Yoginī Temples and Tantric Ritual: the View from the Devīpurāṇa
7:30 PM to 8:45 PM
- Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
- Alumni Lecture Theatre
About this event
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Flying, therianthropic goddesses known as yoginīs were central to both Śaiva and Buddhist tantric traditions in the latter centuries of the second millennium. With roots in earlier Indic mother-goddesses ( mātṛ ), yoginīs came to embody the numinous powers practitioners sought through tantric ritual, such as shapeshifting, unfettered movement, entry into others’ bodies, and martial victory. Despite their antinomian roots, veneration of yoginīs took on more public forms by the tenth century, when monumental temples dedicated to them (typically as a group of sixty-four) began to be constructed across the subcontinent.
This presentation by Shaman Hatley builds upon his earlier research, where he argued that the yoginī temples mark the entry of these goddesses into a wider religious domain, beyond the confines of the earlier esoteric tradition, bridging the ritual worlds of tantra and purāṇa . Suiting the aspirations of their elite patrons, these temples seem to represent an adaptation of tantric yoginī pantheons and rituals to a more public, calendrical liturgy. New insight into this process in afforded by the circa 8th–9th century Devīpurāṇa , whose 50th chapter teaches an elaborate system of worshipping the Goddess in sixty forms in a maṇḍala or temple, corresponding to the sixty years ( saṃvatsara ) of the calendrical cycle, for the kingdom’s prosperity and protection. This seems to be an early template for the veneration of yoginīs in temples, for these sixty goddesses soon became the basis for the most influential set of sixty-four yoginīs . Here and elsewhere the Devīpurāṇa proves crucial for understanding how Śaiva tantric rituals and sources shaped the public Śāktism emerging in the late first millennium.
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Shaman Hatley is an associate professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He completed an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree at Goddard College in 1998, and then studied Indology and Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His doctoral thesis on the Brahmayāmala and Śaiva yoginī cults was completed in 2007, under the direction of Harunaga Isaacson, after which he taught at Concordia University, Montréal (2007–2015). His research mainly concerns early Tantric Śaivism, goddess cults, and yoga. Recent publications include The Brahmayāmalatantra or Picumata, Volume I: Chapters 1–2, 39–40, & 83. Revelation, Ritual, and Material Culture in an Early Śaiva Tantra (Pondicherry, 2018). He is currently preparing volume III of the Brahmayāmala and a monograph on the figure of the yoginī in early-medieval India.