Introduction to Tantras and Their Philosophy

Item Code: IDE389
Author: Pushpendra Kumar
Publisher: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Janakpuri
Language: English
Edition: 1998
Pages: 300
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.7"
Weight 500 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket:


The present book Introduction to Tantras and their Philosophy is an exhaustive treatment of the Tantras, their religion, philosophy and sadhana etc. The Tantras are ritual, religious authorities after the Vedas and Dharmasastras including Puranas. It is considered that by Practising Tantric form of Sadhana, both worldly prosperity and final salvation are achieved, through the Tantras have been considered by some scholars as contrary to Vedic religion.

The book highlights the Vedic basis of tantricism and its different aspects as recognized by the Tantra tradition. Quotations from different sources have enriched the authenticity of the scholarly work. Definitely the book will be of immense interest for both the readers in general and the students of Tantras in particular.


About the Author:


Prof. Pushpendra Kumar, Professor, former Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Delhi University, Delhi.

First class first and Gold Medallist in M.A. (Sanskrit). Delhi University - 1958. Shastri-Panjab University. Ph.D. on Sakti Cult in the Puranas (Published) 1967. Common-Wealth Scholar and Post-doctoral fellow, London University - London 1970-72. Visited Many European Countries viz. France, Italy, West Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland and Greek for higher studies and lectures. Principal, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Delhi, 1972-74. Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland since 1971. Author of 15 books and more than 50 articles.




I have great pleasure to present this volume of Godlen Jubilee of India's Independence Series of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan to our esteemed readers. The Volume verily represents the goodwill and cooperation, the Sansthan has all along been receiving from the distinguished scholars all over the country.

The Sansthan was established in October, 1970 as an autonomous apex body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India with a view to promoting, preserving and propagating Sanskrit learning in all its aspects, with special reference to the in-depth shastraic learning. Apart from conducting the regular courses of studies at the constituent Vidyapeethas, it has been bringing out invaluable publications representing dissemination of knowledge contained in the various Shastras.

Thanks to the continued help, encouragement and support from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India that the. Sansthan has gown in leaps and bounds and has been able to render its services to promotion of Sanskrit learning at national and international levels. Sansthan has decided to bring out 50 scholarly monographs by eminent Sanskrit scholars of different fields as part of the academic programmes organized to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of India's Independence.

The present book Introduction to Tantras and their Philosophy deals with the various aspects of the Tantra and its practice as prevailed in different parts of the country. It highlights the Vedic base of the Tantra and its varied aspects like esotericism, Sadhana, Saktipuja etc. The book would be useful to those who are interested in the Tantra literature.

We are highly grateful to Prof. Pushpendra Kumar, Professor and former Head, Department of Sanskrit, University of Delhi, for contributing this valuable book under the Golden Jubilee of India's Independence Series.

The services rendered by my colleagues specially by Dr. Savita Pathak and Dr. Viroopaksha V. Jaddipal deserve special appreciation who have worked day and night for planning and organizing the various programmes connected with the Golden Jubilee Celebrations, particularly the publication of the Golden Jubilee Series. M/s Nag Publishers deserve our thanks for bringing out this monograph on time.


The Saurasamhita, copied in 1941 A.D., with two leaves in Gupta characters giving a number of Tantric formulae, the Kubjikamatatantra, and Paramesvaramatatantra, in traditional Gupta scripts, make an interesting study.They show that Tantrism came to the forefront in the Gupta age, and further that whatever may be the date of a copy, (cf. Saurasamhata) the original may be, at least in some cases, an older one. As the texts show, it is wrong to believe that Tantrism began solely centering the Mother Goddess. The first deities in the Tantras were the Sun (cf. the Saurasamhita, and the Saktis, like Vagisvari (cf. Paramesvarimata- tantra, where she is described as the highest Sakti) and Kubjika, a goddess of the potter class. It is therefore not without significance that the Gangdhtar inscription, referring to the Great Mother with her associates, the Dakini, and the magic rite, come from the same period, 423-4 A.D. As the Kubjikamata text refers to purvatantra, it may be assumed that Tantrism began in an age when the Scytho-Kusana impact was still in force, nasmuch as the Sun cult of the period shows Magian influence, while the Kubjikatantra actually refers to the Magas.

Some scholars have claimed a hoary antiquity for Tantrism on the following grounds:

a. the earliest trace of animal sacrifice which forms an important part of Tantric worship is found to have been prevalent as early as the pre-historic Indus culture days;

b. the Narayaniyatantra says that the Vedas have originated from the Tantras proving thereby that the Tantras were prevalent before the Vedas were composed.

c. many of the semi-magical elements found in the Tantras bear close resemblance to those found in the Atharvaveda.

d. many of the deities like Siva, Sakti, Visnu. Surya, Ganapati and others who find a prominent place in the Tantras are also mentioned in the earlier texts.

There cannot be any denying of the fact that many of the important elements that find a place in the Tantras can be traced in earlier documents. This was evidently due to the fact that the Tantras had been drawing their materials from the earlier source. Indian mind always finds unity in diversity and the Tantras brought this unity in the field of religion. Thus one of the Tantric texts now available to us states in very clear terms that the Tantras represent the essence of the Vedas and the Agamas, which, according to Apte's Dictionary, means the sastras in general or the sacred writings of the scriptures. An analysis of the Tantras shows that they contain the essentials of the Vedic worship with its animal sacrifice, diagrams etc., the absolute monism of the Upanisads; the yoga doctrine of Patanjali and the bhakti or the devotional elements of the Puranic texts.

A study of the Vedas reveals that the physical phenomena first attracted the attention of the people and later on they came to be deified, and this brought its bad effects as well. This appened in case of early Greek and Indian religions also. There is no great moral harm in worshipping a thunderstorm even though the lightning strikes the good and the evil quite recklessly. There is no need to pretend that the lightning is exercising a wise and righteous choice, but when once you worship an imaginary quasi-human being who throws the lightning you are in a dilemma. Either you have to admit that you are worshipping and flattering a being with no moral sense, because he happens to be dangerous, or else you. have too invent reasons for his wrath against the people. And they are pretty sure to be bad reasons. The God if personal, becomes capricious and cruel. Thus the worship becomes utilitarian as we find it in the Vedas. Different gods are invoked for different purposes, some time moral, and some time immoral in the sense of doing harm to others. The Takman verse of the Atharvaveda transfers Takman or high fever to others' body so that the . sufferer may be cured. One may naturally doubt how far this is in keeping with the true spirit of religion which, however, has no absolute standard, varying from people to people. Different methods were evolved to satisfy different gods and these methods included, among others, offering of oblations into fire lit up on a diagram drawn on the ground while the fuel consisted of branches of different kinds of trees. Naturally fire lit up with one staff meant for doing good to one, should differ from the other meant for injuring another person and eliciting from the god a diametrically opposite type of favour.

If thus the Vedas proper bequeathed for the posterity an ulterior or utilitarian worship, it left side by side a noble heritage of philosophical speculations that ultimately led to the rise of the Upanisads and other philosophical treatise. This twofold character of the Vedas simply reflects the mirtd and aspirations of the people in general. When we remember the fact that Hinduism was not started by any prophet, that it arose as cumulative religious impacts of the various ethnological groups living in India.! we can at once discern various different stages in it and its first indication is offered to us by the Vedas which in its gradual development began! showing such traces." As the Tantras also betray ethnological influence of diverse types we may note at this stage the racial elements in the population of India. We shall turn to this discussion later on, as we can undoubtedly trace the influence of the religious thoughts and practices of each of these. The Gita claims to give us the milk of the Upanisads (sarvopanisado gavo dogdha Gopalanandanah) presents before us three distinct forms of sadhana according to preference :

a. acquiring of sublime knowledge which would make one-self realise the real self within one's mortal coil;

b. offering to god by various Vedic methods of oblations and sacrifice; and,

c. worshipping the deity by offering of flower, leaf, water etc. with devotion.

The third form of sadhana which plays such an important role in modern Hindustan comes from non-Indian sources" and thus various features from the Proto-Australoid, Dravidian and Mongoloid sources found their way into the Hindu religion which had always been trying to make a synthesis of all. The Tantras also made a similar attempt in keeping with the agelong• Indian tradition with the difference that it was less orthodox in attitude. This should have been the case, for when the Tantras were composed various non-Aryan and extra-Indian factors had crept into the field of Hinduism and Buddhism and the later writers could not avoid them. Thus the grand process of synthesis which began in the age of the Bhagavadgita, as noted above, reached its culmination in the Tantras.

Two questions have often disturbed the mind of Indologists : first, why the Tantras are so much heterodox in character when an early work like Kularnava extols the orthodox texts; and, secondly, how far can we trace foreign influence in it?

A study of the Tantric texts reveals the fact that the majority of the Tantras centre round mother cult and they are heterodox in nature, while a few prescribe worship of Visnu and other deities are more orthodox in comparison. This is due to the fact that the cult of the Mother Goddess, which more and more made an alliance with Saivism, flourished mainly outside the orthodox brahmanical fold and hence the Sakta Tantras to the largest extent, and Saiva Tantras to some extent, show unorthodox influence. Again some Tantras like the Rudraydmala, showing mixture of Siva-Sakti worship, betray unorthodox characteristics.

At the time of India's independence only Arthar Avalon's (J. Woodroff) works were available on Tantras. My teacher, Prof. N.N. Chaudhuri initiated me to the Tantric studies. I did my doctoral works on the Tantras and Purdnas. Presently there are dozens of good books on Tantra. Then during 1970-72, I got Commonwealth scholarship for higher studies in U.K. Then, I studied extensively and exclusively the original works on the Tantras. It gave me an insight into the Tantric lore and wisdom. The result is in hands before the scholars for comments. I do not claim to be a Sadhaka, but I had been true to my conscience. Whatever is good is a boon bestowed by the goddess and whatever is bad in this book is nothing but human limitation.

I am very grateful to the authorities of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi who have included my book in the Golden Jubliee of India's Independence publication series. Then I am pleased to thank Dr. K.K. Mishra, Director of the Sansthan for contributing his foreword to my book. I am also thankful to the scholars, whose works I have consulted. I warmly .fhank all my family members who always encouraged me for academic pursuits. Lastly I am thankful to the men who have read proofs, published the books in record time and in a good get up. I seek the forgiveness of scholars for the mistakes which might have crept in even after the great precautions. In the end I prey to the goddess almighty for the welfare of all including myself.






Foreword iii
Introduction v
Ch-I Introduction to Tantras 1
Ch-II Principles of Tantra 36
Ch-III Definition of Tantra and the Numbers 54
Ch-IV Vedic Base of the Sakta Faith 77
Ch-V Philosophical Basis of Tantrik Saktism 99
Ch-VI The Saktipithas 116
Ch-VII The Tantric Mahavidyas 135
Ch-VIII The Tantras and the concept of Kali 162
Ch-IX Nature of Tantrasadhana 170
Ch-X Tantric worship with the Makaras 218
Ch-XI Esotericism in the Tantras 235
Ch-XII Indian Art and The Tantras 255
Conclusion 273
Bibliography 283


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