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Worship of Women
Written: May 29 1999
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
The basic concepts of the Indian religions were borrowed from the Upanishads, which emphasized on austerities and penance tapasya in life. Over a long period of time, such hard and rigid disciplined norms made people lose interest in life itself. In order to rejuvenate faith in worldly affairs, Tantra Cult or Tantricism was propounded in the third century A.D. The masses were encouraged to disregard extremely rigid fundamentalism and advised to follow five principles (Panchamakaras or symbol) to attain salvation moksha in this life. They were asked to eat fish (matsya), flesh (mansa), food staffs (mudra); drink liquors (madya), engage in coitus (maithuna) and be happy! It was emphasized that foods are for welfare of the body, wines are for stimulating the senses and coitus is for immense pleasure which surpasses any worldly gratifications. Thus, by satisfying all human desires one can attain moksha. As this new philosophy of life proposed the best of worlds that is, love and eroticism (yoga and bhoga), the masses who revolted against orthodoxy in religion, went in for good things in life.
A section of the society interpreted that Tantric Cult is a license to indulge in immoral activities. In the name of goddess they sacrificed fowls, goats, buffalos, and feasted on their flesh. On special occasion they even sacrificed human beings to attain supernatural powers. In the company of men the women also indulged in liquor-drinking bouts. The original concept of yogic union in coitus (philosophical rather than physical) was forgotten. Instead "bhoga" was termed as "yoga", and all evil became acceptable. It was emphasized that man and woman in coitus should forget everything including themselves! Thus "Shakti" became personified in flesh and blood. Honestly, they believed that this is the only way to attain
moksha! At time they also went in for performing the "black magic" (abhichara) for this purpose. Once in a while they went in for mass orgasm. An equal number of men and women met at a secret place and performed what is known as "Chakra puja". The male and the female companions were selected by lots and they indulged in sexual activities all through the night. The participants were prohibited from revealing what happened at the function. These kind of undesirable activities brought a bad name to the cult and became unacceptable to majority of god-fearing people.
The tantric cult could not inspire the Indian artists for creation of erotic art as they were extremely secretive in their rituals. However, once in a while, one comes across some rudiments of such art work. At Kolaramma Temple Kolar, in Karnataka there is an ancient icon of the goddess which has been dumped in the attics and nobody is allowed to have glimpses (darshan) of her! It depicts a youthful lady without any clothes. She is wearing elaborate ornaments on her hair-bun, head, earlobes, neck, shoulders, hands, waist and feet. She is shown holding a drinking bowl in her raised right hand.
In remote Barsur village of Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh, there are some scattered sculptures of a ruined temple which exhibits the influence of this cult of erotic art. In one of them, two commoners are embracing each other holding the drinking bowls in their hands. In another, a male offers a drink to his mate prior to coitus. Even Lord Shiva is holding a drinking bowl while sitting in meditation. Shiva-Shakti union has given rise to "Ardhanareeswara" ( a.k.a Uma-maheswara) concept which resulted in innumerable icons in stone and metal.
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
It is a fact of life that Tantric cult has left a permanent influence on the Indian art and population
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