenment."

Sahasrara Chakra: the seventh chakra; literal meaning is "thousand-petaled lotus plexus."

Samadhi: a state achieved in meditation, wherein one experiences oneness with the Creator.

Samskara(s): inborn, acquired, or imposed reactive momenta from past thoughts and actions, stored in the mind and

expressed as "fate."

Santosa: the seventh principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: acceptance. Literal meaning is "with contentment."

Satya: the second principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: honesty. Literal meaning is "truth with the spirit of kindness."

Shakti: "operative principle;" that which binds infinite consciousness to finite form.

Shaoca: the sixth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: clarity. Literal meaning is "clean."

Shiva: infinite consciousness, unbound; also, the name of a great Tantric Guru who lived in ancient India.

Susumna: the "psychic canal" through which the kundalini energy is channeled.

Svadhisthana Chakra: the second chakra; literal meaning is "sweet plexus."

Svadhyaya: the ninth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: understanding. Literal meaning is "study of Self."


Tantra: the ancient spiritual discipline upon which yoga is based.

Tapah: the eighth principle of the Tantric Code of Ethics: service. Literal meaning is "penance or sacrifice."


Vijinanamaya Kosa: the subliminal layer of mind; literal meaning is "special knowledge."

Vishuddha Chakra: the fifth chakra; literal meaning is "purification plexus."

Vrtti(s): psychic propensities, such as lust, hope, etc., located within and controlled by the chakras.


Yama: five acts of integrity that compose half of the Tantric Code of Ethics.

Yoga: "union" of the self with infinite consciousness; the practices that bring that union, including the eight parts of

Austaunga Yoga as given by the sage Patanjali.

Yogi: practitioner of yoga.