The Roots of Tantra

Edited by Katherine Anne Harper & Robert L. Brown

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Tantric Studies
Paperback : 9780791453063, 280 pages, May 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453056, 280 pages, February 2002

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Katherine Anne Harper

Robert L. Brown

PART I: Overviews

1. What Do We Mean by Tantrism?
André Padoux

2. Early Evidence for Tantric Religion
David N. Lorenzen

PART II: The History and Development of Tantra

3. Historical and Iconographic Aspects of Sakta Tantrism
M. C. Joshi

4. Auspicious Fragments and Uncertain Wisdom: The Roots of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India
Douglas Renfrew Brooks

5. The Structural Interplay of Tantra, Vedanta, and Bhakti: Nondualist Commentary on the Goddess
Thomas B. Coburn

PART III: The Art History and Archaeology of Tantra

6. The Spinal Serpent
Thomas McEvilley

7. The Warring Saktis: A Paradigm for Gupta Conquests
Katherine Anne Harper

8. Early Evidence of the Pancaratra Agama
Dennis Hudson

PART IV: The Vedas and Tantra

9. Imagery of the Self from Veda to Tantra
Teun Goudriaan

10. Tongues of Flame: Homologies in the Tantric Homa
Richard K. Payne

PART V: The Texts and Tantra

11. Becoming Bhairava: Meditative Vision in Abhinavagupta's Paratrisika-laghuvrtti
Paul E. Muller-Ortega

12. Tantric Incantation in the Devi Purana: The Padamala Mantra Vidya
Lina Gupta

List of Contributors

An exploration of the sources of Tantra.


Among the many spiritual traditions born and developed in India, Tantra has been the most difficult to define. Almost everything about it—its major characteristics, its sources, its relationships to other religions, even its practices—are debated among scholars. In addition, Tantrism is not confined to any particular religion, but is a set of beliefs and practices that appears in a variety of religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. This book explores one of the most controversial aspects of Tantra, its sources or roots, specifically in regard to Hinduism. The essays focus on the history and development of Tantra, the art history and archaeology of Tantra, the Vedas and Tantra, and texts and Tantra. Using various disciplinary and methodological approaches, from history to art history and religious studies to textual studies, scholars provide both broad overviews of the beginnings of Tantra and detailed analyses of specific texts, authors, art works, and rituals.

Katherine Anne Harper is Associate Professor of Art History at Loyola Marymount University and the author of The Iconography of the Saptamatrikas: Seven Hindu Goddesses of Spiritual Transformation. Robert L. Brown is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Curator of Southeast Asian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the author of The Dvaravati Wheels of the Law and the Indianization of South East Asia, and editor of Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, also published by SUNY Press, and Art from Thailand.