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Whose Tantra?

Reflections on Bazaari Tantra – A Critical Category of Discourse in the Study of Tantrism Madhu Khanna There has been an active interface between the symbolic representation of culture in our myths, legends, religions and artistic representations on the one hand, and the articulations of the modern industrial technological culture, on the other. As in the case of so many disciplines, the scientific temper of modern development ideology questions the ancient expressions of Hindu religiosity. In most cases ancient practices that are resistant to social change are under threat. In other cases, the process of modernization and globalization has generated a slow decay and a systematic withering away of old religious and cultural varieties, resulting often in the collapse of traditional systems of living. Moreover, the prominence of religion in public life has opened up new areas of debate between religion and politics. In the wake of this any discourse on civilization representations (in this case the popular stream of Hindu Tantra) would benefit greatly by asking certain pertinent questions such as, can traditional representations resist the onslaught of modernity and globalization? Or can they co-exist, retaining their resilience and sacred power without distortion of form and content? More importantly, does globalization tend to appropriate and juggle with context, meanings, and metaphors thereby creating and transforming these ancient symbolic archetypal representations to fit into their “political” agendas. In the light of these questions my presentation sets out to examine the all pervasive presence, visibility, forms, and dynamism of popular forms of Tantric practices found in Indian market places or “bazaars”. I


Madhu Khanna

Contextualizing the category Bazaari Tantra Scholars pursuing scholastic studies tend to confuse the “aught” from the “is” in the study of Tantrism. I have used the word bazaari in the title of my paper. The word bazaari needs some explanation. A bazaar (market place) is a window to popular culture, and popular culture with respect to this paper is not understood as a sub-culture for the masses; or a subculture that provides a form of control of the masses by hegemonic groups of power. I am inclined to agree with Adam Possamai1, that popular culture is a vehicle of “the autodeterminism of social actors” and “a platform for our own biography” in so far as it creates our lives, our views of ourselves. The bazaars in India, then, may also shape the form, content and aesthetics of religion and religious life. While popular culture may amuse, instruct and entertain, it is also “an inspiration for religion. One hypothesis of my paper is that bazaari Tantra is engaged in shaping the scenarios in popular culture through a wide range of mass-mediated cultural products, such as religious icons, images, stores (named after Tantra/Yantra), TV serials and the like. In lineage-based traditional communities, religious practices, norms of ethnic identity, taste and distaste are easily transmitted from generation to generation. Today, the pattern has reversed. People create their own individualized identity. They choose the gods they want at a given place or time. Popular emblems of culture in the open bazaar offer a library of choices and invariably mould the construction of one’s ‘religious’ self. In the new social landscape of multiculturalism, people draw their inspiration from vast religious resources. Self-choice and auto-determinism of the market forces has given rise to a hybridization of religions. And Tantra, for better or worse, has found a new space in the public arena. Another point to note is the distinctive feature of the Indian bazaar and its encounter with Indian modernity. Kajri Jain 2 in

Adam Possamai, Religion and Popular Culture – A Hyper-Real Testament (New York: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2007), 20.

Kajri Jain, Gods in the Bazaar: the Economies of Indian Calendar Art (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).

What was once its hallmark over the centuries is moving to the exoteric. but literate/learned traditional pundits who .3 Madhu Khanna her monumental work (Gods in the Bazaar 2006) has outlined the distinctive links of the nature of production. due to the de-institutionalization that has taken place from the growing thrust of modernity and modern day globalization. through a variety of personal inventions. On the other end is the unsophisticated. The esoteric knowledge is being ‘undressed’ by a host of false gurus and the media at large. The sophisticated tantrikas concerned with pure philosophical aspects of Tantra speculations and quiet religious reflections. the young and the old. Tantra has now become freer in its expression. It cuts across the metropolises. it may be said that bazaari Tantra as is generally thought of. capitalist. the small towns. bazaari Tantra will continue to be regarded as a floating category that is amenable to change by the swings and swirls of the market forces. bureaucrat. politician. A very wide variety of tantric prayogas have become part of the hyper consumerist religion loosing their esoteric symbolism and potential strength. the public and the private. The hyper-real has blurred the boundaries between the real and the unreal. private and domestic spheres. political spectacle. worker. The pervasive presence of the “esoteric-popular” versus the “exoteric popular” in the past has changed the terms of this discourse considerably. the village. Because of the nature of its social location. is not entirely an urban phenomena. What was once the exclusive domain of the elite group of lineages is now readily available for popular consumption. The secrets of Tantra are no longer is the privilege of a few lineage-based communities of devotees. There is a large percentage of modern day tantrikas their votaries of every shade and in the market. Contextualizing popular Tantra in the context of Indian modernity. This has had a profound impact on the esoteric core (rahasya) and secret wisdom of Tantra. The ubiquity of bazaari Tantra and its sacred practices extends to multiple sites such as public arena. the street and the home. Some modern day tantrikas observed that what was once confined to close circle of practitioners is now liberated from the narrow confines of tradition. religious mythology and doctrines are freely mixed. consumption. and circulation of popular art. As they become part of a globalized consumer culture.

1 The opening up of free economy and the explosion of the information technology and the emergence of over a hundred TV Channels in India have created a new space in the media for appropriation. who are unconcerned with Sastric. “Early Evidence for Tantric Religion” in Who Invented Hinduism: Essays on Religion and History. Lorenzen has also problematized the dual character of Tantra: “Does the term Tantric religion cover only those texts known as Tantras. . Indologists who presume the textual study of Tantra base their researches on the assumption that greater part of the Tantras are Sastra-centric. Lorenzen (New Delhi: Yoga Press. Samhitas and Agamas. a well-known astro-journalist. Zee TV has introduced serials on the awe-inspiring Aghora cult of Tantra. There are separate magazines in the market or special issues devoted to the subject. At the lowest rung of the ladder are the bazaari tantrikas.000 persons in Delhi alone who dabble with some form of Tantra. My own researches have shown otherwise. 3 David N. David N. Tantra Jyotisa in the bibliography. or does it include a wide range of popular religious phenomena?” 3 A wider 1 2 According to my informant Saurabh Kwatra. Many TV ads sell new-age religions. The orally transmitted popular forms of Tantra have paid an equally significant role in the history and evolution of the Tantras. In the public domain Tantra has a visibility and presence. ed. 2006). 64-77. According to my informant there are 10.4 Madhu Khanna attach equal importance to ritualistic instruction and a sprinkling of philosophy. See for example. doctrinal or speculative issues. Lorenzen. Their main inspiration and object of discipline comes from daily social concerns (vyavhāra) and practical application of ritual formulae to solve survival needs of the masses. and there is growing market of cheap tantric books in the vernacular languages. and reinterpretation of the sacred.2 The well known Hindi magazine Kādambanī has been bringing out a special number on “Tantra” for the last six years. The escalating rate of bazaari tantrikas is ever on the increase. Rarely a sharp distinction is made between para and the laukika (high/elite) and the popular forms of Tantrism. Scholars have recognized the all-inclusive nature of Tantra which reverberates between the twin aims of bhoga and moksacentered worship.

5 Madhu Khanna definition of Tantra embraces popular traditions. who have government jobs. To take a few examples: 1. Shifali. Under the agenda of globalization the increasing popularity of telemedia. or through their gurus. There has been marked ‘shift’ in the image of the market-place tantrikas. I guarantee resolution of all your problems. are householders but claim to have acquired powers (siddhis) either directly. What is striking is that all forms of bazaari Tantra works its way through the ethos of complex networks of corporate capitalism and has accommodated to the profitseeking values of the capital oriented market system. The traditional ubiquitous wonder worker relegated to the private spaces is now being recast in the language of modern media. or political group. New Delhi 3. Some are full time tantrikas who have negotiated their way in the market and have acquired an enviable status. advertising has emerged as a dominant medium of expression. In both cases the tantrikas maintains an identity that is not static but in a process of formation. He is an ideal representation of a ‘self – in process’. In this negotiation the form of Tantra that he practices is not fixed but is continuously produced and used in ways that can not be fully pre determined. Sulemani. The popular (laukika / vyavaharika) form of tantric culture represents a fluid space with many contradictions. Rahamani ilm”. written and vernacular that have a wider social base in Indian Society. I excel in Bengali. I guarantee to solve all your problems”. New Delhi 2. the tantrikas in the market place have had an enormous influence on the Indian psyche. They help people alleviate their sufferings by means of remedies (upayas) known to them. When all efforts fail. Although they do not form a clearly identifiable cultural. Baba Kamal Khan Bengali Tantrika. “This is my challenge. There are several persons who are half time tantrikas. social. “Grace transforms into destiny… why be upset? A meeting with me will dispel your sorrows. Baba Abrara Khan Bengali Tantrika . Baba Jamil Khan Tantrika. I transform hopelessness to hope (nirasha me asha). Black (magic).

In my exploration I encountered that the responses of people were somewhat contradictory. substantial number of 1 Some representative examples of popular Tantra literature in Hindi are given in the bibliography. Baba M Sadiq 5. Shrimaliji. The redefined image of the “glocal” tantrika is a convenient site for negotiation between the traditional esoteric vidyas of the past and the unlimited consumerist aspirations of the urban middle class. “Tantra. . as it tends to loop and web with a variety of sects. The face of Tantra in the Indian bazaars is very different from the Tantric tradition mirrored in the sophisticated Sanskrit texts. “Know the cause (of your afflictions) through jyotisha… its resolution through Tantra”. “Contact me immediately to learn about tantra-vidya… when I have the solution… why wait…. 1500/-“ Rajeev Khattar. Although many people associated Tantra with the black magic and immoral behavior. one that is feared for the dangerous powers that it may unleash. popular journals and magazines reflect this shift. The change in image is no doubt the result of the socioeconomic transition and the growing consumerism encouraged by the liberal economy. Guaranteed success”. editor Jyotisha Tantra The modern day advertisements in popular media in the newspapers. yantra mantra give success in all matters… invest astrologically in shares and see your money growing. Chennai 6. The buzz-word Tantra is associated with magical rites (jadu-tona). occult practices of the most depraved kind and sinister religious activities verging on extreme.6 Madhu Khanna 4. found in hundreds. are sold in local bookstores. Fees Rs. Bazaari Tantra has created its own class of literature in the Vernacular 1 languages of India. Popular forms of Tantra are not a separate and distinct category or a sect. and sub-group of Hinduism. Tantra is looked upon as a dark underworld of Hinduism. or a religious tradition. temple markets and on pavements. In North India Hindi books.

Sulemani. spells. Rehmani. especially of the Saiva. The bazaari Tantra had access to a domain of nature’s powers that the high caste Brahmin priests lacked. incantations and charms for the attainment of magicopropitiatory and magico-defensive powers. ayurveda. It uses both malefic and benefic applications of rituals. or application of ritual and yogic prescriptions laid out in Tantric Scriptures transmitted orally through inter-generational lineage-based traditions. but mainly for the attainment of worldly rather that spiritual goals. Bengali Tantra. a linear power diagram of great potency that is believed to tap hidden psychic sources in order to achieve mastery over the causal forces of nature. The Tantras have devised their own mantrasastra. Its exclusive concern is prayoga. Siddhis and Potent Tools Two potent instruments of tantric siddhis used by the tantrikas are the yantra and the mantra (jantar and mantar in Hindi).7 Madhu Khanna people agreed that the Tantrikas in the bazaars were very powerful individuals who had variety of “ mantra-yantra” and “tantra saktis” to alleviate human suffering. Sakta and sectarian sects. The occult yantra is distinguished from all kinds of power diagram by its practical application and utilitarian ends. Bazaari Tantra is entirely siddhi-oriented. It is built on a bedrock of sum total of traditional knowledge systems such as folk-lore. The primary purpose is to gain control over the forces of nature for positive or negative ends. etc. and sectarian religious sects with tantric orientation co-exist together. alchemy. who can find a magical answer to life crisis situations and claim to fulfill an individual’s most cherished wishes. In the post-medieval Tantric literature. disciplines such as astrology. especially . The other tool is the yantra. At the local level Hindu and Muslim Tantra. It is concerned with the acquisition of powers that can be applied for alleviation of day-to-day problems of life. innumerable ritual manuals and digests were compiled on the usages and ritual formula of tantric mantras and their inherent spiritual powers. gemology. These scriptures have developed potent mantric formulas of the Tantric deities. Kala-ilm. liturgies. mantra-lore. Bazaari Tantra may be distinguished from all other forms of Tantra. exclusive scriptures dealing with the efficacy of mantras. regional culture. Sufi and Shifali. The tantrika are looked upon as dream merchants. popular culture. Black magic (kala-jadu).

and so on. is solely devoted to eighty occult yantras. Third: Stambhana lends the power of preventing or restraining another’s action. women. to ensure conception or the birth of a son. Each shape is a means to communicate with supernatural forces that work between heaven and earth. The Kamaratna Tantra is another occult text which lists a large number of occult yantras and the rituals to accompany them. The rites have been given a doctrinal basis. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity (London: Thames and Hudson. to restore alienated affection. and lovers. Sixth. gods and animals. to secure harmony and influence in the community. which grants all desires. elements and colors2. to gain wealth or learning. and are ascribed symbolic association with deities. 153-160. The occult figures are not stereotypes but within the tradition vary endlessly. and remain a living tradition. 1979). Marana grants the power to liquidiate. cure diseases and dispel fears. They are used for preventive medicine. In my exploration I met two tantrikas who dabble with these rituals. relatives. Fifth: Uccatan transmits the power to uproot. Fourth: Vidvesana grants the power of separating friends. 2 See Madhu Khanna. and it is claimed that there is no wish that a yantra cannot satisfy. conscious or unconscious. and have one’s desire fulfilled through them.8 Madhu Khanna those not easily attainable by secular or religious effort. for exorcism. 1 In contrast to the uniformly beneficent siddhis. the tantrikas have been associated with six magical rites ( sat karmas) in which the first one. II Some Profiles of Bazaari Tantrikas 1 The Yantracintamani (Thought Jewel of Yantras). Second: Vasikarana grants the power to attract and being under one’s control men. compass directions. occult yantras have played an important role in Indian rural life. as good luck charms. Shanti rituals and yantras grant protection from the ill effects of planets and curses. The forms and functions of the signs and diagrams are as many and individual as the human needs and purposes that they are intended to fulfill. . to enhance bodily charms. mantras. to ward off calamities. As practical magic.

The prayogas are performed on a Hanumat Yantra with tantric bija mantras. A large number of spiritual powers (siddhis) and are attributed to the Yaksinis and Yogini-sadhanas. following strict rules of the ritual digests. Bhairava is invoked in his Vatuka Bhairava aspect in his sattvic or tamsic form. Among the goddesses.9 Madhu Khanna The Enabling Deities In a generic sense all Hindu Tantric deities. Table 1: List of problems for which Tantric remedies are sought . some Tantric gods and goddesses play a greater role. theoretically can be invoked in prayoga rituals. or derive their power from Siva. the most influential and widespread are the Ten Mahavidya Goddesses who may be invoked collectively or individually for mundane ends. Apart from these deities who are linked to. The most popular gods in the popular stream that claim superiority. the who is looked upon as an incarnation of Siva. there are lesser divinities of lower status in the hierarchy of the Hindu pantheon. and are invoked as sacred functionaries is Siva-Hanuman.

10 Madhu Khanna S. Family & Marriage Obstacles to Marriage Birth of Child Career & Business Promotion in Career Success Politics in Health & Healing Healing of all kinds Secret Diseases of women (Gupt Roga) Evil Influences Subjugation of Enemies Bhuta-Preta Mukti Exorcism from Evil spirits Others 1. Magic (Jadoo Tona) Problems arising from ill placement of planetary conjunctions Property Disputes 2 3 Birth of Male Child Foreign Travel Secret Diseases of men (Gupt Roga) Protection from Enemies 4 Forlorn Love Freedom from Evil Dispelling the result of Evil Prayogas Nazar Eye’ ‘Evil Court Disputes 5 Obstacles in love 6 Divorce Informants and Sources: Baba Jamil Khan Tantrika. Srivaidika Pratisthan. Mahendra Mishra.Vijaya Kumar Chennai. Baba M Sadiq. Baba Abrara Khan Bengali Tantrika. Rajeev Khattar. Tantrika Pandit. Kanti Charan Sharma of Aligarh. New Delhi. editor Jyotisha Tantra. New Delhi. Baba Kamla Khan Bengali Tantrika. Chennai. New Delhi. S. is a traditional Purohit who learnt his vidya from his father. Great Baba Samani Bengali. Shrimaliji. He is the official tantric astrologer of high-ranking politicians in Uttar Pradesh and civil .No.

Yaksinis are regarded as a class of supernatural beings but subordinate to the ‘high’ gods of the Hindu pantheon. once pleased by the devotee. 86-116 . Svarnarekha Yaksani. I cannot reach Kuber. They are said to be of innumerable numbers. deity from the Jaina pantheon] fulfills all wishes. 1988). Yaksinis are swift. they will survive the holocaust…. These deities occur in Hindu. The Yaksanis assumed a renewed significance in tantricprayoga in that their enabling rituals are described in late Damara Tantra and other texts1. Anuragini Yaksani bestows wealth. The cult of the Yaksa-Yaksini male and female nature spirits is traceable to the pre-Aryan autochthonous tradition. is the 1 Cf. Yakshini Prayoga (No 12327 ka). Khandelavala Bhutadamara Tantra. 8370). they existed in primal time and even created the gods.N. Calcutta: Yakshini Kalpa (No. when gratified bestows knowledge of past.. He claims to have Yaksini-Siddhi. . 2000). present and future. Padmavati Yaksani [originally. Chowkhambha Surabharati Granthamala 278 (Varanasi: Choukambha Prakashana. they are eternal. Vata Yaksini bestows divine gifts. Rati-Priya Yaksani. Jai Prakash Shastri. is the wife of Yaksa. Damara Tantra. My siddhi is limited but effective. bestows divine sight. Buddhist and Jaina literature from very early times. Chandrika Yaksini bestows immortality.11 Madhu Khanna servants. 64-71. Kanakavati Yaksani bestows divine eyesight (divya-anjana) whereby the devotes can identify buried wealth. Yakshini Paddhati (No. active and easy to please…. He is quick to point out that the Chief Minister to the Police Inspector come to him. bestows wealth. Yaksanis report to Kuber and Kuber to Lord Krishna. Bhandara Purana Yaksani bestows abundant food. These sources attest to the popularity of her worship. Tantra Granthamala No. They assume various manifestations and he recalled the names of fifty Yaksinis: Chinchi Pishacani Yaksini. ed. S. 13 (Varanasi: Prachya Prakashana. Legend holds that they are empowered with powers that can be exploited for different mundane ends. Some unedited manuscripts in Sanskrit are also found in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal. He explained: The Yaksini. they fulfill all wishes and bestow fortune and desired prosperity. Ram Kumar Rai. 6028).

This was repeated for three month. traditional herbs that embody tantric divinities and tantric yantras. and make him drink the consecrated water. He is an established tantrika and runs the Society of Paravijnana Samsthan. and claims that he has found a cure for alcoholism. Mantra and yantras are spiritual tools of salvation. who practices “Vanaspati (=Herbal) Tantra” He has a shop in the village Fatehpura Beri. The relative informed that Kaushalya. Whenever my husband was in full consciousness. in U. Today. But it is not so. I would wash the yantra in water. Padrona. “I perform seva to humanity. His practice involves using mantras. “Chishti sab gave a metal yantra inscribed with 41x41 numbers. He hates the name of alcohol. at Dabauli Devi Temple. Figure 1: Two modern ads by practicing tantrikas Anjana Chisti lives in a remote village. my informant was relating this. in the outskirts of Delhi where he heals people through Ayurvedic medicines. While. “My name is Kaushalya and I am going to kill you”. was under the evil influence of a .P. Who are you asked Chishti. They are employed to heal people”. a woman stormed into his room and began to dance and scream wildly. near Kaptanganj. and yantras. He can exorcise of demonic power (pretayoni-mukti). my husband works as a priest ( pujari). from where he is involved in the service of humanity.12 Madhu Khanna disciple of Hare Ram Sharma. Today Tantra and mantra is identified with people who are imposters. Lakshmi Devi a desperate housewife went to him for a cure for her alcoholic husband.

I 1 Cf. inspiring political leadership and power. Bhagatji of Kamakhyawale. For a man who had taken pride in debunking superstition. a well known pilgrimage centre of goddess worshippers in North-East India. I invoke Kalimata. This is my special siddhi. In the last election Lalu Prasad Yadav was a worried man despite the fact that his party was confident of a ‘vote bank’.13 Madhu Khanna demon (preta-atma). He then touched her throat with the consecrated knife. Chishti said that “the demon has left her body and the woman is free from evil spirits”.” Mohammad Rizvin Khan in Mumbai works with Mumbai Police. The tantrika picked a lemon with a knife. Chanting some mantras he blew his breath over the consecrated lemon. He claims to have mastered “Black Owl Tantra” ( Kale Ullu ka Tantra)1 and charges an exorbitant rate to perform rituals. lives in Kamakhya. I work in Airport Authority of India. . 6157). The guru was on trial for political corruption and criminal charges. Manuscript in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal. The former Congress party Prime Minister. PV Narsimha Rao. Ullu Kalpa (No. buoyed by his political ambition is said to maintain tantrikas who help advise him. Lalu Prasad Yadava. The Bhartiya Janta Party. and upper caste Brahmin astrologers. the presence of other party rebels and over ambitions grass-roots leader from the Yadav clan made him less confident. is said to have appointed a Tantric guru called Chandraswami as his personal advisor. the charismatic leader of Bihar. especially in the rite of subjugation of enemies (vasikarana). at the time of election he was playing host to tantrikas who were advising him to perform the pujas that will enable his flock to attain the magical figure of hundred numbers in the election. In a few moments. learned in tantra-vidya. Tantra and Politics The bazaari form of Tantra has penetrated highest level of Indian society. “For fifteen years I performed her worship today. He claims to have vasikaranasiddhi. the lady was silent. Calcutta viz. as well as I heal people. of the Vishva Hindu Parishad combine also had their share of Tantric advisers.

and Baba Sahib of Tagore Garden. who had mastered the prescriptions of Lal Kitab. In the ever growing market of neo-tantrikas. Lal Kitab a collection of five books completed around 1939-1950.” Saurabha Kwatra. with a sprinkling of a drug. There is no good or evil. My “Black Owl Siddhi” came naturally to me. One of the editions was promoted by Roop Chandra Sharma in the last century.14 Madhu Khanna asked him why and how did he get this power. “I am poor and am a son of a beggar. I have no guru. imposters are not hard to find. Imposter Tantrikas The growing materialistic desire for acquisition of wealth has given a fillip to a number of charlatans and fake tantrikas. would distribute ash (vibhuti). as well as that of sin. 500/. Narayana Dutt of Jodhpur charges Rs. The work prescribes remedial measures for averting negative effects of the planet. “In Kaliyuga there is victory of fortune. is a Lal Kitab specialist. If the time is extended the fee would be extended proportionately. Its authorship is disputed. god as well as demons should be worshipped. In Kaliyuga we should worship both.for a darsana and a fee of Rs. not the time when the prescribed ritual is performed”. Take the case of Maulana Ismail in Sitaram Bazaar of old Delhi. Narayan Singh of Ujjain lured people by telling them tales of a fictitious hidden treasure. Mahatma Vashikaran. a journalist. All other forms of Tantra are false. and stories of treasure hunts where . 101/. The effect of the upaya begins when we decide to do an upaya. The only thing that can change destiny is this book. Hence. who promises to bring parted lovers together. Kwatra describes it as a “wonder book of speak for a fleeting five minutes. I discovered my vidya observing the Aghoris. It is kriya-centered. It is primarily an astrological book of divination written in Urdu language. until one day he was exposed by the police to be drug trafficker. He is the disciple of Goswami Kundanlal of Lahore. I began to wander in the cremation ground. who would trick the patients by quoting exorbitant amount to perform puja and kriyas at non affordable prices. My sister died in an accident and I wanted to know about the cause of her death. It does not accept any mantra or yantra or faith.

toward everyone. The images. The goddess appeared to him in a dream and revealed the places where the treasure was hidden and could be retrieved by his tantric powers. one encounters several examples of the new found aesthetic. People only need to perform sadhana. stunted legs. He simply blesses. de-possesses and de-mythify the multi-layered and meaningful religious representations that play an important role in providing a cultural identity to a given community. de-mythification and desecration of the Hindu icon. . Scores of religious icons. One can clearly discern subtle shades of the deconstruction. murtis. According to a report in Sahara Times. “a fake imposter sells his spirituality for money. almost fifteen to twenty feet high. are being hand-crafted or manufactured today more so than ever before. made of concrete. Each person is a powerhouse of energy and therefore.15 Madhu Khanna treasure lay in metal pots buried deep in the ground.” He continued. These.1 On the other hand. one can cure one’s self. ff. 171. Very few people know about the mantra sura-e-jin. there is a qualitative degradation in the art and symbolic content. 1996. Despite the quantitative expansion in production. and many others. in their lust for easy money many lost there wealth. Tantra is to be employed for the good of humanity. “my method is not based on Hindu Tantra kriyas but comes from the ayats of the Quran. disproportionate figures and the otherworldly expression of comic-book heroes. The roadside installs large images of Hindu gods such as Hanumana and Shiva. A real tantrika does not take any money. On the highway from Delhi to Jaipur or to Rishikesh. have puffed up torsos. Noorani Baba who hates the word Tantric but calls himself a Siddha Purusha says. he is compassionate. I work with inscribed yantras in Persian and Urdu”. defy all norms of iconometry. II The Tantric icon and the loss of the sacred The most poignant articulation of globalization is perhaps reflected in the way in which capital market forces deconstructs. Stacks of icons produced en masse and sold in modern emporia evince the same 1 Cited in the monthly Hindi magazine Kadambani.

the linear geometric configurations composed of bindu. nor constitutes an act of true innovation. they are beyond visual recognition. In many instances (Madhubani painting from Mithila in North Bihar. The ritual implements such as chalices are used as ashtrays. to embellish private and public spaces. almost virtual images with "fake" iconography which is neither drawn from the canon. triangle. in several cases. juxtaposed. One of the greatest of all tantric yantras. The yantras are. have created an asymmetrical relationship between the user and the objects of adoration. sacred power diagrams and energy patterns representing the totality of creation. The blurring of boundaries between the sacred and the secular. for example) one discerns a disappearance of almost all iconic features and an introduction of impressionistic. Their forms are dictated by the market forces demanding exotic bric-a-brac for tourists. exaggerating one part of the body while reducing the other. The cakra is the throne of the hundred and ten goddesses who are invoked 1 Observations in this section are based on my earlier article. The icons and other religious symbols have fallen from their pedestals and are used as decorative items. lotus symbols. essentially. for calling servants rather than dispersing anti-divine forces from the atmosphere. combined and intersected in various combinations to form mandala-like patterns used frequently in Tantric and Agamic worship. The new aesthetic has forced the religious symbol to become more and more ubiquitous and to disappear into anonymity. The aniconic Tantric murtis or the yantras. square. . and the rituals that support them. A number of images of Ganesha found in print and sculpture use minimal iconic element. is the Sri-cakra cult of the Goddess Tripurasundari.1 Most of these modern icons of ancient gods and goddesses are responding to the market forces. “In the Flow of Modernity: Some Reflections on Tirtha and Murti in Hindu India” Evam: Forum of Indian Representations 2: 1 & 2 (2003): 99-114.16 Madhu Khanna disregard of conventional aesthetics. have fallen prey to the same fate. See Madhu Khanna. and ritual-bells. The Sri-cakra embodies the creative field of Siva and Sakti in all its phases of manifestations from the germinal state of creation to the gross realms. They have lost their original vigor and vitality and. the loss of the sense of the sacred.

Modern ads are not simply centered on enhancing sale of products for daily use but the thrust is about making products out of sacred objects. yantra. Stripped of its symbolic content. By her mannerism and alluring words she ensures and promises her customers a life free of poverty. talisman. The ethical question whether heavily laden sacred symbols should at all be advertised goes unanswered. gems. cross media formation. such as the ceiling of a restaurant in a five-star hotel. TV channels today are heavily loaded with a plethora of ads selling sacred objects of worship – icons. The ad glorifies the privileged class who is blessed with affluence to buy sacred ‘products’ at exorbitant prices while they are available for a pittance in traditional temple markets. the manner in which it is advertised induces one to believe that success and efficiency of a religious symbol does not lie in the ability and spiritual attainment of the practitioner but in the commoditized object of adoration. said to be based on actual stories on the extreme form of Aghora Tantrikas who perform gory rituals in the cremation ground. sickness and ill luck if this yantra was bought and merely kept in the house ! Apart from the fact that the image being advertised is faulty in its execution. The commodification of the Sri-cakra has introduced innumerable versions of the "distorted" icon.17 Madhu Khanna in meditation. Zee TV and Sahara Network are perhaps the best examples of the cross-nation. and fabric designs. appears on Sony and Zee TV channels dressed in a traditional attire selling the sacred icon of goddess. The program projects a . and spiritual ideologies and worldviews. Lately. Media corporations such as SONY. the vision-inducing aesthetic symbol has been widely used by contemporary designers to decorate public spaces. rudraksamala (sacred beads). mantras and chants in audiocassettes and DVD Rooms. on table tops. as MTV props. Bazaari Tantra uses the ‘language of the market’ to seduce innocent consumers. a distorted 3D version of the Sri-cakra is being sold through extravagant advertising. Another commercially successful program on tantrikas is a series “Kal Kapala Mahakala”. a highly successful Indian soap opera queen of Sas bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Tradition holds that there are nine hundred and sixty variations of this timeless symbol. Media intervention has reduced this unique symbol into a cheap commodity. the Sri Yantra / Cakra as though it was a piece of chocolate. A classic example of consumerist re-branding is the way in which Smriti Irani.

Here one finds a curatorial refashioning of the highly complex and symbolic spiritual worldview. shops. reduced to a pastiche of images of liquor. 1979). III Does the linguistic formation of the term “Tantra” that changed dramatically over the course of history provide contexts for accommodating the bazaari forms of Tantra? Academic appraisals on the term Tantra / Tantrism vary. 272-80. Brill. skull-cups and the dark and demonic rites. History and Philosophy” in Hindu Tantrism. Trade branding is yet another manifestation of the bazaari Tantra and capital corporatization. is cult branding – an invisible halo that surrounds a successful product”. Vol.18 Madhu Khanna haphazard. There is no fixed definition of the word Tantra 1. Mircea Eliade et al (New York: Macmillan. As a corrective. 14. art institutions should encourage viewing of religious symbols from an informed perspective and with an appreciation of its history. a T-shirt baron in India with sixty stores is a co-founder of a company called “Tantra”. a brand without a big business packing. ed. and restaurants have successfully used the brand label “Tantra” to promote their businesses. “Introduction. “Tantrism” in Encyclopedia of Religion. Andre Padoux. According to him he successfully managed a multi-crore business by recoursing to cult brand tactics.J. fragmented sessions of rituals in the cremation ground. In Delhi and Calcutta alone there are fashion houses. Tantra is perhaps one of the For discussion on definition of Tantra see: Teun Goudriaan. Dirk Jan Hoens and Teun Goudriaan (Leiden: E. Sanjukta Gupta. These are few but pertinent examples of the multiple forums of Tantra in the market place. Different definitions are given for the term Tantra which implies that the scope of the term is yet to be fully determined. The scenography of the image with the camera focused on skull-ups and liquor to rouse awe and wonder in the onlookers is a clear instance of how the secular imagination systematically deconstructs and robs archetypal symbols of their sacred meaning and potency. ed. and misrepresented version of the lost knowledge of tantric-kriyas in the cremation ground. “what made his company called “Tantra”. Rajiv Ramchandani. 1987). 1 .

partly on account of its intricate historical development.16) the word Tantra means doing or making something. Taitiriya Brahmana II 5. For instance. Sankara uses the term in his Brahma Sutra (11. 71. The term Tantra here applies to a class of literature and stands for a system of doctrines. ed. The first and the earliest etymological usage of the word Tantra is traceable to the Vedas in the sense of a ‘loom’ or ‘wrap’ ( Rig. In later times the word Tantra was used as a suffix to denote any system of knowledge.5.7. Atharva Veda X. cf. which charts the shortest route to liberation. In the Apasthamba Grhayasutras (1. The generic usage has no special religious or metaphysical import. there have been several attempts to describe the contours of the Tantric tradition in their respective contexts. 1968).2. Veda X. the term Agama (tradition) and Samhita (collection). . N. By eighth century the term Tantra had acquired a new resonance and distinct overtones. A more comprehensive technical definition is found in later literature where Tantra stands for a technical branch of spiritual knowledge ( tanyate vistaryate jnanam iti tantram). 1 Cited in Srigangadhara Dvivedi.42.2. or expanded. History of the Tantric Religion (New Delhi: Manohar Publications. 1982). The suffix Tantra has been applied to any body of knowledge.16.9. The meaning of the word has changed especially from the period of its formation to modern times.70). For instance. None of the meanings however tell us what Tantra represents in its entirety. In the Agamas. This definition is taken from the Kamikagamas of the Shaivasiddhanta (Tantrantara Patala)1.32) as ‘kapilasyatantra’ to denote the Tantra of Kapila2. This simplistic meaning does not explain the traditions that came to be recognized as the Tantras. Tantra in this generic sense is any scripture by which knowledge is spread. a treatise or a book with its principle expositions.19 Madhu Khanna most complex words. or a book. Agamarahasyam (Jodhpur: Rajasthan Oriental Institute.15. Bhattacharyya. or a literary composition. 5. a book. Panini V. 2 ff.1) and the Samkhyana Grhyasutra (1. but a definitive scripture.3. Lengthy substantive definitions of Tantra that highlight certain 2 N. Tantra here does not mean any scripture.

rather than it being used as an extension of cultivated definition.. and regional specificity. esoteric-astrology etc. A large part of market made Tantra accommodates itself to the earliest broad based definition of Tantra described as suffix to denote any system of knowledge. bhoga. The popular meaning of Tantra is in constant tension with the cultivated ‘high’ definitions. or a book. oral or written. over the pursuit of moksa. so much so that the wide popularity of its popular meaning has displaced the cultivated meaning expounded in the learned literary tradition. It is worthwhile to consider whether the practical prayogas of bazaari Tantra is a subset of the literary / written traditions? The immanence of Tantric literature is one of the most important elements of medieval India. mantra-lore. others disclaim the written word over the experiential dimension of ritual. Popular nuances use the word in a descriptive way as indicating a certain sphere of spirituality/religiosity. In one sense these tantrikas repeat expected patterns of ritual but with a difference.20 Madhu Khanna signs (laksanas)2 that define the tradition are not applicable to bazaari Tantra as they only heighten the difference between the textual and the oral heritage. enabling spiritual powers that can be applied for benefic or malefic purposes. such as the early Nitysodasikarnava. forms of divination. The popular usage of the team “Tantra” in modern times associates it with subversions such as black magic. It appears to me that bazaari Tantra is about different levels of inclusion and exclusion. boundaries and transactions. the Sastras define it in an evaluative way. The orally transmitted traditions does mirror. in the absolute sense. 3. ibid. A distinctly large part of Hindu Sakta Tantras. For the practitioners of bazaari Tantra who I met. . a more individualistic and hybrid style of spiritual engagement that has lost its salvific dimensions. about code making and code-breaking with the sophisticated sectarian traditions of Tantra. whereas. cited in Agamarahasyam. Some bazaari forms legitimize and validate their powers to Sastra. of Mahidhara Tantrasara 2 Varahi Tantra. Bazaari Tantra has transformed what may have been a mystical way of healing to a more profit seeking activity. Tantra simply means “a method (upaya) or a spiritual technique” for attaining diverse siddhis. and later compendiums Mantramahodadhi. a treatise.

It may be noted that the texts themselves get represented in a hundred different versions and get recycled through their interaction with an oral audience. Much of what bazaari tantrikas are doing has a pale reflection in some of the above sources continuing old age practices but deviating from the older norm. . and siddhi-oriented rituals. The existence of a greater number of Tantra sources is replete with practical formulations from the oral stream. practicing tantrikas. texts renew or reinterpret the rituals absorbing many subaltern oral elements. on the other end. has created its own class of literature in vernacular languages of India. including the negative six ‘magical’ rites ( satakarma). As the situations and contexts change. to serve as a reference for practitioners. yantras. recollections of former lineage-based traditions. occult compilations such as Yantracintamani and Kamaratna Tantra. Might we then look upon such a large chunk of the written sources as printed folklore! Bazaari Tantra. which were collected from diverse sources possibly. are compendiums of ‘floating knowledge’ about tantric practices. These sources clearly speak of the application of tantric prayogas through mantras.21 Madhu Khanna of Agamvagisha.

within the modern secular context that prevails. A fundamental paradigm shift is needed in the civilization ethos from greed. meanings and methods of his transmitted heritage and wisdom. the way we experience the “other” and the way we act. And like everyone else caught in the evil networks of the global world. pre-modern cultures witness an era of “entropic modernity” or a process of socio-cultural regression that is far removed from its civilizational roots. This can only take place if there is a parallel critique of the values of globalization. ego-centered aggrandizement. Invariably. We need a culturalisation of globalization rather than a globalization of ancient cultures! This culturalisation means that there has to be a radical change in the way we cognize our worldview. It brings out the relational aspect of texts and its oral contents. it is materialistic or commercial paradigm of profit seeking. selfishness. sharing. The intrinsic value of world religions and inter-faith unity has to play a greater role to put globalization on track. to non-violence. a monthly Hindi magazine. he too has had to juggle contexts. IV Concluding Remarks One of the fallouts of modernization is that it has brought the discourse of the sacred and the secular into contest. and violence to sisterhood. In this scenario the figure of a bazaari tantrika is one who is choked and bombarded by the external needs to find an identity for himself to survive daily battles of life. the way we think. The only tools he has to his command are those transmitted orally though prayoga through the lineage-based communities. The point made by . In most cases this contest ends in polemics.22 Madhu Khanna Figure 2: Tantra Jyotisa. and cooperation. brotherhood. Caught between clashing or rival world-views. Globalization reiterates that human selfishness is the primary basis of society that one may apply any means necessary to obtain monopoly and wealth and much of bazaari Tantra is being pushed to the edges to submit to the unethical ethos.

Bazaari Tantra. For all these reasons bazaari Tantra needs to be addressed by scholars at various levels for all these reasons . 1988 Kadambini Tantra Visesanka (a monthly Hindi magazine). Khandelavala.N. 2007. . ed. (b) the critical role that orality of scripture has played in molding Tantric practice. Jodhpur: Rajasthan Oriental Institute. BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary Sources: Agamahasyam. ed. S. ed. Damara Tantra. Sri Kapil Dev Narayana. New Delhi: Hindustan Times Media Ltd. Selling Spirituality: the Silent Takeover of Religion (London: Routledge. 1968. Varanasi: Choukambha Prakashana. October. as I perceive. ed. Brhatatantrasara of Srikrsnananda Agamvagisa. Tantra Granthamala No. Bhagvati Prasad Dhobal. Chowkhambha Surabharati Granthamala 278. is a very significant category of discourse for a number of reasons: (a) for a more conclusive understanding of the composite and inclusive nature of Tantric heritage and culture. 2000. Varanasi: Chowkhambha Surabhi Prakashan. Kadambini Tantra Visesanka (a monthly Hindi magazine). Ram Kumar Rai. 1 Jeremy Carrette and Richard King.23 Madhu Khanna Richard King in his book Selling Spirituality1 that we need to “recapture a space of the spiritual as a site for resistance” is crucial if we are to survive the holocaust of global capitalism. Srigangadhara Dvivedi. and (c) the changing role of the sacred in the globalized economy. Varanasi: Prachya Prakashana. Bhutadamara Tantra. New Delhi: Hindustan Times Media Ltd. Vol. I & II. Bhagvati Prasad Dhobal. 2005). November. 13. 179. ed. ed.. 1995. Chowkhambha Surabhi Granthamala 431. 1996.

V. in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal.24 Madhu Khanna Kadambini Tantra Visesanka (a monthly Hindi magazine). ed. 6028. Calcutta. in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal. Yakshini Kalpa. in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal. Calcutta. Tantra Jyotisa (a monthly Hindi magazine). 1928. May 2009. Baldeva Prasad. November. Manuscript no. Secondary Sources: . Varanasi: Sampurnananda Vishvavidyala. 1967. Calcutta. 6157. ed. in the collection of Asiatic Society of Bengal. Translated into Hindi with Mohini Hindi Commentary by Shukadeva Chaturvedi. Hemchandra Goswami. Manuscript no.lalkitab. ed. Calcutta. Yantracintamani of . Mantramahodadhi of Mahidhara (with his own ‘Nauka’ Sanskrit Commentary). Varanasi: Prachya Prakashan. ed. Jodhpur: Manik Kumar Manik Offset Press. Tantra Darsana (a monthly Hindi magazine). 12327. Yakshini Prayoga. Ullu Kalpa. V. 8370.P. Shukracarya. Available online at www. 1981 Nityasodasikarnava (with commentaries Rjuvimarsini by Sivananda and Artharatnavali by Vidyananda). Yogatantragranthamala 1. Kamal Radhakrishna Shrimali. ed. Yakshini Paddhati. 1968.H. New Delhi: Hindustan Times Media Ltd. Lal Kitab. ed. Offset Press. Dvivedi. Manuscript no. 1998. Bhagvati Prasad Dhobal. Shillong: Assam Government Press. Delhi: N. May 2009. Kamaratna Tantra. Manuscript no. Bombay: Lakshmi Vanketshvara Press.

Adam. N. Carrette. In Hindu Tantrism. Delhi: Dehati Pustak Bhandar. 1974. Bhuta-Preta. Devi-Devata. Diksit. Mircea Eliade et al. History and Philosophy”.4. Sanjukta Gupta. 1974. Peter Lang. Khanna. New Delhi: Yoda Press.I. Goudriaan. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. ed. Andre. (In Hindi). History of the Tantric Religion. Madhu. 1982. Isaac. 2006.” in Evam Forum of India Representations 2:1 & 2(2003). Tantra Sastra Series No. London : Routledge. Chap 3. “Tantrism”. 2005.E. Who Invented Hinduism Essays on Religion in History . New York: P. --------------------. Teun. In Encyclopedia of Religion. David N. 2007. N. “In the Flow of Modernity: Some Reflections on Tirtha and Murti Hindu India. Selling Spirituality the Silent Takeover of Religion. Vol. 2007). 1979. Rajesh.25 Madhu Khanna Bhattacharyya. London: Thames and Hudson. eds. Tantra Sastra Series No. Possamai. Aghara-Vidya evam Daksini Vidya Siddhi Prayog. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. New York: Macmillan. Religion and Popular Culture – A Hyper-Real Testament. Hanuman. 99-114. Jeremy and Richard King. Delhi: Dehati Pustak Bhandar. Dirk Jan Hoens and Teun Goudriaan (Leiden: E. Madhu. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity. 1979) Jain. Brill.3.J. Graham. 1987. “Introduction. William A.(In Hindi). Chaya Purusa evam Yakini Bharava Siddhi ke Prayoga. Kajri. Khanna. 1987. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lorezen. Padoux. In his book. 14. “Early Evidence for Tantric Religion”. . Gods in the Bazaar: the Economies of Indian Calendar Art (Durham: Duke University Press.

.26 Madhu Khanna * I am grateful to Saurabha Kwatra for introducing me to several Tantrikas.