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Books > Tantra > The Goddess within and Beyond the Three Cities (Sakta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepala Mandala)
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The Goddess within and Beyond the Three Cities (Sakta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepala Mandala)
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The Goddess within and Beyond the Three Cities (Sakta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepala Mandala)
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About the Author

Jeffrey S. Lidke is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He earned his doctorate in Sanskrit and South Asian Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the tutelage of David Gordon White, Gerald James Larson, Ninian Smart and Barbara Holdrege. His first book, Vishvarupa Mandir: A Study of Changu Narayan, Nepal's Most Ancient Temple, drew international recognition as a significant contribution to scholarship on Asian architecture and religion. His numerous subsequent essays and chapters cover topics ranging from Kashmir Saivism, Sakta Tantra and Indian aesthetics to synesthesia and the neuroscience of contemplative practice. Dr. Lidke is a senior steering committee member of the Society for Tantric Studies.

About the Book

In this groundbreaking study on Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra in Nepal, Jeffrey S. Lidke combines the study of primary sources with the investigation of living interpretations of these sources by contemporary Nepalese practitioners. Lidke focuses his twenty-year analysis on a specific Tantric tradition - Sri Vidya - a specific deity - Tripurasundari - a specific text Nitytasikarnava. - and a specific set of initiates within a specific locale - the Kathmandu Valley.

This emphasis on specificity enables the author to contextualize his study within the unique Nepalese historical and sociocultural context, and thereby to represent Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra not as a static, universal "ism" present in a single form throughout the subcontinent, but as a dynamic place-specific tradition reflecting the nuanced ways that peoples and institutions shape their religious traditions according to the power negotiations that arise in Tantric worlds in which individuals imagine they can be like the gods they worship.

The central symbol that drives these negotiations in Nepal is the mandala, a pan- Tantric instrument of worship by which Tantric practitioners - be they kings, commoners, artisans or warriors - navigate, imagine and identify with the territories in which they live and strive to obtain their mundane and spiritual aims.

The mandala'e ubiquitous presence is found not just overtly in city designs, temple architecture and a seemingly infinite array of artistic representations (including sculpture, painting, music and dance) but also covertly in the secret rituals and meditation practices of initiates at all levels of Nepalese society, ranging from lower caste girls to the former kings of Nepal.

Foreword

RESILIENT to history's vagaries, pliant in serving culture's heterogeneous expectations, Sri-Vidya distinguishes itself among the traditions of Sakta Tantra by having proliferated, and indeed prospered, across the extent of the Indian subcontinent. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, we recognize Sri-Vidya's essentials through its unmistakable triadic theological markers - the beneficent, intoxicating saumya goddess Lalita Tripurasundari, her mantra from whence later tradition derives its most explicit identities, and the sricakra, likely the most famous visual trademark of esoteric Hinduism.

Even as the Traipura goddess tradition likely procures its guise first in the vale of Kashmir some time around the eighth and ninth centuries and from within the complex arrangements of Saivism that mean to insinuate diversified and visionary non-dualist philosophies into coherent experiential ritual practices, Sri-Vidya regards itself Daksinamnaya (southern transmission) associated with disseminations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Other important Sakta Tantrisms, such as Kubjika-mata and Krama, either sustain themselves within seemingly narrower regional parameters or fail to survive the complications of transmission that depend as much upon precarious and often determinative accessories of culture. Sri-Vidya continues, it flourishes and flounders, but it never fails and rather than assimilate, it takes on new character using the same forms.

Sri-Vidya embodies her contrast as saubhagya-sampradaya, the tradition that entreats to prosperity by invoking divine self-identification with grace, beauty, and good fortune. While today her fate looks far less certain within the circles of cultural elite who have long been primary sponsors wherever Sri-Vidya has rooted in South Asia, she appears now also in the diasporas of Hindus and proselytes in the West. As Jeffrey Lidke shows, I believe here for the first time in detail, the history of Sri-Vidya in Nepal, long and storied as it has been, is at a crucial turning point within the political society that has employed this cult of divine power as part of its own mechanisms of validation. While no comparable royal patronage or political role has served south Indian proponents, Sri-Vidya appears today to have retreated from public view more deeply into the private realms of householder puja than it was in the last decades of the twentieth century. Where we find Sri-Vidya today visibly presenting portraits of its ideologies and practices is on the Internet and in temples in the hands of private practitioners. What may lie ahead for Sri-Vidya Tantra in Nepal is an issue Lidke braves to consider with seriousness and insight even as the volatility of the situation renders certainty impossible.

But the situation of Sri-Vidya as a living Tantra has always countenanced change as part of the dynamic of a universe construed to be power itself. For whatever challenges are posed by modernity's transmutations via global culture, paradox may be the very soul of Sri- Vidya as a body of teachings, one as eager to discredit the tentative as it is vigilantly determined to embrace the diametrically opposed. The goddess is transcendence and immanence, outside and in, macrocosm and microcosm and she is more: She is whatever she needs to become to be anything that is possible and all that precludes possible or impossible. Whatever transcendence is, she manifests as, for there is at once the narrowest sense of her fullness recovered through specific ritual arts of identification and the broadest sense of her inclusion in every kind of experience, in every aspect of reality. Unlike those who would prefer the perfection of final liberation to make for simple extrication from a world of opposites, Sri-Vidya asserts that transcendence possesses no otherness and demands immanence without exception must be none other than she, the goddess herself in some manifestly karmic or playful form. Such a universe is not inscrutable nor can it be reduced to comprehension; illusions must be real in so far as they refuse any sensibility of falsity; options trump exiguity without the slightest diminishment of integrity. What makes Sri "the auspicious" is that there can be no scarcity, no summation, no ultimacy that finalizes less than another possibility; and all of this Sri reveals herself as vidya, a science, a process of veracity, an impeccable wisdom, a mantra feminine-encoded as reality true to itself but beholden to none. As Lidke so diligently reveals, Sri- Vidya conceals itself in contradictions that pose no threat to those who embrace paradox as the solution to a world that is itself not a problem to be solved.

Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta noted that the study of Tantra without the inclusion of the testimonies of oral traditions was "liable to appear incomplete and full of misunderstandings to an initiated Tantric adept".urther, that such oral explanations by living Tantric gurus (or modern accounts based upon these)

It is fair to say that few scholars have endeavoured, as Lidke has here, to integrate Tantric historical texts and the formations of history into the interpretations of tradition. Part of the reason that past scholars have excluded the voices of well- versed informants in their scholarship is simply that access to said informants is not easily obtained. A "fieldworker" such as Lidke must do more than find such a person(s), he must somehow win his confidence, breach the usual scholarly etiquettes of emic and etic convention, and after having ingratiated himself into the life of Tantric discourse return to reveal what may have been confidential information. If another were to attempt to repeat these results or establish similar terms of contact, the outcome might be dramatically different or parallel rather than comparable. In other words, beyond issues of verification or breaches of confidentiality, fieldwork in Tantra creates a situation in which the lines between insider and outsider must be deliberately contaminated in order to create any kind of authoritative ingress. To move deftly between texts and interpreters, the facts of history and a history of "facts" involves multiple languages, skills that stretch across the breadth of humanities and social sciences, and a dedication to truth that is willingly challenged by commitments to keep faith with others as well as with oneself. Lidke here puts himself on the line: he names names, translates the originals, and works through the problematic of unfinished, unknown, and unknowable sources and history. He peers as seriously into the eyes of the dead as he does into the living, knowing full well that scholarship demands the apologetics of tentative conclusions while tradition invites him to reach into his own heart for insights that are otherwise unobtainable. Few have been so willing or so competent as Lidke is here to the task of revealing a Tantra committed to secrecy and esotericism. He must pull it through the eye of a needle that occludes rather than reveals through history, text, and culture.

It is the whole that stands here as the accomplishment of a scholar of the Tantra: fieldwork conversations, the close reading of texts, careful reconstructions of history, and dedication to the primary sources considered in light of authoritative living voices. Anyone of these endeavours is difficult, time-consuming, and rare. Placed together this becomes an exceptional effort even where conclusions must remain contingent or provisional. Knowing full well, as his principal informant reminds him, that any study of Sri- Vidya Tantra must include a deep familiarity with the ocean of sources that make up the schools of Kashmir Saivism - Abhinavagupta's Trika, Pratyabhijma, Krama, Spanda, Kaulism, etc. - Lidke does the work for us and draws these materials into the larger picture even as he keeps his focus on Nepalese history and the practice as it manifests among contemporary practitioners. He wants at once to stay true to the "whole'"of Sri-Vidya as well as its historical antecedents from Kashmir and to make specific the issues and interpretations that place the tradition squarely within the Nepali setting. What may be revealed in contrast about Sri- Vidya in contemporary south India will augment or even conflict with Lidke's observations but they in no way impugn or dispute the real integrity of his findings. By studying the Nepali situation closely, by taking the example of the particular, Lidke opens the door to comparison as well as to the treasured prize of generalization. Nothing is more difficult in the study of Tantra than moving from the unassailable interpretations of the individual and lineage to the larger identities of tradition and history. Like all work in the humanities, the goal of generalization is the most difficult: for the particulars of history and demands of context conspire to create the exception as ever the rule. With this work, we have an opportunity to advance that project with seriousness and promise.

Where philology and history meet anthropology, the study of Tantra rightly begins. But where Tantra concludes is in conveying a sense of the experience and the empowerments that the practitioner asserts comes from and through the ultimate source of power itself, the goddess who is Sakti. Were it not for Sakti there would be no Tantra but without Sakti there would surely be no world, no history, no possibilities. In this work Lidke has loomed the elements of a new Tantra, not for the sake of mere theological explication but as a way of extending tradition into the conversation of a world threatened by power, enthralled with power, beholden to powers beyond our abilities to control.

As Sir John woodroffe observed in the most incipient era of Tantric studies, Sakti is the world as power and there is no subject more urgent or real than this fundamental claim about nature, culture, and human experience.

Preface

Reflexive Speech

FOR me, to say a few words on jeffrey Lidke's work is to map my own life of the past two decades, reflecting on the rivulets that flowed together and streamed apart in the intersecting journey of our lives that has brought many gifts, and took some as it evolved. Writing is an act of self-discovery for me, a process from which I have never tried to disentangle myself. I have never pretended to be the author of the truth that splits my being and stands outside of myself. And to discuss this work, which of course is praiseworthy, is therefore not in isolation of my own self-discovery and the space that jeffrey has occupied in this mapped and unfolded realm of being. I was then a lecturer at Nepal Sanskrit University in Kathmandu and jeffrey a Fulbright scholar researching the goddess tradition in Nepal. We were both young and had yet to recognize our potentials. We were facing in two directions: I wanted to learn from the West and he from the East. His teachers and spiritual masters had urged him to ground his self-experience on indigenous Nepalese culture. My teachers, classical pandits mostly naive regarding affairs of the world, had a romantic imagination regarding the Western scholarship of India and her culture. And I am a product of the culture shaped by Kumarila Bhatta, and a firm believer that I need to learn from all, inside and outside of culture. We both grew up in a perennial imagination of a transcendental reality that is not shaped by culture, language, or the like. There was an occasion for me to learn from Jeffrey: about the West, English language to begin with, and the Western modes of scholarship. There was something I could trade: my own Sanskrit training, my studies of Indian philosophical and theological traditions, my research on Tantric manuscripts and a few jokes from Nepal. We both are still walking in these two directions to eventually greet each other, not as two total strangers but as two friends.

Jeffrey was not the first or the only scholar with whom I had worked. Eminent Indologists and Western scholars trained me during my college years and, at that time, I had been working with a number of scholars, training them in different disciplines of Indological studies. What defined my task with Jeffrey as unique was the approach: unlike many other scholars, Jeffrey was interested in integrating the experience of the indigenous practitioners. His was not a descriptive project; nor was it prescriptive either. It was a project of self-discovery by allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to let the outside mitigate the inside, and open the parameters of the self so that the fluid space could allow a conversation between inside and outside. Coming from the Tantric Trika background, I felt this as a project of self-recognition (pratyabhijna) wherein the boundary of the self and the world is erased and mapped within one's own reflexivity. I have walked in fieldtrips and offered information for this project from within, read and translated the text, worked on the microfilms, participated in rituals, and celebrated festivities. I still wonder, why are our experiences so culture-bound? Even people who are highly sensitive and sympathetic to each other's culture fail at times to recognize the subtleties of the cultural nuances that separate and continue to keep us distinct. Abhinavagupta delineates a paradigm wherein subjects can enjoy both the transcendence of their phenomenality while at the same time retain individuality and have the experience of the phenomenal with lived and embodied intentionality. This to me is a mantra for the hope for humanity with culture wherein we can melt with each other in the oceanic experience of pure being while at the same time retain our differences and identities. It is up to the reader to explore the possibilities this book provides and read it as a project that is yet to be synthesized.

Cultural studies do not need to stand at cross purposes with cultural identity, as evidenced by my sustained engagement with cultural outsiders. At the same time, cultural studies do not need to provide the political framework for cultural activism. Although most of the scholarship today functions as an instrument in the global power play, we the individuals are not required to delete our autonomy over political identities. In this regard, my own process of self-discovery stands in contrast to the discovery of a culturally and politically defined self. If there is nothing providing the foundation for my subjectivity, I am pleased to be that nothing and stand on nothing for my self-exploration. I often wonder, does the philosophy that grounds the tradition of Tripura, the goddess who is at the centre of this study even engage these flimsy identities? A product of Western scholarship, Jeffrey explores the connection between the spiritual power, the power assigned to the goddess, and the political power assigned to speech. I often wonder, why did not I think like that? What precludes me, a product of pan-Indian culture, from intermingling political power and the concept of sakti? As a part of self-deconstruction, I wonder whether my own presuppositions are grounded on the dichotomy of the sacred and profane? I also happen to be the generation that witnessed absolute monarchy, participated in revolution and abolished that monarchy, witnessed the decline of democratic forces and saw the country succumb to the Maoist revolution. Ritual paradigms have shifted with the collapse of the kingship, liturgies have changed with a new flow and intermixing of Indian and Tibetan practices, and traditional forms of Tantric sadhana have reshaped, adopting the market spirituality. What the practice of Sri-Yantra visualization and the worship of Tripura meant for the public two decades ago hardly means the same thing today. It is not that traditional tantrikas were not aware of this fluidity of power: they were actually the foremost players of the power game.None the less, their metaphysical understanding of power never shadowed their own quest for gaining social influence. They did not view these two powers as mutually exclusive but never made a case that one is needed for the other. The power of Tripura manifests in the mantric form, or the power of speech, in other words, none the less retained its higher status over the political power for the latter's inability to dissociate itself from violence.

Needless to say, societal tensions and transformations have not made this study of Jeffrey irrelevant. Nepal was never a global player, no matter what political system she has been through. Nepal has maintained its balance between the two superpowers, India and China, and its own philosophy of Sakti or power is rather introverted. Championed by two major philosophers janaka and Buddha, Nepal boasts that it can provide the fusion of the Vedic and Buddhist cultures in an integral Hindu-Buddhist paradigm, most vibrant in the Newar culture of the Kathmandu Valley. And both the Buddhist and Hindu traditions take a Sakta Tantric orientation in the Nepalese cultural stage, as if geopolitical limits have always been complemented by the internal power, the power of the self, the power that cannot be reduced to material gains and the power that transcends socio-economic and political transactions. Nepal has learned to actualize the internal and inherent power, if the cultural has anything to say about the socio-political affairs.

Additionally, Jeffrey's focus on Tripura is also extremely significant in revealing the power-play in the esoteric realms of Nepal. Locally, one can easily find the temples of Kali as easily as one can find the temples of Durga, Laksmi, or Sarasvati. The Kathmandu Valley seems particularly silent regarding the central position of Tripura, with an exceptional temple only in Bhaktapur. In the outlying regions of Nepal, be it Karnali or the suburbs outside of Kathmandu, Tripura seems to have more prominence. Jeffrey makes it explicit that the practice of Tripura has none the less remained central to the Sakta practice in the Kathmandu Valley. And the Tantric practice in Nepal, based on manuscripts and historiographies, was indeed grounded on the practice of Tripura. Just as the name of the goddess suggests, she has remained hidden, outside of public purview.

What we learn from the practice of Tripura is that the discourse of power is located within the discourse of speech itself. This interplay of power, sound, and language is nowhere more explicit than it is in the mantric speech that constitutes the divine body of Tripura on one hand, while at the same time this speech also constitutes the world, the world of discourse. And the dialogue, as configured in the Agamas as an exchange between the goddess and her consort, is the same dialogue that gives a teleology for being in the world at the same time as it identifies the top-down cosmologies intersected with the bottom-up reductionist approaches, as ultimately in this monistic paradigm, what constitutes matter is not different from consciousness. Life is the vantage point within which both pure consciousness and external world meet, where the embodied nature of Tripura expresses the lived nature of the divine. Being in the world, described sometimes with the metaphor of ripples and waves in relation to the ocean, is Tripura's intrinsic character. The transcendence and purity of. Tripura are not compromised in her expression of myriad forms, as the Sakta philosophy in the texts of Tripura highlights.

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

Contents

Foreword - Douglas R. Brooks vii
Preface - Sthaneshwar Timalsina xiii
Acknowledgements xxi
Introduction: Tracking the Stories of Devi 1
1.The Goddess Embodied: Tripurasundari and the Tricosmos 13
2. Tantric Sadhana: Harnessing the Powers of Sakti 37
3.The Mandala-Hologram: Centres, Peripheries, and the Dance of Power 61
The Reverberating Goddess: The Kumari and the King 108
Conclusion: will the Devi's Power Be Enough? 145
Appendix A: Nityasodasikarnava: An Annotated Translation of the Mangala-Slokas in Chapters 1, 4 and 5 along with the Commentaries by Sivananda and Vidyananda 153
Appendix B: Index of Sri-Vidya Paddhatis at Nepal's National Archives 283
Appendix C: Inscriptions from Bhaktapur Tripurasundari Vidya-Pitha and Dolakha's Devikotta 333
Glossary 338
Bibliography 349
Index 372














The Goddess within and Beyond the Three Cities (Sakta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepala Mandala)

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About the Author

Jeffrey S. Lidke is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He earned his doctorate in Sanskrit and South Asian Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the tutelage of David Gordon White, Gerald James Larson, Ninian Smart and Barbara Holdrege. His first book, Vishvarupa Mandir: A Study of Changu Narayan, Nepal's Most Ancient Temple, drew international recognition as a significant contribution to scholarship on Asian architecture and religion. His numerous subsequent essays and chapters cover topics ranging from Kashmir Saivism, Sakta Tantra and Indian aesthetics to synesthesia and the neuroscience of contemplative practice. Dr. Lidke is a senior steering committee member of the Society for Tantric Studies.

About the Book

In this groundbreaking study on Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra in Nepal, Jeffrey S. Lidke combines the study of primary sources with the investigation of living interpretations of these sources by contemporary Nepalese practitioners. Lidke focuses his twenty-year analysis on a specific Tantric tradition - Sri Vidya - a specific deity - Tripurasundari - a specific text Nitytasikarnava. - and a specific set of initiates within a specific locale - the Kathmandu Valley.

This emphasis on specificity enables the author to contextualize his study within the unique Nepalese historical and sociocultural context, and thereby to represent Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra not as a static, universal "ism" present in a single form throughout the subcontinent, but as a dynamic place-specific tradition reflecting the nuanced ways that peoples and institutions shape their religious traditions according to the power negotiations that arise in Tantric worlds in which individuals imagine they can be like the gods they worship.

The central symbol that drives these negotiations in Nepal is the mandala, a pan- Tantric instrument of worship by which Tantric practitioners - be they kings, commoners, artisans or warriors - navigate, imagine and identify with the territories in which they live and strive to obtain their mundane and spiritual aims.

The mandala'e ubiquitous presence is found not just overtly in city designs, temple architecture and a seemingly infinite array of artistic representations (including sculpture, painting, music and dance) but also covertly in the secret rituals and meditation practices of initiates at all levels of Nepalese society, ranging from lower caste girls to the former kings of Nepal.

Foreword

RESILIENT to history's vagaries, pliant in serving culture's heterogeneous expectations, Sri-Vidya distinguishes itself among the traditions of Sakta Tantra by having proliferated, and indeed prospered, across the extent of the Indian subcontinent. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, we recognize Sri-Vidya's essentials through its unmistakable triadic theological markers - the beneficent, intoxicating saumya goddess Lalita Tripurasundari, her mantra from whence later tradition derives its most explicit identities, and the sricakra, likely the most famous visual trademark of esoteric Hinduism.

Even as the Traipura goddess tradition likely procures its guise first in the vale of Kashmir some time around the eighth and ninth centuries and from within the complex arrangements of Saivism that mean to insinuate diversified and visionary non-dualist philosophies into coherent experiential ritual practices, Sri-Vidya regards itself Daksinamnaya (southern transmission) associated with disseminations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Other important Sakta Tantrisms, such as Kubjika-mata and Krama, either sustain themselves within seemingly narrower regional parameters or fail to survive the complications of transmission that depend as much upon precarious and often determinative accessories of culture. Sri-Vidya continues, it flourishes and flounders, but it never fails and rather than assimilate, it takes on new character using the same forms.

Sri-Vidya embodies her contrast as saubhagya-sampradaya, the tradition that entreats to prosperity by invoking divine self-identification with grace, beauty, and good fortune. While today her fate looks far less certain within the circles of cultural elite who have long been primary sponsors wherever Sri-Vidya has rooted in South Asia, she appears now also in the diasporas of Hindus and proselytes in the West. As Jeffrey Lidke shows, I believe here for the first time in detail, the history of Sri-Vidya in Nepal, long and storied as it has been, is at a crucial turning point within the political society that has employed this cult of divine power as part of its own mechanisms of validation. While no comparable royal patronage or political role has served south Indian proponents, Sri-Vidya appears today to have retreated from public view more deeply into the private realms of householder puja than it was in the last decades of the twentieth century. Where we find Sri-Vidya today visibly presenting portraits of its ideologies and practices is on the Internet and in temples in the hands of private practitioners. What may lie ahead for Sri-Vidya Tantra in Nepal is an issue Lidke braves to consider with seriousness and insight even as the volatility of the situation renders certainty impossible.

But the situation of Sri-Vidya as a living Tantra has always countenanced change as part of the dynamic of a universe construed to be power itself. For whatever challenges are posed by modernity's transmutations via global culture, paradox may be the very soul of Sri- Vidya as a body of teachings, one as eager to discredit the tentative as it is vigilantly determined to embrace the diametrically opposed. The goddess is transcendence and immanence, outside and in, macrocosm and microcosm and she is more: She is whatever she needs to become to be anything that is possible and all that precludes possible or impossible. Whatever transcendence is, she manifests as, for there is at once the narrowest sense of her fullness recovered through specific ritual arts of identification and the broadest sense of her inclusion in every kind of experience, in every aspect of reality. Unlike those who would prefer the perfection of final liberation to make for simple extrication from a world of opposites, Sri-Vidya asserts that transcendence possesses no otherness and demands immanence without exception must be none other than she, the goddess herself in some manifestly karmic or playful form. Such a universe is not inscrutable nor can it be reduced to comprehension; illusions must be real in so far as they refuse any sensibility of falsity; options trump exiguity without the slightest diminishment of integrity. What makes Sri "the auspicious" is that there can be no scarcity, no summation, no ultimacy that finalizes less than another possibility; and all of this Sri reveals herself as vidya, a science, a process of veracity, an impeccable wisdom, a mantra feminine-encoded as reality true to itself but beholden to none. As Lidke so diligently reveals, Sri- Vidya conceals itself in contradictions that pose no threat to those who embrace paradox as the solution to a world that is itself not a problem to be solved.

Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta noted that the study of Tantra without the inclusion of the testimonies of oral traditions was "liable to appear incomplete and full of misunderstandings to an initiated Tantric adept".urther, that such oral explanations by living Tantric gurus (or modern accounts based upon these)

It is fair to say that few scholars have endeavoured, as Lidke has here, to integrate Tantric historical texts and the formations of history into the interpretations of tradition. Part of the reason that past scholars have excluded the voices of well- versed informants in their scholarship is simply that access to said informants is not easily obtained. A "fieldworker" such as Lidke must do more than find such a person(s), he must somehow win his confidence, breach the usual scholarly etiquettes of emic and etic convention, and after having ingratiated himself into the life of Tantric discourse return to reveal what may have been confidential information. If another were to attempt to repeat these results or establish similar terms of contact, the outcome might be dramatically different or parallel rather than comparable. In other words, beyond issues of verification or breaches of confidentiality, fieldwork in Tantra creates a situation in which the lines between insider and outsider must be deliberately contaminated in order to create any kind of authoritative ingress. To move deftly between texts and interpreters, the facts of history and a history of "facts" involves multiple languages, skills that stretch across the breadth of humanities and social sciences, and a dedication to truth that is willingly challenged by commitments to keep faith with others as well as with oneself. Lidke here puts himself on the line: he names names, translates the originals, and works through the problematic of unfinished, unknown, and unknowable sources and history. He peers as seriously into the eyes of the dead as he does into the living, knowing full well that scholarship demands the apologetics of tentative conclusions while tradition invites him to reach into his own heart for insights that are otherwise unobtainable. Few have been so willing or so competent as Lidke is here to the task of revealing a Tantra committed to secrecy and esotericism. He must pull it through the eye of a needle that occludes rather than reveals through history, text, and culture.

It is the whole that stands here as the accomplishment of a scholar of the Tantra: fieldwork conversations, the close reading of texts, careful reconstructions of history, and dedication to the primary sources considered in light of authoritative living voices. Anyone of these endeavours is difficult, time-consuming, and rare. Placed together this becomes an exceptional effort even where conclusions must remain contingent or provisional. Knowing full well, as his principal informant reminds him, that any study of Sri- Vidya Tantra must include a deep familiarity with the ocean of sources that make up the schools of Kashmir Saivism - Abhinavagupta's Trika, Pratyabhijma, Krama, Spanda, Kaulism, etc. - Lidke does the work for us and draws these materials into the larger picture even as he keeps his focus on Nepalese history and the practice as it manifests among contemporary practitioners. He wants at once to stay true to the "whole'"of Sri-Vidya as well as its historical antecedents from Kashmir and to make specific the issues and interpretations that place the tradition squarely within the Nepali setting. What may be revealed in contrast about Sri- Vidya in contemporary south India will augment or even conflict with Lidke's observations but they in no way impugn or dispute the real integrity of his findings. By studying the Nepali situation closely, by taking the example of the particular, Lidke opens the door to comparison as well as to the treasured prize of generalization. Nothing is more difficult in the study of Tantra than moving from the unassailable interpretations of the individual and lineage to the larger identities of tradition and history. Like all work in the humanities, the goal of generalization is the most difficult: for the particulars of history and demands of context conspire to create the exception as ever the rule. With this work, we have an opportunity to advance that project with seriousness and promise.

Where philology and history meet anthropology, the study of Tantra rightly begins. But where Tantra concludes is in conveying a sense of the experience and the empowerments that the practitioner asserts comes from and through the ultimate source of power itself, the goddess who is Sakti. Were it not for Sakti there would be no Tantra but without Sakti there would surely be no world, no history, no possibilities. In this work Lidke has loomed the elements of a new Tantra, not for the sake of mere theological explication but as a way of extending tradition into the conversation of a world threatened by power, enthralled with power, beholden to powers beyond our abilities to control.

As Sir John woodroffe observed in the most incipient era of Tantric studies, Sakti is the world as power and there is no subject more urgent or real than this fundamental claim about nature, culture, and human experience.

Preface

Reflexive Speech

FOR me, to say a few words on jeffrey Lidke's work is to map my own life of the past two decades, reflecting on the rivulets that flowed together and streamed apart in the intersecting journey of our lives that has brought many gifts, and took some as it evolved. Writing is an act of self-discovery for me, a process from which I have never tried to disentangle myself. I have never pretended to be the author of the truth that splits my being and stands outside of myself. And to discuss this work, which of course is praiseworthy, is therefore not in isolation of my own self-discovery and the space that jeffrey has occupied in this mapped and unfolded realm of being. I was then a lecturer at Nepal Sanskrit University in Kathmandu and jeffrey a Fulbright scholar researching the goddess tradition in Nepal. We were both young and had yet to recognize our potentials. We were facing in two directions: I wanted to learn from the West and he from the East. His teachers and spiritual masters had urged him to ground his self-experience on indigenous Nepalese culture. My teachers, classical pandits mostly naive regarding affairs of the world, had a romantic imagination regarding the Western scholarship of India and her culture. And I am a product of the culture shaped by Kumarila Bhatta, and a firm believer that I need to learn from all, inside and outside of culture. We both grew up in a perennial imagination of a transcendental reality that is not shaped by culture, language, or the like. There was an occasion for me to learn from Jeffrey: about the West, English language to begin with, and the Western modes of scholarship. There was something I could trade: my own Sanskrit training, my studies of Indian philosophical and theological traditions, my research on Tantric manuscripts and a few jokes from Nepal. We both are still walking in these two directions to eventually greet each other, not as two total strangers but as two friends.

Jeffrey was not the first or the only scholar with whom I had worked. Eminent Indologists and Western scholars trained me during my college years and, at that time, I had been working with a number of scholars, training them in different disciplines of Indological studies. What defined my task with Jeffrey as unique was the approach: unlike many other scholars, Jeffrey was interested in integrating the experience of the indigenous practitioners. His was not a descriptive project; nor was it prescriptive either. It was a project of self-discovery by allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to let the outside mitigate the inside, and open the parameters of the self so that the fluid space could allow a conversation between inside and outside. Coming from the Tantric Trika background, I felt this as a project of self-recognition (pratyabhijna) wherein the boundary of the self and the world is erased and mapped within one's own reflexivity. I have walked in fieldtrips and offered information for this project from within, read and translated the text, worked on the microfilms, participated in rituals, and celebrated festivities. I still wonder, why are our experiences so culture-bound? Even people who are highly sensitive and sympathetic to each other's culture fail at times to recognize the subtleties of the cultural nuances that separate and continue to keep us distinct. Abhinavagupta delineates a paradigm wherein subjects can enjoy both the transcendence of their phenomenality while at the same time retain individuality and have the experience of the phenomenal with lived and embodied intentionality. This to me is a mantra for the hope for humanity with culture wherein we can melt with each other in the oceanic experience of pure being while at the same time retain our differences and identities. It is up to the reader to explore the possibilities this book provides and read it as a project that is yet to be synthesized.

Cultural studies do not need to stand at cross purposes with cultural identity, as evidenced by my sustained engagement with cultural outsiders. At the same time, cultural studies do not need to provide the political framework for cultural activism. Although most of the scholarship today functions as an instrument in the global power play, we the individuals are not required to delete our autonomy over political identities. In this regard, my own process of self-discovery stands in contrast to the discovery of a culturally and politically defined self. If there is nothing providing the foundation for my subjectivity, I am pleased to be that nothing and stand on nothing for my self-exploration. I often wonder, does the philosophy that grounds the tradition of Tripura, the goddess who is at the centre of this study even engage these flimsy identities? A product of Western scholarship, Jeffrey explores the connection between the spiritual power, the power assigned to the goddess, and the political power assigned to speech. I often wonder, why did not I think like that? What precludes me, a product of pan-Indian culture, from intermingling political power and the concept of sakti? As a part of self-deconstruction, I wonder whether my own presuppositions are grounded on the dichotomy of the sacred and profane? I also happen to be the generation that witnessed absolute monarchy, participated in revolution and abolished that monarchy, witnessed the decline of democratic forces and saw the country succumb to the Maoist revolution. Ritual paradigms have shifted with the collapse of the kingship, liturgies have changed with a new flow and intermixing of Indian and Tibetan practices, and traditional forms of Tantric sadhana have reshaped, adopting the market spirituality. What the practice of Sri-Yantra visualization and the worship of Tripura meant for the public two decades ago hardly means the same thing today. It is not that traditional tantrikas were not aware of this fluidity of power: they were actually the foremost players of the power game.None the less, their metaphysical understanding of power never shadowed their own quest for gaining social influence. They did not view these two powers as mutually exclusive but never made a case that one is needed for the other. The power of Tripura manifests in the mantric form, or the power of speech, in other words, none the less retained its higher status over the political power for the latter's inability to dissociate itself from violence.

Needless to say, societal tensions and transformations have not made this study of Jeffrey irrelevant. Nepal was never a global player, no matter what political system she has been through. Nepal has maintained its balance between the two superpowers, India and China, and its own philosophy of Sakti or power is rather introverted. Championed by two major philosophers janaka and Buddha, Nepal boasts that it can provide the fusion of the Vedic and Buddhist cultures in an integral Hindu-Buddhist paradigm, most vibrant in the Newar culture of the Kathmandu Valley. And both the Buddhist and Hindu traditions take a Sakta Tantric orientation in the Nepalese cultural stage, as if geopolitical limits have always been complemented by the internal power, the power of the self, the power that cannot be reduced to material gains and the power that transcends socio-economic and political transactions. Nepal has learned to actualize the internal and inherent power, if the cultural has anything to say about the socio-political affairs.

Additionally, Jeffrey's focus on Tripura is also extremely significant in revealing the power-play in the esoteric realms of Nepal. Locally, one can easily find the temples of Kali as easily as one can find the temples of Durga, Laksmi, or Sarasvati. The Kathmandu Valley seems particularly silent regarding the central position of Tripura, with an exceptional temple only in Bhaktapur. In the outlying regions of Nepal, be it Karnali or the suburbs outside of Kathmandu, Tripura seems to have more prominence. Jeffrey makes it explicit that the practice of Tripura has none the less remained central to the Sakta practice in the Kathmandu Valley. And the Tantric practice in Nepal, based on manuscripts and historiographies, was indeed grounded on the practice of Tripura. Just as the name of the goddess suggests, she has remained hidden, outside of public purview.

What we learn from the practice of Tripura is that the discourse of power is located within the discourse of speech itself. This interplay of power, sound, and language is nowhere more explicit than it is in the mantric speech that constitutes the divine body of Tripura on one hand, while at the same time this speech also constitutes the world, the world of discourse. And the dialogue, as configured in the Agamas as an exchange between the goddess and her consort, is the same dialogue that gives a teleology for being in the world at the same time as it identifies the top-down cosmologies intersected with the bottom-up reductionist approaches, as ultimately in this monistic paradigm, what constitutes matter is not different from consciousness. Life is the vantage point within which both pure consciousness and external world meet, where the embodied nature of Tripura expresses the lived nature of the divine. Being in the world, described sometimes with the metaphor of ripples and waves in relation to the ocean, is Tripura's intrinsic character. The transcendence and purity of. Tripura are not compromised in her expression of myriad forms, as the Sakta philosophy in the texts of Tripura highlights.

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

Introduction

Tracking the Stories of Devi My tracking of the stories of Devi (the Goddess) has involved an extensive examination of the esoteric ideologies and practices of Nepalese Hindu Tantra, which have their roots in the antinomian power-centred rites of the Kula and Yoginitraditions of seventh- and eighth-century India. Textual, epigraphic, and oral sources indicate that from the eighth century on Nepalese kings from each of the three major dynastic lineages - Licchavi (c. fourth to ninth century), Malla (1200-1769), and Shah (1769-present) - have appropriated a variety of Tantric ideologies and practices that were brought to Nepal from India, including not only Kula and Yogini traditions but also Natha, Bhairava, Saiva, and Sakta traditions. By the eleventh century these older traditions had begun to coalesce into the high forms of Hindu Tantra that were institutionalized as the elite Tantric traditions of Nepal: the Sri-Vidya, Kall, Kubjika, Guhyesvari, Siddhi Laksmi, and Taleju schools.

By the twelfth century these distinct yet interconnected streams of Tantra had begun to coalesce as an interwoven tradition that today is commonly known as either the sadamnaya (Six Schools) or Sarvamnaya (All schools) tradition of Nepalese Tantra. The term amnaya encompasses a polysemantic field that lends itself to a diversity of translations, including "transmission", "sacred tradition", "sacred text", "family or national custom", "instruction", and "family".' When contemporary Nepalese practitioners of Tantra, called tantrikas, refer to their tradition as Sarvarnnaya they do so with the intention of claiming that their initiation-based knowledge represents the culminating synthesis of all (sarva) the transmissions (amnayas) preserved by the sectarian clans (kulas) of the six streams of Agamic scriptural revelation (sadmnayas): the eastern (Parvamnaya), southern (Daksinamnaya), western (Pascimamnaya), northern (Uttaramnaya), lower (Adhamnaya), and upper (Ordhvamnaya) transmissions.

Although knowledge of the esoteric, yogic dimensions of Tantra is not common in the Kathmandu Valley, there are to this day living representatives of the tradition who continue to live in a world predicated on the ritual establishment of complex semiotic links between the streams of scriptural revelation (amnaya) and the subtle physiology of the tantrika's own body. In the Sarvamnaya system, each of the six amnayas is associated with a particular goddess, who in turn is correlated with one of the six cakras (energy centres) in the subtle physiology. The Sarvamnaya path involves sequential initiation, stage by stage, in each of the six transmission schools in order to awaken the kudalini-sakti (serpentine power at the base of the spine) and activate in turn each of the cakras along with the corresponding goddesses who are mistresses of the cakras (cakresvari). The final stage of the Nepalese Sarvamnaya path involves initiation into the upper transmission school (Urdhvamnaya), which is commonly associated in Nepal with Tripurasundari, the cult Goddess of the Sri- Vidya kula (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). Through this final initiation, the ajna-cakra - situated between the eyebrows - is activated, and the kundalini-sakti rises up to the sahasrara-cakra at the crown of the head, culminating in a state of full enlightenment in which the Tantric practitioner (sadhaka) cognizes his or her identity with Tripurasundari (the beautiful Goddess of the three cities).

Although the Nepalese Sri-Vidya tradition identifies its own cult-specific deity to abide at the summit of divine power, contemporary initiates of the tradition articulate a common theme from classical Sakta Tantra texts: in the final analysis all forms of the goddesses are simply different manifestations of the one great Goddess, Mahadevi. In a wide range of textual sources and liturgical contexts one reads (or hears) passages (or litanies) that coalesce the identities of Tripurasundari, Kali, Kubjika, and Taleju as but epithets used to describe the one supreme Goddess who manifests herself in the relative world of name and form while remaining unmanifest, transcendent, and formless in her essential nature. The Sarvamnaya system actualizes this theological perspective through technologies of ritual empowerment that train the sadhaka to transform his or her body into a conduit through which each of the multiple forms of the Goddess are awakened and united in the encompassing totality of Tripurasundari, who is cognized as the infinite sky containing the fullness of all existence. This recognition generates and arises from a mystical recognition of the identity of self with deity-as-universe. And it is this meditative awareness that functions to bind the tantrika to the cosmos such that he or she begins to actualize the wisdom and power that are identified by the tradition as signs of spiritual accomplishment.

In the context of yogic and liturgical training the Nepalese Sarvamnaya Sakta Tantra initiate trains him or herself to view the numerous goddess temples of the Kathmandu Valley as sakta-pithas (seats of power) of the Goddess, which correspond to the cakras, the seats of power within the subtle physiology. Rooted in the theological and ritual traditions of the Agamas, the Sarvamnaya system represents geospatial landscapes as mirror images of the interior spaces encountered by the sadhaka in his or her journey to the summit of the subtle physiology. Whether journeying within or journeying without, all paths are said to converge in the singular realization that there is only one reality: the supreme Goddess, whom Sri-Vidya tantrikas call Tripurasundari

The Discourse of Power in Nepala-Mandala

In Nepal, Hindu Tantra assumes a dual nature as a system of esoteric ideologies and practices and a system of socio-political ideologies and practices. In this study I adopt the thematic of "power" as a heuristic tool for interpreting what I term the dyadic nature of Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra: (1) its esoteric function as a technology for harnessing the ontological power of the Goddess, and (2) its exoteric function as a public discourse intimately linked to socio-political productions of power that serve to incorporate, accommodate, and hierarchize the numerous religious, social, and ethnic communities of Nepal. Following Sam Gill's lead, we can term these two aspects the "thee-contingent" and "anthropo- contingent" dimensions of power, respectively.

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

My work maps both of these aspects of the discourse of power in an attempt to illumine the ways in which Nepalese Sri- Vidya Sakta Tantra - in keeping with the etymological roots of the term tantra, which derives from the root vtan (to weave) - has traditionally interwoven individuals not only with their respective understanding of objectified divinity, but also with their respective social world. Nepalese Sri- Vidya Tantra integrates individuals with deity through the complex system of ritual and yogic practices that constitute Tantric sadhana, while it interweaves individuals into the fabric of society through a variety of social, cultural, and political structures, such as rituals of state, national festivals, city layouts, and royal patronage of temples. Through these esoteric and exoteric systems of practices, the discourse of power is inscribed on the bodies of Tantric practitioners as well as on the bodies of the broader Nepalese populace who have internalized the Tantra-suffused sociocultural taxonomies of Nepala-Mandala,

Contents

Foreword - Douglas R. Brooks vii
Preface - Sthaneshwar Timalsina xiii
Acknowledgements xxi
Introduction: Tracking the Stories of Devi 1
1.The Goddess Embodied: Tripurasundari and the Tricosmos 13
2. Tantric Sadhana: Harnessing the Powers of Sakti 37
3.The Mandala-Hologram: Centres, Peripheries, and the Dance of Power 61
The Reverberating Goddess: The Kumari and the King 108
Conclusion: will the Devi's Power Be Enough? 145
Appendix A: Nityasodasikarnava: An Annotated Translation of the Mangala-Slokas in Chapters 1, 4 and 5 along with the Commentaries by Sivananda and Vidyananda 153
Appendix B: Index of Sri-Vidya Paddhatis at Nepal's National Archives 283
Appendix C: Inscriptions from Bhaktapur Tripurasundari Vidya-Pitha and Dolakha's Devikotta 333
Glossary 338
Bibliography 349
Index 372














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