Monthly Archives: February 2018

Tantra- A Brief Introduction, Part III

Tantra means a discipline or a system. The meaning includes the sense of a logically worked out self-consistent discipline. The discipline is both in the field of philosophy or metaphysics and in the field of religion or practical life. In other words Tantra means a philosophical discipline as well as a religious and cultural one1.

Tantric method of Worship

Tantras are essentially sadhana shastras. Sadhana be it spiritual or otherwise is that which produces siddhi or result sought for. The term sadhana comes from the root ‘sadha’ that is to exert, to strive and sadhana is therefore striving, practice, discipline, worship in order to obtain fruits thereof. In religious context it means spiritual advancement with its results of happiness either in this world or in heaven and liberation or moksha, which is free from cyclic orders of karma and rebirth2.

Tantric sadhana consists of two parts ritual worship (puja) and meditation (yoga). Both are of equal importance to every tantric. Even the siddha or avadhuta recognized to be so highly spiritual that he can afford to disregard rules applicable to ordinary tantrics continues to perform his daily puja along with his yogic practices3.

Types of Sadhakas (adepts)

The Tantras have classified mankind according to their pravrittih or bhava that is natural aptitudes and dispositions. According to Tantras these tendencies, dispositions and reactions to specific situations, environment and circumstances are the products of our past deeds in previous births and rebirths. Tantra places special emphasis on bhava suddhi or citta suddhi. Purification of mind, body, intellect and emotion is essential and indispensable for spiritual progress and such purification is to be attained by the specific sadhana known in Tantra as Bhuta Suddhi. Thus Tantra has classified mankind under three broad heads according to the pravrittih of the individuals, namely

  1. Pashu or man with animal disposition
  2. Vira or man with heroic disposition and
  3. Divya or man with divine disposition4

Seven Acharas

Closely associated with the bhavas, the Tantras have enjoined seven acharas or stages. An aspirant must rise step by step through the different acharas of self-realization till he reaches the seventh or the highest stage of ‘Life Divine’. The seven acharas mentioned in the Kularnava Tantra are Vedachara, Vaishnavachara, Shaivachara, Dakshinachara, Vamachara, Siddhantachara and Kaulachara5.

In the first stage cleanliness of the body and mind is cultivated. The second stage is that of devotion (bhakti). The third stage is that of knowledge (jnana). Dakshina which is the fourth stage is that in which the gains acquired in the preceding three stages are consolidated. This is followed by Vama which is the stage of renunciation. The sixth stage namely Siddhanta is that in which the aspirant comes to the definite conclusion after deliberate consideration as to the relative merits of the paths of enjoyment and that of renunciation. By pursuing the pursuing the path of renunciation the aspirant reaches the final stage of Kaula. This is the stage in which Kula or Brahman becomes a reality to him.

The first three of these seven; namely Veda, Vaishnava and Shaiva belongs to the pashubhava, Dakshina and Vama belong to the virabhava and the last two belongs to divyabhava6.

S.K.Ramachandra Rao gives a different interpretation to the seven acharas. According to him –

  1. Vedachara prescribes non-violent Vedic rites, on contemplation of the divinities in one’s body and on the repetition of the seed syllable ‘Aim’- all these being performed only in day time.
  2. The Vaishnavachara is an extension of the first one, but relying to a greater extent on the sacred mythology contained in the puranas, advocating the observance of vratas (like fasting, vegetarian diet, celibacy, avocation that is free from violence, restraint in speech, etc.), worship of personal gods (ishta devata, mostly Vishnu) during day time and repetition of sacred formulae (japa) during nights.
  3. The Shaivachara is likewise an extension of the Vedachara, with a sectarian variation relying on the smrtis as well as on Puranas which glorify Shiva; it advocates the observance of vratas and worship of personal gods (mostly male).
  4. The Dakshinachara popular in the southern region of the country, accepts female forms of divinities (Bhagavati) but conducts worship in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedachara. It permits worship in the night in cemeteries, on the banks of rivers, but prohibits the use of liquor, meat, etc. and no sexual rites are allowed in any manner.
  5. In the Vamachara the female form of divinity is worshipped with the five makaras (wine, meat, fish, sexual union and parched grains) in the dead of the night and in communities of initiated male and female devotees.
  6. The Siddantachara adopts the Shaivite philosophy and while the usual tantric rite are performed, great importance is attached to Bhairava (terrible form of Shiva) the form which the devotees seek to assume.
  7. The Kaulachara while incorporating the details of Vamachara defies all rules and restrictions pertaining even to the sectarian rites. There is nothing that is barred for the devotee here: no place, no time and no conduct.

While votaries of the Vedic tradition hold the Vedachara as excellent and the Kaulachara as the least, the followers of Kaula sect hold the Kaulachara as the most excellent and the Vaishnavachara the least meritorious and is silent about Vedachara7.

Puja Sadhana

The importance of puja cannot be exaggerated. From the time of his initiation till the end of his life, every tantric is bound by the duty of performing his daily puja. Tantrics divide their ritual practices into three groups, nitya, naimittika and kamya. Nitya covers the group of rites regarded as being compulsory for a tantric to perform every day. Naimittika rites are observed on particular occasions and kamya rites are performed to fulfill a special wish or to avert a great misfortune8.

In nitya puja performances of ritual practices include both outward and inner worship (bahya and antara puja). This include reading shastras, practicing austerities (tapasya), ratiocination of the bija mantra (japa), recitation of the hymns (stotra patana), purification of both body and mind (bhutasuddhi and cittasuddhi), installation of vital energy to the deity (pranapratisthana)9, worship of yantra, mandala, performing of nyasa, mudra and pancha makaras.


The Tantra is obviously not attractive to the common man as it involves extraordinary effort and possession of attitudes which is different from and sometimes contrary to those which are normally held. Hence Tantrik practices are revealed only to the really serious. Thus initiation (diksha) is made an indispensable prerequisite for Tantrik practices. The importance of a teacher in the Tantra is very great and a text says that there can be no salvation without initiation and there can be no initiation without a teacher. The expression diksha is a compound of two ideas; di means ‘to give’ or ‘to endow’ divine qualities and ksha means ‘to destroy’ or ‘to remove’ the sins and obstructions thereby freeing the individual from phenomenal fetters. Diksha is a personal transmission of unseen but enormous power from the teacher to the pupil as effectively as possible and as confidentially as feasible10. Diksha or initiation has been considered to be the secret part of Tantra sadhana. The tantric mysteries are revealed only to the initiates. According to Sharada Tilaka initiation is that which gives spiritual knowledge (divya jnana) and brings the annihilation of baser propensities (papa). When a sadhaka takes initiation he comes to know the art of stopping further increase of samskaras. This art is known as Madhu Vidya. Diksha burns out all karmas, severs the bond of maya and brings the attainment of spiritual knowledge. Through initiation the Guru imparts the practical lesson to make use of mantra and yantra. Mantra is imparted during initiation and mantra which has not been received from a guru bears no fruit. Kularnava Tantra speaks of three kinds of diksha.

  • Sparsha Diksha- initiation by touch,
  • Drka Diksha- initiation by sight and
  • Manasa Diksha- initiation by thought11.


A mantra is any combination of letters believed to be of divine origin and used in order to evoke divine powers and to realize a communion of man with the divine source and essence of the universe12 .The expression ‘mantra’ is derived from two Sanskrit roots, man signifying ‘to reflect’ and rati signifying ‘to protect’. The significance is that the mantra is a sacred word or formula that is capable of protecting the person who thinks of it or utters it. The very process of thinking or uttering is said to generate a saving power: it protects the person from existing or possible errors, calamities and misadventures13. Mantras are grouped into three varieties;

  • Male- when they end with words such as ‘hum’, ‘phat’ and ‘vashat’.
  • Female- when they end with words such as ‘vaushat’ and ‘svaha’ and
  • Neutral- when they end with words with ‘namah’.

Male mantras are especially employed in magical rites, in the worship of ferocious divinities including goddesses and in sorcery. They are said to be vigorous and quick in effect but their spiritual value is minimal. The female mantras find use in enterprises with concrete benefits as objectives and the neutral mantras have spiritual progress as their goal.

Mantras are also classified on the basis of the number of syllables they contain. If there is a single syllable it is called pinda mantra, if there are two syllables it is called kartari. If the number of syllables ranges from three to nine it is called bija mantra and if the number of syllables exceeds nine but is not more than twenty it is called mantra. If the syllables are more than 20 the mantra becomes a mala mantra (string mantra) 14. The repetition of a mantra is known as japa and there are three varieties of japa.

  1. Vachika (uttered)- audible to others
  2. Upamsu (muttered)- audible to oneself only and
  3. Manasa (thought) – in entire silence, visualizing the deity of the mantras15.

Mantra sadhana is the main theme of Tantra. It is the life force of Tantrik cult. With the help of mantra a sadhaka attunes his individual existence with cosmic vibration and gets drenched in the divine effulgence. He becomes one with the divine being after losing his individuality. The realization of the non-dualistic existence is the main aim of mantra sadhana16.


Yantra is a geometrical diagram with abstract symbols inscribed on a flat surface like palm leaf, paper, etched on a metal sheet or stone slab and is an indispensible constituent of tantric sadhana17.

The Sanskrit word Yantra derives from the root Yam meaning to sustain, hold or support the energy inherent in a particular element, object or concept. The yantra is a sacred enclosure, a dwelling or receptacle of Ishtadevata (the chosen deity) and a substitute for an anthropomorphic image of the deity. A deity’s yantra bear no resemblance to the iconographic image and is its transform (para rupa), its abstract translation18.

All yantras are inscribed with mantras and the most important mantra associated with the yantra is generally inscribed in the center of the yantra, while other mantric letters are arranged in the spaces formed by the intersection of lines, either round the circle or on the lotus petals or on the outer square band of the yantra. These mantric letters are condensed with energy and are seen as vested with a spiritual power beyond human comprehension. Pronounced correctly, with the correct rhythm, intonation and mental attitude, a mantra becomes the soul of the yantra and a vitalizing force within the mind of the seeker19.

Pranapratisthana ceremony

In order to be accessible for worship, a yantra has to be infused with the vital force (prana) and this ritual is called pranapratisthana. The transfer of power to the yantra is achieved in several ways but one of the chief methods is through the breathing technique (pranayama). While the adept is in complete concentration, the devata is exhaled by pranic transmission through the right nostril as he chants an appropriate mantra. The breadth is exhaled over a red flower which he holds in his hand. The divine essence is thus communicated through the adept’s body on the flower. He then places the flower at the centre of the yantra which begins to be permeated with the spark of consciousness. Another method of infusing vital force into the yantra is by the means of symbolic finger gestures (Avahana mudra). The adept exhales his breadth on to the appropriate finger positions which he then slowly lets his closed hands descend on the yantra. Some ritual manuals also suggest a ceremony where the yantra is washed with several liquids which is symbolically suggestive of cleansing away impurities20.

After consecrating the yantra by means of pranapratisthana, the adept begins his meditation by fixing his attention (concentration) on the yantra’s periphery and finally proceeds towards the center called bindu21.

Visarjana ceremony

At the end of the puja the yantra is symbolically forsaken in a rite known as visarjana- the dissolution of the yantra. Using a finger gesture (generally yoni mudra) and pronouncing the appropriate mantra the adept dismisses the deity contained in the yantra. The deity is then brought back into the adept’s heart from where it was first installed into the yantra either by the adept’s inhaling his breadth or smelling the flower through which the deity was first installed during the pranapratisthana ceremony22.

Types of Yantra

There are three types of yantras

  • Raksha yantras- yantras for magical purposes generally called protective yantras
  • Pujana yantras or Devata yantras- yantras for actualizing divinites and
  • Dhyana yantras- yantras that facilitate meditation

Raksha yantras are of two types, beneficent ones (soumya or aghora) and the malevolent ones (krura or ghora). The former kind of yantras are employed to ward off evil, cure disease, bring about peace of mind, recover lost property, help growth of children, facilitate trade or agriculture, gain celebrity and so on. The latter kind of yantras are meant to kill the enemy or harm him in occult fashion, to confound his mind and drive him mad, to invoke misfortune on a household and so on23.

The devata yantras are also magical yantras but are deity specific and to be effective they entail the performance of certain appropriate worship rituals.  Only when they are properly attended upon do they acquire potency. In these yantras the deities are often represented by the seed syllable (bija akshara) appropriate to the deity inscribed at the central point (bindu). The mantra that is specific to the deity is supposed to be powerful and if properly communicated and assiduously recited transforms the phenomenal consciousness of the devotee into deity consciousness. The devata yantras are meant to achieve all mundane and spiritual aspiration, bring prosperity to the family and eliminate obstacles on the path of spiritual progress24.

The Dhyana yantras are devices for concentrating the mind, focusing attention and channelizing consciousness. Meditation on these yantras involves mantras and mudras. The dhyana yantra represents the field of consciousness and the mantra as the vocalized formula for repetition represents the expressive faculty of consciousness (vac) and mudra as physical posture and gesture represents the material vehicle in which the consciousness is embodied and through which it works. When a deity is also employed to preside over the yantra it is as a unifying agent25.


Mandala is defined as ‘that which gathers the essential details’. Mandala denotes an act of concentration of all the significant details of the worlds, or of a doctrine, of one’s own constitution or of his own mind. It is also the place where such concentration is facilitated. As an act of concentration it gathers up the inner energies and as a place of concentration it brings together the outer energies26.

In tantric traditions the term mandala often refers to a space with a special structure that is enclosed and delimited by a circumferential line and into which a deity or deities are invited by means of mantras. This space is often a circle, but may also appear as a square, triangle or another shape. The various shapes and structures of mandalas are based on the traditions of the different schools, ritual applications, the deities worshipped and the practitioner’s qualifications, and goals. Mandalas are prepared from various materials including coloured powders, precious stones, fruits and leaves and fragrant substances27.

Mandalas are used in ceremonial sequences like consecrating the place of worship, placement of the ritual jar or kalasha, placement of the lamp symbolizing god or goddess, preparing the ground for making food offerings or naivedya, in the initiatory rites (diksha vidhi) and as aids in meditations. The folk design known as rangoli which has now turned out to be a purely decorative art was originally meant as a protective device; to protect the house from evil influences, to protect the place where an auspicious function is to take place from possible harm, to sanctify the ground on which worship is conducted28.

The ritual pertaining to the mandala which activate the hidden forces both within the external diagram and in the devotee’s constitution involve the proper positioning of the tutelary deities (kula devatas) captains (nayika), aids (yogini) and guards (mudra devatas). Their locations are determined according to the tantric prescriptions and the purpose for which the mandala is used. The placement of the retinue divinities is sometimes accomplished by inscribing appropriate letters of the alphabet in different areas of the mandala. The Sanskrit alphabet is regarded as the vocal epitome of the entire universe and each letter is transformed into energy when introduced into the mandala29.

Whether it is called a Chakra, Mandala or Yantra, the instrument is a sphere of influence, a consecrated ground, an arena for the play of thoughts, feelings and forces both inside the devotee and outside him. It is an instrument that is employed to activate energies, stimulate thoughts, harmonize feelings and coordinate inner and outer forces. It is rightly described as a psycho cosmogram30.

Differences between a Yantra and a Mandala

  1. A Mandala is used in the case of any devata whereas a yantra is appropriate to a specific devata. Mandala represents the microcosm and accommodates a pantheon of deities who are positioned in it according to rank. A yantra on the other land is the domain of a single deity but may include that deity’s retinue.
  2. Mandalas are used in secret as well as public ceremonies whereas yantras have more restricted use
  3. Mandalas are usually objects for temporary ritual use. The deities are invoked into them and dismissed at the end of the ritual. Yantras on the other hand are made of permanent material in which a deity has been invoked and usually kept in the temple or shrine for continued worship. But it must be added that many yantras are made for temporary use like the mandala.
  4. In yantras mantras are inscribed at the time of manufacturing it while mandalas are first constructed and only later deities are invoked into them with mantras. However later texts enjoin that yantras be first prepared and then infused with life in a special ritual called pranapratisthana with the help of mantras
  5. A general characteristic of yantra’s is that they are small in size. In contrast mandala vary in size and can be large enough to allow for priest or initiands to enter them through doors and walk around in them; for example during an initiation ceremony (diksha vidhi)
  6. With the exception of yantras installed permanently for worship in temples and mathas, yantras are generally mobile whereas mandalas are not.
  7. While mandalas can employ different colour schemes, the use of colour is less common if not irrelevant in the case of most yantras.
  8. While pictorial representation of deities can appear in mandalas, such images are generally not found in yantras31.


Mudra is another characteristic item in Tantrik ritual. The word mudra has several meanings, four of which have a bearing on Tantrik practices.

  • It means a posture in yogic practices in which the whole body plays a part.
  • It also means the symbolic or mystic intertwining of the fingers and hands as part of religious worship.
  • Mudra is also the fourth of the five makaras and means various kinds of grains mixed with ghee or other ingredient or parched grains.
  • A fourth meaning of mudra is the woman with whom a Tantrik yogi associates himself.

According to Kularnava the word mudra is derived from ‘mud’ which means delight or pleasure. These mudras (ritual finger and hand poses) should be shown (in worship) as they give delight to the gods and make their minds melt (with compassion for the worshippers)32.

Mudras (hand poses) according to Pujaprakasha are to be made in worship at the time of japa, dhyana (contemplation) and when starting on kamya rites (performed for securing some desired objects) and that they tend to bring the deity worshipped near to the worshipper. The Nityacarapaddhati says that mudra is so called because it gives delight to the gods and also puts to flight asuras (evil beings)33.

Raghavabhatta states that the fingers from the thumb to the small finger are identified with the five elements namely akasha (sky or ether), wind, fire, water and earth and that their contact with each other tends to make the deity favourable and delighted and induces the deity to be present at the worship, and that various appropriate mudras are to be employed in worship at the time japa, in meditation and in all rites performed for securing some desired objects or benefits. It was supposed that mudras helped in enhancing concentration on the part of the worshipper34.

There is a great divergence among the tantras, puranas and yoga works on the number, names and definitions of mudras. The Sharadatilaka names nine mudras while the Vishnusamhita says that mudras are innumerable and names about 30. The Jnanarnave mentions at least 19 mudras and Jayakhyasamhita about 58 mudras35. The Kalikapurana states that there are 108 mudras, 55 for general worship and 53 on special occasions such as collecting materials, drama and acting36.

The tantric works provide that mudras should be practiced secretly under cover of a garment and not in the presence of many people and should not be announced to another as otherwise they become fruitless37.

It is likely that the mudras in the Hindu and Buddhist tantric works are based on the poses that were evolved in ancient Indian dance and drama and we find their earliest extant description in Bharata natyasastra and that also in later medieval works on dramaturgy such as the Abhinayadarpana38.


One of the important items in the tantric ritual and worship is Nyasa which means mentally invoking a god or gods, mantras and holy texts to come to occupy certain parts of the  body in order to render the body a pure and fit receptacle for worship and meditation. The word Nyasa literally means ‘placing or depositing in or on’ and it is done by touching the chest and other limbs with the tips of the fingers and the palm of the right hand accompanied by mantras. There are several kinds of nyasa such as hamsanyasa, pranavanyasa, matrkanyasa, karanyasa, mantranyasa, anganyasa, pithanyasa, etc.39 The tantric concept of nyasa became popular in other forms of Indian religious systems as well and we have Puranic references to this practices. The medieval digests on the Dharamasastras also show that nyasa was taken over from Tantrik works in the puranas and other texts for the rites of the orthodox peoples40.

The aim of nyasa is to stimulate the nerve centre and consequently equitable distribution of powers (shaktis) so that the spiritual adepts (sadhakas) by shaking off the discordant notes and distracting tendencies of the mind can keep the bodily centres steady41.

Pancha Makaras

For the worship of Shakti the panchamakara or panchatattva are declared to be essential. According to Mahanirvana without panchatattva in one form or another Sakti puja cannot be performed. The reason of this is that those who worship Sakti worship divinity as creatrix and in the form of the universe. If she appears as and in natural function, she must be worshipped there with otherwise as the Tantra cited says worship is fruitless. The mother of the universe must be worshipped with these five elements namely wine, meat, fish, gram and woman or their substitutes. By their use the universe (Jagad Brahmanda) itself is used as the article of worship. The Mahanirvana says that wine which gives joy and dispels the sorrow of men is fire, flesh which nourishes and increase the strength of mind and body is air, fish which increases generative power is water, cereals grown on earth and which are the basis of life are earth and sexual union which is the root of the world and the origin of all creation is ether42.

Generally it is thought that in vamachara, woman play an important role. But this is only partially true in the case of those sadhakas who worship with Shakti according to vamachara rites. But among the vamacharis there are even brahmacharis, sadhakas and followers of the Nathas who never indulge in this type of Shakti worship. The Kalamukhas and the Kalavisas worship the kumaris only up to the age of nine and the Brahma Kaulas refrain even from wine and meat. All these means that this kind of worship is restricted to one section of the vamacharis namely the vira class while the pashu and divya classes are prohibited from performing it. There are still further restrictions that a sadhaka should perform this worship with his own wife (svakiya Sakti) and only in the case when there is no wife he may take some other Sakti for the purpose of ritual worship only43.

According to Tantrics the performance of the panchatattva sadhana helps one attain siddhi. The panchatattva sadhana are of various types namely pratyaksha (real type), Anukalpa (substitution type) and Divya (esoteric type). In the anukalpa type gingers is substituted for meat and coconut water for wine and in the Divya type materials are substituted by symbols. Only in the Pratyaksha type real objects are used and even here there are injunction against unrestrained indulgence of flesh, wine and woman44.

A sadhaka is to practice these rites for gaining the highest object namely the unification with Shiva or God leading to emancipation. The expression panchamakaras derive its name from the initial letters of the ingredients, madya (wine), mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (cereals) and maithuna (coitus)45 .

Thought out worldly these rites appear much abhorrent, there is a great esoteric meaning behind these. All these wine, meat, fish and woman are objects of temptation and it is very difficult to overcome them. Worship of a young damsel as a goddess and taking of wine for the purpose of concentrating his mind on the object of devotion only is something very difficult and requires the training of mind. The sadhaka has to relinquish his own desire and self and convert the various pursuits of enjoyment into instruments of spiritual discipline. The esoteric meaning of the five makaras is like this-

  1. Madya- the nectrine stream that issues from the cavity of brain is called madya or wine
  2. Mamsa- by this term we mean the control of speech which is only possible in case of the yogis
  3. Matsya- by fish we mean the system of respiration, drawn in and sent out. So the worshipper of fish means one who has controlled his vital breaths, this is called pranayama
  4. Mudra- it means the residing place of the soul in the body and one who acquires the knowledge of this charming soul is the worshipper of mudra
  5. Maithuna- the most important of all these is the practice of maithuna. It is observed-‘cohabitation is at the root of creation, preservation and destruction; it is regarded as a great principle in scriptures and it achieves all ends and confers the most difficult knowledge of Brahman. The meaning of maithuna here is the recitation of various attributes of God or unification with God.

Thus we can say that this panchamakara worship is not at all corrupt in spirit as it is supposed to be. The aims are very high and these are various instruments of spiritual discipline46.

Chakra Puja

Worship with the panchatattva generally takes place when pupils of the same guru parampara gather together in a close and small circle, each accompanied by his female partner called shakti. The lord of the chakra (chakresvara or convener) presides with his shakti in the center. The convener conducts the nitya puja including a much simpler form of suvasini puja or duti puja (worship of a woman). Each member of the group performs the rite of purifying the tattvas by drinking a little alcoholic drink and eating the cooked meat and fish. In this ritual the worshipper must purify wine, fish and flesh before he dedicates them to the deity according to prescribed rituals accompanied with proper mantras. The rest of the puja follows the same pattern as in suvasini puja. After all the rites have been completed and the food has been eaten sexual acts takes place.

Chakra Puja are of different types like Deva Chakra, Raja Chakra, Veera Chakra, Bhairavi Chakra, etc. where female agents are worshipped as the great mother by the devotee unruffled by passions and temptation of meat of birds or beasts which is nothing but sacrificing of attachment and animality. Chakra Puja is a special mode of yoga sadhana undertaken only on special occasions in which only the highly spiritually advanced persons can take part. Persons who have complete self-control and mastery over senses may gather together in a chakra and worship the great goddess in the midst of the objects of great temptations such as wine, women, etc., a fiery ordeal for a worshipper which the Tantra forbid for men of animal proclivities47.

Shava sadhana or corpse ritual

A peculiar type of Tantric ritual is shava sadhana or corpse ritual. Only a Vira type sadhaka is entitled to perform this rite. On a selected new moon day a sadhaka acquires in a cemetery a fresh dead body which is disease free and one who has died of an accident. The corpse is washed and sanctified with mantras, mudras and nyasa. The sadhaka then sits on the corpse and pours alcoholic drinks into the corpse mouth and feeds it with cooked meat. According to Vira Cudamani, the rituals also involves offering of wine and food to the 64 Yoginis and culminates with copulation performed by the sadhaka and his female partner over the corpse. It is said that the sadhaka will experience terrifying sights and sounds during the course of the rite and if he is not frightened by all these, he will have mantrasiddi- that is command over every aspect of life48.

Yoga Sadhana

The second part of tantric sadhana is yoga. Yoga is generally classified into four categories, mantra yoga, hatha yoga, laya yoga and raja yoga. Each of these forms has eight subservient called eight limbs or astanga which are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratiharya, dharana, dhayana and samadhi. The first five are known as exterior methods (bahiranga), chiefly concerned with the body and the last three are inner method (antaranga) employed for the development of the mind49.

Mantra yoga is the simplest form of yoga. This yoga is helpful for an aspirant to gain control over his mind by uttering the mantras as imparted by his guru and by concentrating on images of gods, yantras, mandalas, emblems, etc.

Human mind is controlled by prana. When the breadth is kept under control the outward movement of the mind comes to an end. In this connection Hatha yoga prescribes a number of asanas, mudras and pranayama; by practicing which an aspirant can acquire control of his mind and body.

Laya yoga is a higher form of Hatha yoga. It is specially connected with the functioning of Kundalini and that is why the tantras lay great emphasis on this form of yoga. Laya yoga corresponds to the fifth, sixth and seventh stages of the astanga yoga, namely pratyahara, dharana and dhyana. By practicing Laya yoga, an aspirant rouses his Kundalini and finds his prana merged into vishwa prana.

Raja yoga is the fourth stage in yoga and corresponds to Samadhi as mentioned in astanga yoga. In this state the sadhaka loses his own entity in paramatma which he finds pervading the universe. It is the highest form of yoga through which nirvikalpa Samadhi is attained50.

Kundalini Yoga

The Sanskrit word Kundalini means ‘coiled-up’. The coiled Kundalini is the female energy existing in latent form in every human being.  It is the infinitesimal part of the cosmic energy (Shakti) which lies asleep in the individual muladhara. The object of the tantric practice of Kundalini yoga is to awaken her and bring her up to the point just above the top of the susumna called the sahasrara chakra where the cosmic energy resides. By merging her with the cosmic energy the individual is able to obtain spiritual release from the bondage of this world and everything worldly51.

The fundamental principle of the tantra shastra is that man is a microcosm (kshudra brahmanda) whatever exists in the outer universe exist in him. All the tattvas and the world are within him and so are the supreme Shiva and Shakti52. Hence the yogin’s spine is compared to Meru, the cosmic central mountain and is called brahmadanda (Brahma’s stick). Thus the centre of the yogin’s mystic body is the centre of the world. The Susumna is inside it hollow like a bamboo. In the susumna exists the entire manifest world in concentrated form. Ranged vertically along it are the six centres called wheels (chakras) each of which is conceived as a stylized lotus inhabited by a deity and containing the constituents of both physical and sonic creation53.

The six chakras that lie along the axis of the spine are consciousness potentials and are to be understood as situated not in the gross body but in the subtle or etheric body. These chakras are-

  1. Muladhara- situated at the base of the spine
  2. Svadhisthana- situated around the prostatic plexus (near the generative organ
  3. Manipura- situated around the navel
  4. Anahata- situated near the heart
  5. Visuddha- situated behind the throat and
  6. Ajna- situated between the eyebrows

Situated four fingers breadth above the top of the head is the Sahasrara the transcendent chakra. The Sahasrara chakra is said to be the region of Shiva, pure consciousness while the Muladhara chakra is the seat of Shakti whose form here is Kundalini. Through certain prescribed discipline the Kundalini Shakti rises through the psychic centres (six chakras mentioned above) until it reaches its full flowering that is fusion with the Absolute in Sahasrara as Kula Kundalini, generally bliss consciousness (Ananda) from the union of Shiva-Shakti54.

The awakening of the Kundalini power is a physic psycho spiritual process which has the following three aspects-

  1. Generate an intense desire to attain cosmic consciousness
  2. Chanting a mantra to generate vibrations of appropriate wavelength to awaken the Kundalini to which she is attuned and send her upward to penetrate the chakra one by one and
  3. Meditation upon a yantra to attain an inner visualization of the process to guide it through its successive stages55.

Occult powers through Tantric sadhana

A sadhaka acquires siddhis or miraculous powers through tantric sadhana; especially when the Kundalini is awakened. Some of these siddhis are living without food, duplicating one’s body, rising from the dead, gaining knowledge of the heavenly worlds, of planets, stars and the whole cosmos56. The Tantric text Prapancasara enumerates eight siddhis namely-

  1. Anima- that is power of making one’s body as minute as an atom
  2. Garima- power of increasing the weight of one’s body
  3. Mahima- power to magnify one’s body
  4. Laghima- power to levitate one’s body
  5. Ishitwa- sovereignty over all things
  6. Vishitwa- power of charming
  7. Prapti- power of getting anything
  8. Prakamya- non obstruction of desire

and states that one who is endowed with these eight siddhis is a liberated soul57. Another text Sadhanamala mentions eight siddhis like-

  1. Khadga- a sword sanctified by spells for success in the battle field
  2. Anjana- collyrium which when applied to the eyes enables one to see buried things.
  3. Padalepa- ointment applied to the feet enabling one to move anywhere unnoticed
  4. Antardhana- to be invisible
  5. Rasarasayana- transforming baser metal into gold and preparing the drug of immortality
  6. Khecara- to fly in the sky
  7. Bhucara- going swiftly anywhere
  8. Patalasiddhi- diving underneath the earth

The text also mentions that by means of certain mantras the wealth of Kubera can be appropriated and gods like Hari, Indra, Brahma and others and also apsaras or heavenly damsels can be utilized as servants. Even for defeating opponents in public discussions the mantras are efficacious58.

Lakshmidhara in his commentary on the Saundaryalahari throws light on the content of 64 Tantras which in general deal with way leading to the acquisition of certain supernormal powers or siddhis. For instance Mahamaya Tantra and Shambara Tantra describes the manner in which illusory world is created by the power of Maya Shakti which is designated as Mohini Vidya. The Yoginijala Shambara Tantra describes the way to make one tattva appear as the other tattva. For instance prithvitattva appear as jalatattva or vice versa. Siddhi Bhairava Tantra, Kankala Bhairava Tantra, Kala Bhairava Tantra, etc. describes the way to acquisition of worldly treasure (nidhi vidya). There is a group of eight Yamala Tantra which deal with Kaya siddhi that is making the physical body develop super human powers59. It is said that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had acquired occult powers through practice of tantric sadhana. He had perfected all the 64 tantric sadhanas belonging to Vishnukranta group within two years60.



  1. Kamalakar Mishra- Kashmir Shaivism– The Central Philosophy of Tantrism, Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1999, p.35
  2. Manoranjan Basu- Fundamental of the Philosophy of Tantras, Mira Basu Publishers, Calcutta, 1986, p.433
  3. Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- Hindu Tantrism, Publishers, E.J.Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1979, p.121
  4. Nando Lall Kundu- Constructive Philosophy of India, vol- II (Tantra), Calcutta, pp:9,10
  5. Ibid, pp:11,12
  6. Studies on the Tantras– Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta, 1989, pp:59,60
  7. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- The Tantra of Sri Chakra, Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore, 1983, pp:23-25
  8. Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- cit, pp:124,125
  9. Manoranjan Basu- cit, p.470
  10. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- Tantra Mantra Yantra, The Tantra Psychology, Sri Satguru Publication, New Delhi, 2008, pp:48,49
  11. Lalan Prasad Singh- Tantra- Its Mystic and Scientific Basis, Concept Publishing Company Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 2010, pp:117-119
  12. Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- cit, p.101
  13. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- Tantra Mantra Yantra, The Tantra Psychology, p.85
  14. Ibid, pp:89,90
  15. Ibid, pp:87,88
  16. Lalan Prasad Singh- cit, p.97
  17. Madhu Khanna- Yantra- The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity, Thames and Hudson, London, 1994, preface, p.10 and S.K.Ramachandra Rao- The Yantras, Sri Satguru Publication, New Delhi, 1988, p.29
  18. Madhu Khanna- cit, pp:11,12
  19. Ibid, p.34
  20. Ibid, pp:98-100
  21. Ibid, p.108
  22. Ibid, p.106
  23. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- The Yantras, pp:19,20
  24. Ibid, pp:23-36
  25. Ibid, pp:27,28
  26. S.K.Ramachandra Rao-The Tantra of Sri Chakra, p.iv
  27. Gudrun Buhnemann et al- Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions, D.K.Print World (P) Ltd, New Delhi, 2007, p.13
  28. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- The Yantras, p.15
  29. S.K.Ramachandra Rao- Tantra Mantra Yantra, The Tantra Psychology, p.11
  30. S.K.Ramachandra Rao-The Tantra of Sri Chakra, p.v
  31. Gudrun Buhnemann et al- cit, pp:17,18,28,29
  32. P.V.Kane –History of Dharmashastra, Vol V, part –II, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1962, p.1123
  33. P.V.Kane –History of Dharmashastra, Vol II, part –I, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1941, p.320
  34. P.V.Kane –History of Dharmashastra, Vol V, part –II, p.1124
  35. Ibid, p.1125
  36. Ibid, p.1128
  37. Ibid, pp:1125,1126
  38. Ibid, p.1129
  39. Ibid, p.1119
  40. N.N.Battacharyya- History of the Tantric Religion, Manohar, 2005, p.306
  41. Manoranjan Basu- cit, p.477
  42. Sir John Woodroffe- Sakti and Sakta, 3rd edition, Celephais Press, 2009, pp:565,566
  43. Pushpendra Kumar- Sakti Cult in Ancient India, Bharatiya Publishing House, Varanasi, 1974, pp:164,165
  44. Ibid, p.165
  45. Ibid
  46. Ibid, pp:166,167
  47. Sir John Woodroffe- cit, p.573; Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- Op.cit, p.155 and Bose & Haldar- Tantras- Their Philosophy and Occult Secrets, Firma KLM Private Ltd, Calcutta, 1981, pp: 144,145,149,150
  48. Vidya Dehijia- Yogini Cult and Temples- A Tantric Tradition, Published by National Museum, Janpath, New Delhi, 1986, p.59; Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- cit, pp:161,162; N.N.Battacharyya- Op.cit, p.137
  49. N.N.Battacharyya- Op.cit, p.308
  50. N.N.Battacharyya- Op.cit, pp:309-311; Bose & Haldar- Op.cit, pp:161-164
  51. Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- cit, p.171; Ajit Mookerjee- KundaliniThe Arousal of the inner Energy, Destiny Books, Vermount, 1986, p. 9
  52. Sir John Woodroffe- cit, pp: 636,637
  53. Sanjukta Gupta, Dirk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan- cit, p.171
  54. Ajit Mookerjee- cit, pp:11,12
  55. Victor M. Fic- The Tantras- Its Origin, Theories, Art and Diffusion from India to Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Japan and Indonesia, Abhinav Publications, 2003, pp: 35,36
  56. Ajit Mookerjee- cit, pp:77,78
  57. N.N.Battacharyya- Op.cit, p.148
  58. Ibid
  59. Deba Brata Sen Sharma- Studies in Tantra Yoga, Natraj Publishing House, Karnal, Haryana, 1985, pp:16,17
  60. Prabuddha Bharata, January 2016, Vol-121, No.1, p. 25