Goddess Traditions in Tantric Hinduism: History, Practice and Doctrine, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Goddess Traditions in Tantric Hinduism

History, Practice and Doctrine, 1st Edition

Edited by Bjarne Wernicke Olesen


186 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Hinduism cannot be understood without the Great Goddess and the goddess-orientated Śākta traditions. The Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, the highly influential tantric forms of South Asian goddess worship have only recently begun to draw scholarly attention. This book addresses the increasing interest in the Great Goddess and the tantric traditions of India by exploring the history, doctrine and practices of the Śākta tantric traditions.

The highly influential tantric forms of South Asian goddess worship form a major part of what is known as ‘Śāktism’, and is often considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism, Vaiṣṇavism and Smārtism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches, and the book looks at the texts of the Śākta traditions that constitute the primary sources for gaining insights into the Śākta religious imaginative, ritual practices and history. It provides an historical exploration of distinctive Indian ways of imagining God as Goddess, and surveys the important origins and developments within Śākta history, practice and doctrine in its diversity.

Bringing together contributions from some of the foremost scholars in the field of tantric studies, the book provides a platform for the continued research into Hindu goddesses, yoga, and tantra for those interested in understanding the religion and culture in South Asia.

Table of Contents

Foreword Gavin Flood Introduction Bjarne Wernicke Olesen 1. Śakti in Early Tantric Śaivism: Historical Observations on Goddesses, Cosmology, and Ritual in the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā Shaman Hatley 2. The (Un)Dreadful Goddess: Aghorī in Early Śākta Tantras Judit Törzsök 3. Varieties of Melaka in the Jayadrathayāmala: Some Reflections on the Terms Haṭha and Priya Olga Serbaeva 4. Snakebite Goddesses in the Sìākta Traditions: Roots and Incorporations of Tvaritā, Kurukullā, and Bherunòdòā Michael Slouber 5. The Cāṇḍālī as Śakti: Untouchable Women in Some Tantric Texts Mikael Aktor 6. Śāktism and Haṭhayoga James Mallinson 7. Śāktism, Polity and Society in Medieval Malabar Rich Freeman

About the Editor

Bjarne Wernicke Olesen is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, UK, and a teacher of classical South Asian languages and religions at Aarhus University, Denmark.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions

Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions is a major new monograph series which has been established to publish scholarship on south, east and southeast Asian tantric traditions. The series aims to promote the serious study of both Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions through the publication of anthropological and textual studies and will not be limited to any one method. Indeed, the series would hope to promote the view that anthropological studies can be informed by texts and textual studies informed by anthropology. The series will therefore publish contemporary ethnographies from different regions, philological studies, philosophical studies, and historical studies of different periods which contribute to the academic endeavour to understand the role of tantric texts and their meaning in particular cultural contexts. In this way, the series will hope to establish what the continuities and divergencies are between Buddhist and Hindu tantric traditions and between different regions. The series will be a major contribution to the fields of Indology, Sinology, History of Religions, and Anthropology.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies