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Body Building in the Hindu Tantric Tradition: The Advantages and Confusions of Scriptural Entextualization in the Worship of the Goddess Kālī”

Issue: Vol 10 No. 1-2 (2019) Special Issue: Books as Bodies and Sacred Beings

Journal: Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/post.38087


This article investigates what happens when Tantra, a Hindu esoteric system that is based on the interpretation of the human being as a living, ritualized embodiment of scripture, becomes exotericized through a devotional framework. Building upon the work of Gavin Flood, who coins the term “entextualization” to refer to the way a textual tradition is “written upon” or divinizes the human body, we chart the changes in the medieval Sanskrit Tantric tradition of internalizing the Hindu goddess Kālī when it is taken up by eighteenth-century Bengali devotional poets. What is lost when the esoteric comes out into the open?

Author: Rachel Fell McDermott

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