Rādhā Tantra and the agonies and ecstasies of studying obscure texts (TT17)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Måns Bro
Date: May 11, 2017
Time: 2.00pm – 3.00pm

The Rādhā Tantra (RT), also known as Vāsudevarahasya (Vāsudeva’s secret), is a fairly extensive, anonymous Tantric work dealing with the story of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Contrary to what the name might indicate, the RT is not a Vaiṣṇava text; rather, it is a Śākta text giving a Śākta reinterpretation of a Vaiṣṇava story. The RT is by all standards a late Tantra, written in poor Sanskrit, seldom quoted by Tantric authorities and little studied today. Plainly said, this is not an important text.

Nevertheless, in this talk, I will argue for the importance of studying such obscure texts. This I will do by taking a close look at the historical context of the RT, its fascinating manuscript history, its intertextualities and doctrines, all of which paint a vivid picture of the meeting of Śāktism and Vaiṣṇavism in 17th century Bengal. Who wrote this text, and why? Considering such questions, I argue, will not only help us understand this particular text, but also give us a larger picture of the history of religion in Bengal in general.

Dr. Måns Broo is a university researcher in comparative religion at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His main research interests include yoga – both its history and contemporary forms – and the intersections between Vaiṣṇavism and Tantrism in pre-modern Bengal. He is at present engaged in compiling a critical edition and translation of the mediaeval Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ritual compilation Haribhaktivilāsa