History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2015: Q.7 (c)
Q.7. (c) “Tantrism, if not in practice, at least on conception level challenged patriarchy.” Examine Tantrism specially keeping in mind the above context.
Tantrism, so-called after its compositions, the Tantras, became widely practised from about the eighth century when it gradually surfaced throughout the subcontinent. It upholds a belief and practice contrary to Vedic Brahmanism.
Tantrism is often associated with five elements (panchatattva) – namely madira (alcohol), mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (physical practices), and maithuna (sexual intercourse).
Tantrism challenged patriarchy:
(1) Tantrism was open to all castes and included women in the rituals, which identified it with non-orthodox sentiment.
(2) Tantrism had three interconnected features: a higher status given to women, sexual rituals and the presence of many female deities. Women were bracketed with the sudras in the Brahmanical order, tantrism tried to raise their traditional ritual status through Tantric initiations.
(3) Tantra considers Godhead as involving the union of a masculine and feminine aspect. Energy (shakti) is conceived of as feminine and is central to the Tantric view of the Universe and liberation.
(4) Goddesses were acccorded great veneration, as is evident from the collection of legends in the Devi-mahatmya. The devi or goddess, had an individuality of her own and was worshipped for this rather that merely as a consort of a god. The symbols associated with the worship of a Devi often derived from forms of fertility worship, which is not unexpected.
(5) Women were permitted to establish their own ashramas, to act as priestesses and to teach.
Although, Tantrism has often been condemned for its more extreme activities, it seems to have been a vehicle for opposition to the brahmanical ordering of society.
Tantrism influenced Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Mother goddesses of tribal people were accommodated as Shakti in Hinduism, as Tara in Buddhism, as various forms of Yakshinis in Jainism.
It can be concluded that ”At a conceptual level, but not in terms of introducing change into social codes, Tantrism challenged patriarchy”.