Power of Tantra, The: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies [NOOK Book]

Overview

In the West, the varied body of texts and traditions known as Tantra for more than two centuries has had the capacity to scandalise and shock. For European colonisers, Orientalist scholars and Christian missionaries of the Victorian era, Tantra was generally seen as the most degenerate and depraved example of the worst tendencies of the so-called 'Indian mind': a pathological mixture of sensuality and religion that prompted the decline of modern Hinduism. Yet for most contemporary New Age and popular writers, ...
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Power of Tantra, The: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies

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Overview

In the West, the varied body of texts and traditions known as Tantra for more than two centuries has had the capacity to scandalise and shock. For European colonisers, Orientalist scholars and Christian missionaries of the Victorian era, Tantra was generally seen as the most degenerate and depraved example of the worst tendencies of the so-called 'Indian mind': a pathological mixture of sensuality and religion that prompted the decline of modern Hinduism. Yet for most contemporary New Age and popular writers, Tantra is celebrated as a much-needed affirmation of physical pleasure and sex: indeed as a 'cult of ecstasy' to counter the perceived hypocritical prudery of many Westerners. In recent years, Tantra has become the focus of a still larger cultural and political debate. In the eyes of many Hindus, much of the western literature on Tantra represents a form of neo-colonialism, which continues to portray India as an exotic, erotic, hyper-sexualised Orient. Which, then, is the 'real' Tantra? Focusing on one of the oldest and most important Tantric traditions, based in Assam, northeast India, Hugh B. Urban shows that Tantra is less about optimal sexual pleasure than about harnessing the divine power of the goddess that flows alike through the cosmos, the human body and political society. In a fresh and vital contribution to the field, the author suggests that the 'real' meaning of Tantra lies in helping us rethink not just the history of Indian religions, but also our own modern obsessions with power, sex and the invidious legacies of cultural imperialism.'The Power of Tantra is a major scholarly treatment of a much misconstrued esoteric tradition and a well-written and illustrated guide to a dimension of Hinduism that deserves the careful research Hugh B. Urban has given it. An impressive achievement.' - Paul B Courtright, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Emory University
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Power of Tantra is a major scholarly treatment of a much misconstrued esoteric tradition and a well-written and illustrated guide to a dimension of Hinduism that deserves the careful research Hugh Urban has given it. An impressive achievement." -- Paul B. Courtright, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Emory University

"Once again, Hugh B Urban has given us a sophisticated, reflexive, mind-bending study of a specific set of Tantric traditions. In the process, we are taken down what he aptly calls "a path of desire and power" whose paradoxical energies center on the goddess, flow through the human body and its fluids, the social order, and the body politic (all at once), are unleashed through esoteric ritual practices, experienced as a source of supernatural powers, and put in the service of kingship, political rule, even ultra-moderns forms of a new embodied spirituality. Writing against and beyond all the old East-West dualisms, tired anti-intellectualisms, and easy idealizations, Urban has become one of our most able, artful, and careful guides." -- Jeffrey J Kripal, J Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780857731586
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris
  • Publication date: 10/30/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,346,331
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Hugh B Urban is Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. One of the leading western scholars of Tantric religion, Professor Urban is the author of several books which include Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (2006), Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion (2003) and Songs of Ecstasy: Tantric and Devotional Songs from Bengal (2001).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction Tantra and the Politics of South Asian Studies 1

Ch. 1 Matrix of Power: The Sakta Pithas and the Sacred Landscape of Tantra 31

Ch. 2 Blood for the Goddess: Animal Sacrifice and Divine Menstruation 51

Ch. 3 Goddess of Power: Tantra, Kingship, and Sacrifice in South Asian History 73

Ch. 4 The Sacrifice of Desire: Sexual Rites and the Secret Sacrifice 99

Ch. 5 What About the Woman? Gender Politics and the Interpretation of Women in Tantra 125

Ch. 6 The Power of God in a Dark Valley: Reform, Colonialism, and the Decline of Tantra in South Asia 147

Ch. 7 The Power of the Goddess in a Postcolonial Age: Transformations of Tantra in the twentieth and twenty-first Centuries 165

Conclusions - Tantra and the End of Imperialism: Beyond "Deep Orientalism" and "Third-Worldism" 187

Notes 197

Select Bibliography 235

Index 245

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