On the Devīpurāṇa’s Tantric Sources and Adaptations of Tantric Ritual

Location: OCHS YouTube Channel
Speaker: Professor Shaman Hatley
Date: March 2, 2022
Time: 2.00pm – 3.00pm (GMT)

Unique among first-millennium purāṇas, the circa 8th–9th century Devīpurāṇa reveals deep familiarity with Tantric Śaivism. This lecture analyzes the Devīpurāṇa’s engagement with tantric rituals and sources, particularly the goddess-oriented Bhairavatantras, and argues that its integration of these is integral to its construction of a Śākta civic religion. The paper first outlines evidence for the Devīpurāṇa’s familiarity with Tantric Śaivism, including its first-hand knowledge of specific early tantras. The second section examines its re-purposing of tantric mantras for public ritual. Section three concerns the Devīpurāṇa’s blending of civic religion and esoteric ritual in its genre-bending descriptions of pilgrimage to Nandā and Sunandā, the Himalayan mountain-goddesses. The final section concerns how the Devīpurāṇa transformed the propitiation of yoginīs, tantric goddesses of the cremation grounds, into calendrical rituals for the benefit of the state. Far more than a collection of demon-slaying narratives, the Devīpurāṇa proves crucial for understanding the early-medieval religious landscape, and in particular, the roles of Śaiva tantric rituals and sources in the making of public Śāktism.

Prof. Shaman Hatley: is an Associate Professor of Asian Studies & Religious Studies at The University of Massachusetts Boston. Prof. Hatley specialises in Asian religions, Hinduism, Sanskrit, tantric studies, Śaivism, yoga, Hindu goddess traditions, and medieval India. His research focuses on the tantric or esoteric traditions of medieval India, especially Tantric Shaivism, and on the premodern history of Yoga. Prof. Hatley completed his PhD in 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Harunaga Isaacson, after which he taught at Concordia University, Montréal, until 2014. His publications concern goddess cults, yoga, tantric ritual, and the technical terminology of the Śaiva tantras. Currently, he is preparing a monograph on the Yoginī cults of early medieval India, and a multi-volume study and critical edition of the Brahmayāmalatantra, one of the earliest surviving works of Śaiva tantric literature focused upon goddesses.