Netratantra VII: Subtle Visualisation

The Netra Tantra Chapter VII is now available for download.
The Lord of Immortality: An Introduction, Critical Edition, and Translation of the Netra Tantra, chapter 7. Critically edited, translated and introduced by Gavin Flood, Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen, Rajan Khatiwoda (Oxford: OCHS 2019).

Link to text: Netratantra VII: Subtle Visualisation (sample chapter)

For more information on the Netratantra project please see:

Nepal 2019

Our Kathmandu office is developing and many interesting projects are going on this year. We have expanded the working space with an additional office room on the second floor and our reference library continues to receive generous donations. The office has become a vibrant place for facilitating ground research into Śākta traditions in Nepal and a number of activities such as manuscript preservation and study, fieldwork, tutorial courses for exchange students and audio visual documentary research. Our Manager Gitte Poulsen is overseeing the day to day operations of the office in Kathmandu and continuing to develop relations and collaborations in Nepal together with the Kathmandu Office Honorary Leader Dr Rajan Khatiwoda (Heidelberg) and Research Programme Director and Manager Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen (Oxford).

In January 2019 OCHS Director Shaunaka Rishi Das, Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen, Dr Rajan Khatiwoda, Gitte Poulsen, MA, and Professor Kashinat Neupane and Dr Premraj Neupane from Nepal Sanskrit University had a fruitful discussion on educational activities and cultural preservation with Mr Giri Rajmani Pokharel Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Nepal.

In June 2019 the OCHS had the privilege of hosting Her Excellency, The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam, at Oxford. On this occasion Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen presented the Śākta Traditions research programme and the Kathmandu Office and had a very fruitful discussion with Her Excellency on the work being done in Nepal and internationally.

Digitalisation and transliteration of Śākta manuscripts
This summer we launched our digitalisation project at our Kathmandu office. The aim is to digitise Śākta-related manuscripts from Nepal with a focus on quality rather than quantity. It is part of our cultural preservation initiative building up a database that will eventually go online with open access. We digitise Śākta-related material with professional photographic equipment from a number of private collections in Nepal thus making an important contribution in establishing the empirical foundations for a new field.

An essential part of the manuscript work is to visit both private and public collections around Nepal and evaluate and collect Śākta-related manuscripts. This work is mainly undertaken by our manuscript specialist Dr Rajan Khatiwoda, who amongst other things has 9 years of working experience as a cataloguer and research assistant at the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project (NGMCP).


The digitalisation is currently being done by Gitte Poulsen, MA, and PhD candidate Guy St Amant and is supervised by Dr Rajan Khatiwoda and Dr Manik Bajracharya.


Research documentary trip to Gosāiṅkuṇḍa and Assam
Our documentarist and photographer Prema Goet, MA, led a research documentary trip to the shaman festival Janai Pūrṇima in Gosāiṅkuṇḍa in the Himalayas this summer. Footages from Gosāiṅkuṇḍa (link) and from the Ambuvācī  Melā in Guwahati (Assam) (link) will result in a research documentary about a group of Śākta Aghories from Tamil Nadu and their pilgrimages to Śākta hotspots in South Asia. The research expedition to Assam was led by Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen accompanied by Prema Goet, MA, and Gitte Poulsen, MA.

Visiting students and research interns
This summer we continued our successful student programme with a focus on quality rather than quantity allowing only a few students a time to visit. We collaborate with Nepal Sanskrit University in providing individual tutorial courses in Sanskrit, Hinduism and Buddhism in Kathmandu. This entails studying with traditionally educated Nepali scholars as well as tutors from Europe and America. The programme also includes the possibility of conducting supervised field work. Our students are mainly from Oxford University and Aarhus University. Sometimes we have talented student interns working as a librarian at the office or assisting in fieldwork and digitalisation.

Field trips
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen conducted a number of field trips and interviews with yogis in the Kathmandu Valley together with colleagues and students. He visited old acquaintances and made new contacts. The photos below are from a conversation with Iśa Nāth Aghorī Bābā at Paśupatināth.


Haṭhapradīpikā translation seminar
A Haṭhapradīpikā translation seminar was held at the Kathmandu office and in Bhaktapur followed by a photo session of the āsanas with Yogi Ramesh in Paśupatināth. In september 2019 the translation group led by Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen and Dr Silje Lyngar Einarsen finalised the first full translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā into Danish at a seminar at the Royal Danish Library in Aarhus. The book will be published in 2020 at Forlaget Univers, Aaarhus. For more information please see here.

Netra Tantra Workshop at Yale-NUS College, Singapore

A busy summer for our Śākta Traditions Project saw a fruitful workshop held in Singapore.

The Netra Tantra Workshop was held at Yale-NUS College, Singapore, from September 10th to September 16th 2019. The purpose of the workshop was to develop a critical edition and translation of the Netratantra:

The Lord of Immortality: An Introduction, Critical Edition, and Translation of the Netra Tantra, vol. 1, chapters 1-8.
Critically edited, translated and introduced by Gavin Flood, Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen, Rajan Khatiwoda, Tantric Studies Series (London: Routledge, forthcoming).


Śākta Traditions Symposium III

Monday, 17 June 2019 – 10:00am to 6:00pm

Venue: OCHS Library and Campion Hall, Oxford.

Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess (Devī/Śakti) and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. The Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. Taken together, they form ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical and methodological questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia as well as to the more general and comparative study of religion.

This Śākta symposium is a contribution by a number of scholars to the Śākta Traditions project and its endeavor in tracing developments in the history of goddess worship among the orthoprax brahmans, among the tantric traditions and at village level in South Asia. Thus, the symposium acts as a historical exploration of distinctive Indian ways of imagining God as Goddess (and goddesses), a survey of important origins and developments within Śākta history, practice and doctrine in its diversity, as well as an insight into the fascinating Śākta religious imaginaire and ritual practice that may be considered distinctive and thus sets ‘Śāktism’ apart from other forms of South Asian religion.

Speakers, titles and abstracts will be announced primo June.

Upcoming exhibition at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

This exhibition aims to discover and reveal an unknown aspect of the lives of Oxford academics at the Centre of Hindu Studies (OCHS). It brings their individual interests closer to the public. The idea is to display unusual examples of what these scholars collect, as a matter of personal preference, when they travel. What you will see is hidden treasure, objects of special affection kept privately, at home or in an office, far from the public eye. For those of us studying at the Centre, viewing these examples contributes to, and enhances, the fascination we feel for utilising a Study of Religion perspective. This is especially so since the provenance of the exhibits strongly suggests that, in order to advance our understanding of religion in South Asia, we need to combine textual studies and material culture. Furthermore, the exhibition shows how religious objects can be seen from new angles, and take on added significance, when gathered together and displayed in a non-religious setting.

All the exhibits originate from the South-Asian region and have been generously loaned by four academics related to the OCHS.

Kathmandu Summer 2018

This summer many different activities have been going on at our newly started OCHS Kathmandu office. Here are a few examples:

A number of tutorials in Sanskrit and Haṭhayoga have been taking place at the office involving students from this year’s OCHS-NSU summer school.

We had a photo session at Dwarika Hotel with Professor Yatiraj from Nepal Sanskrit University’s Yoga Department, who demonstrated āsanas and kumbhakas. The photos will be published in a new translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā by Dr Bjarne Wenicke-Olesen and Silje Lyngar Einarsen.


Lena Molin, MA student in Religious Studies and Sanskrit at Aarhus University and former exchange student at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, spent one month in Nepal in relation to the OCHS Kathmandu office doing field work for her Masters dissertation on Nādayoga (‘Yoga of Sound’). While in Kathmandu she spent most of her time successfully interviewing Nāth Yogis staying at the Goraknāth temple in the Paśupatināth Temple complex (one of the largest Śiva temples in the world). She has been focusing on their practice of Kuṇḍalinīyoga and Nādayoga and has amongst other things been studying their ārti pūjā which is performed at the Goraknāth temple every morning at 5am and in the evening at 8pm

“I was really fortunate to be able to do my field work via the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and its office in Kathmandu. It gave me the chance to immediately get down to work in the field, which would most likely not have been possible in such a difficult area as mine (traditional yoga and tantric studies) without this opportunity. On top of this the staff and research assistant at the Kathmandu office was so friendly and helpful that it made it relatively easy to get started on the data collection, transcription and translation in a sensible and manageable way”.
– Lena Molin


Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen has also arranged a number of fieldtrips to visit Nāth Yogīs and Śākta Aghorīs in the Kathmandu Valley with students from Oxford and Aarhus. The pictures posted here are from a visit to Kālī Bābā (Yogīrāj Kālīnāth Aghorī Phalahārī Bābā) at a hilltop near Nagarkoṭ.


Opening week at OCHS Kathmandu Office

”The opening of the OCHS office in Kathmandu is a very exciting and important development. It will be a point of interaction between Oxford and the Nepal Sanskrit University and will provide opportunities for collaborative research. Dr Wernicke-Olesen is to be congratulated on this development, along with his team including the local manager Gitte Poulsen, Tanja Louise Jakobsen and Dr Rajan Khatiwoda. I look forward to seeing how the centre unfolds and to reading the fruits of the research that will be done here”.

– Professor Gavin Flood FBA Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion, Oxford University Academic Director, OCHS