India's Darkest Heart

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:
India's Darkest Heart

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This chapter explores the realm of the popular imagination, focusing on the often wildly exaggerated and exoticized image of Tantra in Victorian novels and Indian popular literature. It examines the rich confluence of Orientalist constructions, colonial paranoia, and poetic license that fed into the literary portrayals, both Eastern and Western, of the seedy Indian underworld in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tantra might be said to lie at the deepest core of this world, as “India's darkest heart.” The genre of the novel played a crucial role in the rise of nationalism, both in Europe and in the colonies, throughout the modern period. One of the most important figures in the construction of Tantra in the literary imagination—and in the modern imagining of Tantra in Western popular culture as a whole—was Sir Richard Francis Burton. This chapter also considers Tantra in the works of British women writers, as well as the works of the Bengali poet, novelist, and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore.

Keywords: Tantra; fiction; colonial paranoia; poetic license; nationalism; India; popular literature; Richard Francis Burton; women writers; Rabindranath Tagore

Chapter.  11923 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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