Tantra in South Asia:
Śākta and Śaiva Religion from Kashmir

Project Leaders

Prof. Alexis Sanderson
Prof. Gavin Flood FBA
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen

Project Summary

The Sākta and Śaiva tantric traditions are found in various places in India and Nepal. They form the ritual and philosophical core of many yogic and tantric traditions and movements that were exported to the rest of the world, and they have now become part and parcel of global religious history. Thus, an understanding of the Sākta and Śaiva traditions, especially as they developed in Kashmir and beyond, is crucial for an understanding of the history of Indian religions as well as an understanding of modern yoga and tantra as it is practiced today in many places around the world.

These traditions can be traced back many centuries but until recently, tantric worship in Kashmir had been understood simply as ‘Kashmir Śaivism’, the worship of the god Śiva including all deities related to him. But it is now evident that this understanding does not suffice to describe the actual practices and forms of religion found in the texts and lived by people. At the core of Śaiva worship and Śaiva philosophy, we find that Śākta worship, or worship of the Goddess, plays a prominent role. This insight means that much in our understanding of Indian religions is about to change, and the publications included in this project will contribute to rewriting the history of Indian Religions that Professor Sanderson’s work has precipitated. 

Project Outputs

  • A multi-volume critical edition and translation of Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka by Professor Alexis Sanderson.
  • A lecture series on the Tantrāloka by Professor Alexis Sanderson at the OCHS. (Link to series)
  • Weekly Netroddyota online reading sessions by Professor Alexis Sanderson (July 2020 – July 2021).
  • A fully annotated translation of the Netratantra with an introduction in three volumes by Professor Gavin Flood, Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen, and Dr Rajan Khatiwoda to be published in the Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions series. Consultants: Professor Alexis Sanderson and Professor Diwakar Acharya.
  • Weekly Netratantra translation seminars at the OCHS in Michaelmas every year by Professor Gavin Flood and Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen for the Theology and Religion Faculty.
  • An international conference in Oxford on Śākta and Śaiva religion from Kashmir in 2025.
  • A volume on Śāktism and the Tantric Traditions (ed. Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen) in The Oxford History of Hinduism series.