Monday, 27 November 2017 -10:00am to 4:00pm
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.
Prof Gavin Flood
10.15am-11.15am: Yogic Theoria cum Praxi: Embodied Memory in the Śākta Anthropology of Kuṇḍalinīyoga in Medieval India
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen & PhD scholar Silje Lyngar Einarsen
11.15am-11.30am (Tea break)
11.30am-12.30pm: The Poetry of Thought in the Theology of the Tripurārahasya
Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder
12.30pm-1.30pm: Śākta Mudrās in the Kaulācāra tradition of South India
PhD candidate Janaki Nair
1.30-3.00pm (Lunch break)
3.00pm-4.00pm: The Representational Spectrum of the Goddess: Anthropomorphism, Aniconism, Physiomorphism
Prof Mikael Aktor
4.00pm-5.00pm: Śākta-narratives in 19th-Century Nepalese Chronicles [postponed until February 2018]
Dr Rajan Khatiwoda
The Poetry of Thought in the Theology of the Tripurārahasya
Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder
The Tripurārahasya (“The Secret [Doctrine] of [the Goddess] Tripurā”) is a Sanskrit work of South Indian origin, associated with the Tantric religious tradition of the Śrīvidyā. The philosophical and theological teachings expounded in the text are influenced by the system of thought of the Trika, particularly by the school of the Pratyabhijñā. The aim of this lecture is to highlight the stylistic devices of this work and to show how doctrinal issues and ritual elements are dealt with by means of a literary and poetic language. Accordingly, the dramatically enacted dialogues and the philosophical tales prove to be functional to the transmission of the doctrine of the Tripurārahasya in the form of a lively and accessible teaching; moreover, the hymns of praise can be appreciated as gems of poetical theology/theological poetry; finally, in the mythical narrative about the deeds of the Goddess Lalitā, the Śrīyantra is concretely and vividly represented as the magical stronghold of the Goddess and her mantra-s become weapons of seduction employed toconquer the demons.
Dr Silvia Schwarz Linder has lectured in the past at the Leopold-Franzens-Universität in Innsbruck and at the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice, and is presently Research Associate at the Institut für Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften of the University of Leipzig. Her interests focus on the Tantric religious traditions of the Śrīvidyā and of the Pāñcarātra, specifically on the philosophical and theological doctrines expressed in the relevant South Indian Sanskrit textual traditions. She has also translated into Italian texts from the Sanskrit narrative and devotional literature, for editions aimed at a general readership. She is affiliated with the Śākta Traditions project at the OCHS led by Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen.
Śākta Mudrās in the Kaulācāra tradition of South India
PhD candidate Janaki Nair and Professor Chris Dorsett
This paper attempts to understand and contour hand gestural or mudrā practice in tantric rituals. Rooted in older traditions, mudrās have always been an integral part of tantric rituals. Delineating on how śākteya tantric practitioners construct a symbolic world through their visualisation and use of mudrās, this talk will explore training methods of mudrās followed by śākteya practioners. Furthermore, the intertwined nature and presence of mudrās in Indian classical dance and Hindu Temple traditions will be discussed.
Janaki Nair is PhD student at Northumbria University, researching on Semiotics in Tantra and Indian dance. She is affiliated with the Śakta Traditions research project at the OCHS.
The Representational Spectrum of the Goddess: Anthropomorphism, Aniconism, Physiomorphism
Prof Mikael Aktor
Mikael Aktor is Associate Professor of History of Religions at the Institute of Philosophy, Education and the Study of Religions, University of Southern Denmark. He holds a PhD from University of Copenhagen, a part of which was carried out at School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His field of expertise is within the study of Dharmaśāstra, in particular with a focus on caste and untouchability. He has lately been engaged in research on North Indian Śaiva temple ritual and temple sculpture as part of a general interest in ritual studies and religious aesthetics.
Śākta-narratives in 19th-Century Nepalese Chronicles [postponed until February 2018]
Dr Rajan Khatiwoda
The oldest chronicle (vaṃśāvalī, literally ‘genealogy’) in Nepal goes back to the 14th century. The 19th century, however, saw a proliferation of vaṃśāvalīs, especially written in the Nepali language. These chronicles record narratives dealing with the deeds of kings and prominent historical figures as well as incidents and ritual activities relating to holy sites, temples or palaces. The divine powers—especially goddesses such as, Tulajā, Kumārī, Kaṅkeśvarī or Guhyeśvarī—choose new kings, legitimize them or give them insights for their governance. The royals, monastics, and ritual agencies serve them to secure the prosperity of human existence and for the betterment of their kingdoms. On the contrary, any failure to serve the divine actors results in misfortune for kings, kingdoms and subjects. The kings’ sovereignty over their kingdoms, thus, appears to be shared between humans and non-humans. The present paper will attempt to investigate the narratives relating to the Śākta tradition of the Kathmandu Valley as portrayed in the vaṃśāvalīs. The centre focus of this paper shall be to look at the interchangeability of the role of śaktis represented in the Nepālīkabhūpavaṃśāvalī—a widely known 19th-century chronicle of Nepal compiled in the 1830s.
Dr. Rajan Khatiwoda has a PhD in South Asian Studies (Heidelberg University) and MA in Classical Indology (Nepal Sanskrit University, Balmeeki Vidyapeeth). Dr Khatiwoda has been a Research Assistant and Cataloguer at the Nepalese-German Manuscript Cataloguing Project (NGMCP) at the Nepal Research Centre (NRC) in Kathmandu for 10 years (2003-2013) and is affiliated with the Śākta Traditions project at the OCHS led by Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen. His interests span widely from Śaivism to Indian Philosophy, Buddhist Logic, Manuscriptology and Epigraphy with a focus on Ancient Nepalese History, law and Śākta literature.