HINDU RITUALS, CEREMONIES, SACRIFICES AND INITIATIONS

HINDU CEREMONIES AND SACRIFICES

20120502-Raja_Ravi_Varma Jatayu_vadha_1906.jpg
Hindus have loads of ceremonies. There are family ceremonies, caste ceremonies. and village ceremonies. They can be as simple lighting a flame before a deity or as complex as an initiation ceremony for a young Brahmin with music, chants, recitations and offerings that last for hours. Some of the most elaborate rituals involve sacrifices.

Hindu ceremonies often have strict ritual requirements and participation is restricted to members of certain castes or ones own caste. Sacred water, preferably from the Ganges, is often sprinkle or poured as a purifying agent.

A number of ceremonies are prescribed for newborn babies. Immediately on birth, before the cutting of the umbilical chord, a short birth ceremony is performed. Ten days later a name-giving ceremony is held. The ten days in between the child and mother are regarded as ritually impure. After the name-giving ceremony they no longer are.

Some rituals feature animal sacrifices. Chickens, pigeons, goats and water buffalo may be sacrificed. They are usually beheading or have their throat slashed. The blood is used to consecrate an image of the a god or goddess being worshiped, and a portion of the animal, usually the head, is presented to the god or goddess. Sometimes animals are sacrificed to Shiva but almost never to Vishnu.

Being selected for a sacrifice is regarded as an honor for an animal. Before the sacrifice the sacrificer consults the animal, which is required to “nod” for the sacrifice to take place. If the animal does not respond the right away it is sprinkled with water to make it nod. If that doesn’t work the sacrifice is delayed and other methods are used to get the animal to nod. After the sacrifice the soul of the animal is believed to go straight to heaven

Sacrifices are the one time when devout Hindus are allowed to consume meat. Since the animal was killed for an honorable reason it is not a sin to consume its meat. Animals rights activists don’t agree. They sometimes stage protest outside temples, condemning animal sacrifices during the Festival of Lights.

See Kali

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: Hinduism Today hinduismtoday.com ; Heart of Hinduism (Hare Krishna Movement) iskconeducationalservices.org ; India Divine indiadivine.org ; Religious Tolerance Hindu Page religioustolerance.org/hinduism ; Hinduism Index uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/hinduism ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ochs.org.uk ; Hindu Website hinduwebsite.com/hinduindex ; Hindu Gallery hindugallery.com ; Hindusim Today Image Gallery himalayanacademy.com ; Encyclopædia Britannica Online article britannica.com ; International Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Shyam Ranganathan, York University iep.utm.edu/hindu ; Vedic Hinduism SW Jamison and M Witzel, Harvard University people.fas.harvard.edu ; The Hindu Religion, Swami Vivekananda (1894), Wikisource ; Hinduism by Swami Nikhilananda, The Ramakrishna Mission .wikisource.org ; All About Hinduism by Swami Sivananda dlshq.org ; Advaita Vedanta Hinduism by Sangeetha Menon, International Encyclopedia of Philosophy (one of the non-Theistic school of Hindu philosophy) ; Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford University Press academic.oup.com/jhs

Hindu Initiations


Upanayana, the "sacred thread ceremony, a rite-of-passage ritual in which the sacred thread is received by young boys

Hindus are also into initiations. Induction into a Hindu sect, marriage and death are all seen as initiations and rites of passage.

The puberty initiation for a boy takes place between the ages of eight and 12. The boy is dressed like a holy man and put under the tutelage of a guru. The study period can last anywhere from a few months to a dozen years. When it is over the initiate takes a ritual bath and is expected to get married. Hindus are not circumcised. Muslim are.

The puberty initiation corresponds with the confirmation of Christians. Marking the matriculation of a child to adulthood, it has traditionally only been performed for boys in upper castes and now is mostly performed only for for boys in conservative Brahmin families.

In the initiation ceremony the boy recites a special verse from the Rig Veda and is given the sacred thread which is hung over left shoulder and under the right arm, and must be worn the rest of his life and not defiled or polluted in any way. In the old days only boys who went through this ritual were allowed to read the Vedas. It also marked the beginning of student stage in the boy’s life.

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: heart of Hinduism hinduism.iskcon.com/index ; India Divine indiadivine.org ; Hinduism Today hinduismtoday.com ; ; Religious Tolerance Hindu Page religioustolerance.org/hinduism ; Hinduism Index uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/hinduism ; Hindu Universe hindunet.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ochs.org.uk ; Hinduism Home Page uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/religionet/er/hinduism ; Hindu Website hinduwebsite.com/hinduindex ; Hindu Gallery hindugallery.com ; Hindusim Today Image Gallery himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/wih/image-library ; India Divine Pictures of Hinduism indiadivine.org/pictures

Diksha, a Hindu Initiation Ritual

The Romanian religious scholar Eliade Page wrote: “The Diksha must be performed by anyone who is preparing the soma sacrifice. The Rig-Veda seems to know nothing of the diksha, but it is documented in the Atharva-Veda. Here the brahmacarin- that is, the novice undergoing the initiatory puberty rite-is called the dikshita, 'he who practices the diksha.' Herman Lommel has rightly emphasized the importance of this passage (Atharva-Veda, XI, 5, 6); the novice is homologized with one in the course of being reborn to make himself worthy to perform the soma sacrifice. For this sacrifice implies a preliminary sanctification of the sacrificer-and to obtain it be undergoes a return to the womb. The texts are perfectly clear. [Source: M. Eliade, “Birth and Rebirth” (New York: Harper & Row, 1958), pp. 54-5, Eliade Page website ^*^]


Diksha

According to the Aitareya Brahmana (1,3; 'Him to whom they give the diksha, the priests make into an embryo again. They sprinkle him with water; the water is man's sperm. . . . They conduct him to the special shed; the special shed is the womb of the dikshita; thus they make him enter the womb that befits him. . . . They cover him with a garment; the garment is the caul. . . . Above that they put the black antelope skin; verily the placenta is above the caul. . . . He closes his hands; verily the embryo has its hands closed so long as it is within, the child is born with closed hands. . . . He casts off the black antelope skin to enter the final bath; therefore embryos come into the world with the placenta cast off. He keeps on his garment to enter it and therefore a child is born with a caul upon it.' ^*^

The parallel texts emphasize the embryological and obstetrical character of the rite with plentiful imagery. 'The dikshita is an embryo, his garment is the caul,' and so on, says the Taittiriya Samhita (1, 3, 2.). The same work (VI,2, 5, 5) also repeats the image of the dikshita-embryo, completed by that of the hut assimilated to the womb-an extremely ancient and widespread image; when the dikshita comes out of the hut, he is like the embryo emerging from the womb. The Maitraiyatni- Samhita (III, 6,Ii) says that initiate leaves this world and 'is born into the world of the Gods'; the cabin is the womb for the dikshita, the antelope skin the placenta. The reason for this return to the womb is emphasized more than once. 'In truth man is unborn. It is through sacrifice that he is born' (III, 6, 7). And it is stressed that man's true birth is spiritual: 'The dikshita is semen,' the Maitrarayanit-Samhita adds (III, 6, l) that is, in order to reach the spiritual state that will enable him to be reborn among the Gods, the dikshita must symbolically become what he has been from the beginning. He abolishes his biological existence, the years of his human life that have already passed, in order to return to a situation that is at once embryonic and primordial; be 'goes back' to the state of semen, that is, of pure virtuality. ^*^

Fire and Hindu Ceremonies and Rituals

20120502-Aarti_at_Haridwar_Uttarakhand.jpg
Aarti at Haridwar Uttarakhand
Many ceremonies incorporate fire. Hindus believe that fires are sacred. Deities are honored and prayers are often made with the lighting of incense or oil lamps. Special guests are often seated in the seat nearest a fire. The central ritual of a wedding ceremony revolves around a fire. In ancient times wealthy families kept sacred fires burning in their homes at all time. Throwing wadded paper or cigarette butts into fire is consider sacrilegious.

Fire is symbolic of the divine light of the gods and tapas , or heat, which is acquired through penance. In the Rig Veda, it is suggested that world was created from a primeval fire ignited by Agni, the Fire God, and is associated with ancient sacrifice rituals in which people communicated with the gods. In the Upanishads fire is symbolic of internal power.

Describing a ritual in Madras held to mark the opening of a new business, Rebecca Mead wrote in The New Yorker, “A white-robed Indian priest...began a series of Sanskrit invocations. For two hours, the priest chanted and lit incense and threw offerings of rice and coconut and ghee into a holy flame...The priest burned some camphor to symbolize the evaporation of the ego in the fire of knowledge...The devotees dipped their hands into the flame and then made a motion as if to wipe their fingers over their faces and heads, symbolizing the burning of their egos.”

The new moon ceremony, known as shraddha , is performed to appease ancestors. It begins with a learned Brahmin of unimpeachable character sitting on sacred grass in an open place while burnt offering to the gods are made in a sacred fire. The central act is when the Brahmin takes three rice balls (representing the father, grandfather and great grand father of the deceased) and places them on the sacred grass that itself has been sprinkled with water from the Ganges. The ceremony ends when the rice balls are eaten by the guests. ["World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

See the Goddess Agni, Hindu Weddings

Vedic Fire Ceremonies


yajna

According to tizianastupia.com: “Fire is sacred in many spiritual traditions, and has been used in religious rites for thousands of years. Along with water, earth, air and space, fire is one of the five essential elements all living beings consist of. In the Vedic scriptures, Agni, or Fire, is the messenger between the people and their Gods and the personification of the sacrificial fire. [Source: .tizianastupia.com *=*]

“The ritual of yajna, also known as yagya, havan, homa or Agnihotra, is one of the most ancient Vedic rituals. It consists of the kindling and consecration of a sacrificial fire, the invocation of one or more divinities, and the placing of offerings such as ghee, samagree (fragrant medicinal herbs) or grains into the flames. Sanskrit Mantras and prayers are recited during the ceremony, which is often performed during auspicious astrological moments. In modern Hinduism, fire ceremonies still play an integral part in daily worship, and are used as a symbolic form of communication with and honouring of the Divine. Everything offered into Agni, the sacred fire, is believed to reach the Gods. *=*

“Vedic Fire Ceremonies are performed for all types of occasions: to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, to express gratitude, for healing, purification of the environment and ourselves, or to pray for success with a particular venture. The main reason for me, however, is to connect and communicate with the Divine and to express gratitude for this life and everything I have been gifted with. Public Vedic Fire Ceremonies are usually performed on a Sunday morning, and on special occasions such as religious festivals, Equinoxes, Solstices, Full Moons and New Moons. *=*

Homa: the Sacred Hindu Fire Ceremony


a homa fire

According to karunamayi.org: “Homa is the most ancient and sacred ceremony in the Vedic tradition of Sanatana Dharma. It is a fire in which forms of the Divine are invoked through the power of mantra and profound spiritual intention. Special offerings are cast into the fire while Sanskrit mantras are chanted, and the combined energy of the fire, offerings, and mantras generates powerful spiritual vibrations that bless and purify everyone present, spreading peace and healing through the world. [Source: karunamayi.org ~~]

“The smoke that rises from a homa contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging a peaceful environment and gentle weather. Even the damaging effects of natural catastrophes can be reduced through the performance of homas. The energetic vibrations that are invoked during a traditional Vedic fire ceremony represent the most powerful presence of the Divine on Earth. The element of fire is associated with the upward motion of the divine kundalini energy and is considered to be the most powerfully purifying element. Every kind of negative karma can be purified by the sacred homa fire, due to divine grace. ~~

“Amma presides over the sacred fire ceremony, even performing the homa herself, sitting at the homa altar, and tending the fire with offerings including ghee, herbs, and flowers. Many sacred materials are offered into the fire that contain specific natural energies which are transformed by the flames and prayers.” ~~

Vedas on Fire Rituals

There are many mantras in the four Vedas related to Yajna (homa, fire rituals), which are regarded as necessary to perform holy and sacred Yajna properly and purely. The Vedas says: “He who desires a blissful life (heavenly atmosphere) must perform Yajna” and “One’s intellect is purified with the Yajna.” (Rigveda 3-32-12) [Source: Quora.com, June 16, 2015]

Yajna is as ancient as the Vedas. The Rigveda is the first Veda, in which the very first mantra says: “Agni Meede Purohitam Yajnasya Devamritvijam,Hotaaram Ratna Dhaatamam.” (Rigveda 1-1-1-1). Agni is the fire god. The words”Purohit”, “Ritvij” and “Hotaa” are all related to Yajna and chants means for the Yajna to be performed with the guidance of Purohit – Ritvij – Hotaa, hence itself.


"Sacrifices Yield Boon: Pudding"

The chant “Aram Krinvantu vedim Samagnimindhataam Purah” (Rigveda: 1-170-4) commands the Supreme Soul to “Decorate the Yajna-Vedi” — your places where Yajna is performed, and do lit the sacred fire in it and raise it. “Aa Vakshi Devaam Iha Vipra Yakshi Cha” (Rigveda 2-36-4) means “O learned man! Invite the Gods and perform Yajna.” “Juhota Pra Cha Tishthata” (Rigveda 1-15-9) means “it is a God’s order to perform Yajna and develop.” “Pra Yajnamanmaa Vrijanam Tiraate” (Rigveda 7-61-4) means “performing sacred Yajna solves all problems of life.”

In the four Vedas the term “Yajna” appears 1184 times: 580 times in the Rig-Veda, 243 times in the Yajur-Veda, 63 times in the Sama-Veda and 298 times in the Atharva-Veda. Swami Dayanand Yajna said “Beginning from Agnihotra (the fire-ritual) unto Ashvamedha (the daily-ritual), or the material transaction and physical science that are used for the welfare for the universe is called Yajna”. (Aryoddeshyaratnamala) “Yajyo Vai Shreshthatamam Karmah” (Shatpath Brahmana: 1.7.3.5) means the Yajna Karma is the best Karma.

Purpose of Hindu Fire Rituals

Dr Vivek Arya wrote in Quora.com: “The whole purpose of performing the Yagna is to practice in yourself. People generally relate “Svaha” the meaning of which is I have explained above. Its basically giving up your “EGO” to “Agni” and it goes off as the smoke drifts away. But today, I have seen people offer oblations starting from clothes, gold, food and grains and so many to the fire. How do we interpret these ? As again, the individual wants to give up his materialistic desires and attain realisation of the “SELF”

There are also “Yagna” done to fulfil ones desires, but the way I take it is giving up from “EGO” which is the fundamental means to grow up either in spiritual life, family life or in corporate life because “EGO” would develop in you and will cause difficulties discriminating between the good and the bad As “Vivek Arya” mentioned Yagna should be done in places where there is excessive plant and/or tree growth where the Co2 released can be absorbed by the plants and efforts can be taken to see what is been offered to the fire altar.

Just imagine only ghee (with a mango leaves as a spoon) being offered on a dried cow dung, assuming everything is organic (cooked rice,honey, dates) the emission should be less. I have seen only organic food being offered, but has there been any scientific evidence to evaluate the gases released. Not sure if this can be made, why cant we employ a filter at our home while performing the “Yagna” and later on we can evaluate the particulate components

Types of Hindu Fire Rituals


Brahmin performing a fire sacrifice

The following is a list of fire rituals (homa) and their purpose. The causes of trouble are often identified by astrology. The more powerful rituals take considerable time (two hours or more).
Ganapati Atharvasheersha Homa - For obstacle clearance, wealth, fulfilling wishes. To get everything.
Ganapati Shadhakshari Homa - Wish fulfillment, curing skin deceases
Ganapati Moola mantra Homa -Wish fulfillment, attracting people
Modaka Ganapati Homa - Prime wish fulfillment
Chandi Homa - bring health, prevent poverty, Fulfill wants - Here No poverty is not only monetary it covers poverty of knowledge, poverty of security, poverty of peace.....etc - This is one of the powerful ritual
Aavahanti Homa - to gain wealth, health, family life
Shirimbira aarayikane Homa - Walk away from monetary poverty and get money
Rakshogna Homa - escape from 3 types of troubles- from enemies, spirits etc. or re balance 3 elements of body namely Vata, Pitta Kapha. (as per Ayurveda) [Source: Quora.com, June 16, 2015]

Manyusookta Homa - All wish fulfillment, Concurring enemy
Munchamitva Sookta Homa - Cure tuberculosis kind of major deceases
Akshibhyam Sookta Homa - Curing Major deceases
Vaatavaata Homa - Curing deceases related to Vaata ( paralysis ) as per Ayurveda body functions on 3 elements Vata, Pitta Kapha.
Pratyangira Maala mantra Homa - Over come Abhichara problem in one's horoscope
Hanuman Maala Mantra homa - Kill the enemy, Kick out the enemy !
Datta maala mantra Homa - fulfill desires and money, Get out of trouble caused by negative energies.
Swarna akarshana Homa - attract money and gold - Swarna= Gold, Aakrshana= Attract.
Medha Dakshinamoorthi Homa - Become clever, attract knowledge, mental growth
Dharana Saraswati Homa - To be able to recall what is read and heard.
Vidyaranyakruta Shrisookta Homa - Let wealth, escape from poverty
Santaan GopalaKrishana Homa - To get fertility, Get child/ren
Pativedana sookta Homa - Get a Bridegroom
Vishawavasu Gandharva Homa - Get a bride
Dvishat Palayana sookta Homa - Make your enemy run away
Samid Ganapati Homa - Get success ..yes YOU CAN WIN!

Aaasham sookta Homa - Self protection and courage
Medha daarana Saraswati homa - To fill in some intelligence - NOW INTELLIGENCE INSIDE !
Aindra Tristhub Chintamani Mantra Homa - Gain money and wealth, precious metals
Malhari Saptashati Homa - Wish fulfillment, Get knowledge, self realization.
Agneyana Supatha Raye homa- Get back to right path, de criminalize.
Annatvarisruto Homa - Nullify planetary troubles
Karaveerabhadra Homa - Get blessings from Veerabhadra ( Warrior son of lord Shiva), Make your enemy run away.
Renuka Homa - Get blessings for Godess Devi, Abhichara trouble removal ( Abhichara is a astrological placement)
Achyuta ananta Homa - For getting rid of any decease.
Navagraha Homa - Get rid of Planetary troubles.
Shat Pranava mrutyunjaya Homa - Win over death trap and become long living.
Doorvankura ganapati Homa - For all purpose as wished before start of the Homa ritual


Samukik yagya


Dhanvantari Homa - For getting rid of deceases, Capture over the medicines ..means a medicines listen to the doctor. Dhanvantiari is the form of lord Vishnu who rules over the medication and prime god for Ayurveda practitioners.
Aghorastra Homa - Get rid of irritating troubles
Lakshami narayana Hrudaya Homa - Let the goddess of wealth (Lakshmi) bless you, get wealth.
Rudra Swahakara Homa - All wish fulfillment, Curing health problems.
Pavamana Sookta Homa - Get rid of all sins (including of last births), Get blessed by god.
Purusha sookta Homa - Get good children, get self realization, Get into universal bonding as per theory of attraction. (I did this this and really affected by life with immediate visible indication on same afternoon - Excuse Can't give more details in public forum)
Gayatri Homa - All wish fulfillment, Gayatri Mantra is one among the prominent mantras in Hindu culture

Laza homa - Become a good speaker. Want to pitch to customer ? then it is for you.
Sudarshana Homa - Get rid of black magic, negative energies etc.
Bhrahmanaagni sookta Homa - Secure the fetus in womb
Saura Homa - Good health
Shiva panchakshari Homa - For pleasing Lord Shiva
Banashankari Homa - For pleasing Goddess Devi
Vishnu Sahasranama Homa - Get result on your wish, Get rid of bad behaviors and crookedness.
Kaala Sarpa Yoga Homa - Kalasarpa Yoga is a planetary position at birth which is considered bad for one, This homa nullifies the effect. Kalasarpa Dosha types, effects and Remedies - Vedic Astrology
Lalita Sahasranama Homa - Please the Goddess Devi
Shri Rama nama taaraka Homa - Please lord Rama
Kuja Rahu Sandhi shanto Homa - A junction of ruling planets in ones life, this is trouble some and life threatening. This homa is performed to reduce the ill effect of meeting with some accident etc, 2-3 months before that transition juncture time. Kuja Dosha and its effects
Rahu Bruhaspati Sandi shanti Homa - A junction of ruling planets in ones life. This homa is performed to reduce the ill effect 2-3 months before that juncture time. Rahu-Jupiter dasha, Rahu-Guru period, antardasha of planets
Shanaiswara Shanti Homa - Reduce effect of troubles given by Planet lord Shani
In addition to these there are more Shanti Homas. They are performed to either reduce or nullify the ill effect of planetary positions at birth or at the current time for an individual. A good astrologer can identify and suggest the remedy.

Athiratram, the World's Oldest and Longest Religious Fire Ritual

In April, 2011, an ancient, elaborate Hindu fire ritual was was held in the village of Panjal in Kerala. Rama Lakshmi wrote in in the Washington Post: “For dozens of centuries, Hindu priests have performed an elaborate 12-day fire ritual, chanting hymns, making offerings to the sun god and praying for a world free of negative energy.” Today, “only two old men in the lush-green southern state of Kerala still know how to perform athiratram, perhaps the world's oldest and longest religious fire ritual. [Source: Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post Foreign Service, January 26, 2011 <+>]


Athiratram

“Every morning, Shankaranarayanan Akkithiripadu, a frail 77-year-old, smears sandalwood paste and ash on his forehead and arms, and ties his thin, gray hair into a tiny tuft above his left ear. He then begins teaching chants to young men, rushing to pass the tradition on. "This is the most supreme and the most difficult of all Vedic rituals," he said. "It cannot be learned from watching videos or hearing CDs." Athiratram and other rituals have been transmitted orally over centuries to a chosen few - from teacher to pupil, or father to son in the elite Brahmin community, the highest group among India's rigid, vertical social hierarchy. Today, only 10 Brahmin families in Kerala are eligible to conduct this ritual, Akkithiripadu said. <+>

“A large altar will be prepared in the shape of a bird, dedicated to the ageless god of fire, Namboodiri said. Animals will be sacrificed, but only symbolically. Milk, butter, fragrant leaves, medicinal twigs and rice will be poured into the fire. The stage will be set ablaze as an offering as the ritual ends. The elders say that each time athiratram is performed, an unseasonable rain occurs and an eagle glides over the site. <+>

“Priests say that athiratram is difficult to perform. The chief conductor must survive on milk, fruit and wheat during the 12 days. He cannot scratch himself, or shave or speak to anybody. He must keep his fists closed tightly for the entire period; they are pried open with hot water and clarified butter after the ritual. The fire must be lit by rubbing two pieces of wood from a special tree against each other. Sometimes it takes hours to stoke a flame. On the 11th day, priests believe that all the gods and goddesses come down from heaven to listen to the chanting of a special hymn. "If it goes wrong, the main priest at the ritual will die the following year," Akkithiripadu said. "It is the ultimate ritual for chanters like us." <+>

“The village last witnessed the ritual in 1975 when an American professor raised money around the world to revive it. Frits Staal, a professor of South and Southeast Asian studies at the University of California at Berkeley, filmed the event and wrote a book about it.” One person who 12 when she attended the 1975 ritual in Panjal with her grandfather said, "It rained immediately after. It was a revitalization of a long-forgotten tradition." “Before Staal's arrival, athiratram was conducted in private by a clutch of Brahmin families. "For the first time, it was opened to outsiders, not just foreigners but also Indians of all castes," said Sivakaran Namboodiri, a doctor” who was one of the chanters. <+>

Hinduism and Tantrism

20120502-382px-Nepalese_-_A_Tantric_Yogin_-_Walters_543032.jpg
Nepalese Tantric Yogin
Tantrism is a highly ritualistic religion that combines beliefs in magic and esoteric philosophy and emphasizes mystic symbols, sacred chants, and other esoteric devotional techniques. Based on ancient animist religions, it uses shaman to dispel demons and appease the gods, and incorporates a number of mudras (ritual postures), mantras (sacred speech), yantras (sacred art) and secret initiation rites. Tantrism is practiced by both Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists. Among Hindus it is closely associated with Kali.

Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “In the seventh century, Hinduism and Buddhism were influenced by Tantra, a new religious movement that employed esoteric knowledge to speed the believer toward spiritual liberation. The Hindu pantheon of gods expanded to include shaktis, female counterparts to male gods and personified as their consorts. Shakti is female energy, which activates the powers of the male gods and emanates from the goddess Devi. Many other goddesses represent aspects of Devi’s powers, for instance, Parvati, the beautiful, loving, and obedient consort of Shiva, and Durga, Chamunda, and Kali, whose actions and moods indicate anger, ferocity, and the horrific. This range of emotions symbolizes their multiple purposes and the variety of forms female energy and power can assume.” [Source: Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York <*>]

Hindu Tantrism is based in part on a text called the Tantras, written between the A.D. 7th and 11th centuries but believed to be based on ideas that are much older. Much of text is written as conversations between Shiva and his consort. Hindu Tantrism has millions of followers and they include Buddhists and even Muslims as well as Hindus.

Hindu Tantrism involves seeking orthodox dharma , siddhi (spiritual or supernatural power) and bukhti (pleasure in higher worlds). Followers view the body as a microcosm of the universe and worship shakti (female energy), which they believe is especially powerful when united with the male energy force, which itself is powerless without the presence of shakti. Some sects classify their members according to their spiritual capacity. Many Tantric practitioners serve as healers.

Hindu Tantric Rituals

20120502-Goddess_Bhadrakali_Worshipped tantric_Devi_series.jpg
tantric Devi
Hindu Tantrism aims to combine the forces of the cosmos and the energies of the individual and teaches that god can only be worshiped by other gods and thus worshipers become deified by participating in Tantric rituals. By repeating Tantric scripture cosmic energy is released and focused so the individual can reach an altered state of consciousness. In some cases followers of Tantrism are said to be able to fly or levitate their bodies. To generate the energy to this requires instruction from a guru.

Tantrism has many iconoclastic elements. Some Tantric sects deliberately reverse dietary and sexual taboos. Some groups encourage members to have sex with members of different castes and engage in sexual acts and drink alcohol in places such as cremation grounds where it is usually forbidden for Hindus to be. The idea behind these acts is to acquire power by transcending ordinary life on Earth and turning ordinary customs and views on their ear.

In Tantric ritual performed by the Left-Handed Sect a "hero" partakes in the "Five Ms" in successive stages: madya (wine), matsya (fish), mamsa (meat), mudra ( parched grain) and finally maithuna (sexual intercourse). The idea is for the "hero" to rise above body and the flesh while remaining a part of it.

Mudras can be body positions or hand positions. They are intended to invoke a response in the mind of people who observe them. They can also be used in dances to express feeling and stories. Some hand gestures include: 1) Anjali (divinity with a person expressed by the praying hands position); 2) Pushpaputa (an offering to a divinity expressed with two hands cupped together); and 3) Makula (a lotus blossom in bud expressed by a hand with the palm pointed upwards and the all the fingers together.

Sex, Violence and Tantric Rituals

20120502-Dvi-mukha000000.jpg
In the West, some people have turned to Tantrism as a way of prolonging sex.

In 2003, a childless couple in Uttra Pradesh that desperately wanted a son hired a Tantric practitioner who arranged for the abduction of a 6-year-old child that was mutilated and killed while Tantric mantras were chanted. The ritual ended with the childless woman washing herself in the blood of the dead child. Several such killing were reported, prompting the government to force many Tantric practitioners out of business.

The bloodiest ritual are often associated with Kali. The idea behind the child sacrifices is that Kali will reward you with a child if you give one to her.

Some associate Tantrism with witchcraft. Some groups in Varanasi reportedly eat human flesh taken from cremation grounds.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except Athiratram from The Hindu

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.