Sacrificing White Goats To the Goddess

Hugh B. Urban

in Tantra

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780520230620
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936898 | DOI:
Sacrificing White Goats To the Goddess

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This chapter explores the political role of Tantra in the imaginations of the British authorities, particularly in their fears of criminal activity and the association of secret Tantric cults with revolutionary agitation. Indian revolutionaries of the early twentieth century in turn played upon and exploited those very fears, using Tantric imagery to express nationalist ideals and terrorist violence. But at the same time, the discourse surrounding Tantra also became a key part of the conceptualization of India and “Hinduism.” This chapter first looks at the paranoid fears of Tantric secrecy and violence that emerged in the colonial imagination, as can be seen in British descriptions of the goddess Kālī and the criminal gangs of the Thuggee. In the case of complex figures like Aurobindo, Kālī could symbolize both Mother India, in violent rebellion against her colonial oppressors, and the Divine Mother, seeking some kind of harmony with the West in an age of postcolonial compromise.

Keywords: Kālī; India; Tantra; cults; violence; secrecy; criminal gangs; Thuggee; Aurobindo; rebellion

Chapter.  12875 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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