Kerala Tantra is a regional phenomenon
which is an offshoot or synthesis 0f
Saiddhantika and Pancaratra tantric
ritual rites. It is a tradition deeply rooter
within the Vedic ritualistic fold and
characterized by Smarta-Pauranik
beliefs and customs.
This volume is a general, but a serious
and in-depth study of distinct temple
ritual cult of Kerala. Kerala Tantra still
remains to be a less explored subject
There is no exclusive study on the ritual
peculiarities of Kerala Tantra. This book
focuses on filling that gap covering
extensively the prominent characteristic
of the unique ritual cult of Kerala.
The data presented in the book are based
on many unpublished and less-known
but authentic manuscripts of lat.
medieval period, and interviews with
previous and current generations 0f
tantrins and their testimonies. It cover
the great traditions of Tantra, Keral,
Tantra, and transmission of tantric
knowledge through formal and informal
methods. It also talks about the.
institutionalization of Tantric education
taking a cue from the context of Vedic and
Sanskrit education of Kerala.
Ajithan P.I. is a scholar in Tantra
philosophy and rituals. He got his PhD
for the thesis "Ritualistic Tradition of
Tantra in Kerala" and degrees of MA and
MPhil (in Sanskrit) from Sree
Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit,
Kalady, Kerala. He has to his credit half a
dozen articles published in different
journals. Dr Ajithan has attended
numerous seminars and conferences,
presenting papers. He had a short stint as
Guest Lecturer, Department of Sanskrit,
University of Calicut and chaired a
session on Classical Literature in the 11th
Prof. NVP Unithiri Endowment All
Kerala Oriental Conference, 2016.
THE term tantra in its specific sense denotes traditions constituting
diverging "cults" and their "sub-cults" and texts affiliated to them.
Among well-known cults and sub-cults, Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta are
the prominent ones and found to have a pan-Indian appeal. It has been
a subject long neglected but the post-Independence era has witnessed
its phenomenal growth as an academic subject. The early studies of
Sir John Woodroffe, Agehananda Bharati, Prabodh Chandra Bagchi,
Gopinath Kaviraj, Vrajavallabha Dvivedi and Sanjukta Gupta were
mainly dealing with general aspects of Tantrism. But present studies
mostly revolve around specific aspects of tantric cults. To this category
of specialized studies we can add the excellent academic studies of
N.R. Bhatt, K'C, Pandey, Navjivan Rastogi, Helene Brunner, Alexis
Sanderson, Mark Dyczkowski, Bettina Baumer, Dominic Goodall,
Harunaga Isaacson, Diwakar Acharya, Peter Bisschop, Shaman
Hatley, Jurgen Hanneder, Raffaele Torella, Gavin Flood and so on.
Now Tantra remains one of the much advanced fields of studies in
the South Asian religious studies.
The Kerala Tantra is a regional phenomenon which is, in a broader
sense, an offshoot or synthesis of Saiddhantika and Pancaratra tantric
ritual cults. It is a tradition deeply rooted within the Vedic ritualistic
fold and characterized by Smarta-Pauranika beliefs and customs.
There are many ritualistic tantric traditions, specifically familial
traditions, in Kerala and none of them has independent existence
outside the temple premises.
The present volume entitled Tantric Rituals of Kerala Temples:
Texts and Traditions is a general study on the distinct temple ritual
cult of Kerala. This is a revised version of my PhD thesis, The
Ritualistic Tradition of Tantra in Kerala: A Study on Its Characteristic
Features and Transmission, submitted to Sree Sankaracharya
University of Sanskrit in 2014. The Kerala Tantra remains one of
the subjects less explored even now. The scope of such a general
study is that it is essential to have a general idea of the subject before
one undertakes specialized study of a text or a particular cultural or
historical phenomenon. The previous studies do not deal exclusively
with ritual peculiarities of Kerala Tantra. Therefore an attempt is
made in the present study to cover the prominent characteristics of
the unique ritual cult of Kerala as extensively as possible.
The data collected from the scores of unpublished and less-known
manuscripts constitute the major inputs of the present study. Many
of these texts are of late medieval period and they are not enough
to analyse present-day ritual scenario. Keeping this in mind several
traditional tantrins of previous and current generations are interviewed
and their words are analysed within a larger context.
The study is divided into three sections and it contains nine
chapters altogether. The first section entitled "The Great Traditions
of Tantra primarily focuses on surveying all the known scriptural
divisions oftantric traditions and looking into general characteristics
of tantric rituals. The background knowledge of canonical divisions is
necessary to place Kerala Tantra within a broader context and subject
it to a comparative analysis.
The second section entitled "Kerala Tantra", deals with the
distinguished characteristics ofKerala tantric rituals. In five chapters
it covers a wide range of topics extending from the detailed survey
of the major ritual's, manuals and their characteristics and previous
studies on the subject to post-Tantrasamuccaya ritual scenario.
The third section entitled "Transmission: Formal and Informal
Methods" focuses on how a performance-oriented tradition is
transmitted orally in formal and informal educational settings. In
two chapters an attempt is made to locate the traditional system of
tantric education within the broader historical context of Vedic and
Sanskrit education of Kerala. And the last chapter discusses how
such education takes place in formal institutional contexts. The third
section is followed by conclusion and a select bibliography. At the
end photos of some of the ritual procedures are given as an Appendix.
The present study would not have been possible without the help
of several individuals who not only consist of academic scholars but
also practising priests, friends and people who have made invaluable
contributions in several possible ways. This book is a revised version
of my PhD thesis that I have submitted to Sree Sankaracharya
University of Sanskrit in 2014. First of all, I would like to thank
Dr N.K. Sundareswaran, presently the Head of the Department of
Sanskrit, University of Cali cut, under whose guidance I have carried
out the study. I am highly indebted to him for his continuous support,
patience, trust and proper guidance. His suggestions and observations
helped me a lot in my endeavour.
I express my sincere thanks to Dominic Goodall, for giving me
an opportunity to participate in Workshop on Nisvasatattva Samhita
conducted at Pondicherry in 2011, that provided me with a great
opportunity to see and interact with international scholars of excellent
academic records like Alexis Sanderson, Harunaga Issacson, Diwakar
Acharya, Shaman Hately, Peter Bisschop and so on.
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