Tantras (Hinduism)

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Tantras ("doctrine" or "framework" or "system" [1]) refers to numerous and varied scriptures pertaining to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. The religious culture of the Tantras is essentially Hindu, and Buddhist Tantric material can be shown to have been derived from Hindu sources.[2] And although Hindu and Buddhist Tantra have many similarities from the outside, they do have some clear distinctions.[3] The rest of this article deals with Hindu Tantra. Buddhist Tantras are described in the article on Buddhist Tantras.

Classes of Hindu Tantra[edit]

The word tantra is made up by the joining (sandhi in Sanskrit) of two Sanskrit words: tanoti (expansion) and rayati (liberation). Tantra means liberation of energy and expansion of consciousness from its gross form.[4] It is a method to expand the mind and liberate the dormant potential energy, and its principles form the basis of all yogic practices. Hence, the Hindu Tantra scriptures refer to techniques for achieving a result.

The Hindu Tantras total ninety-two scriptures; of these, sixty-four[5] are purely Abheda (literally "without differentiation", or monistic), known as the Bhairava Tantras or Kashmir Śaivite Tantras, eighteen are Bhedābheda (literally "with differentiation and without differentiation" monistic or dualistic), known as the Rudra Tantras), and ten are completely Bheda (literally "differentiated" or dualistic), known as the Śiva Tantras. The latter two (Rudra Tantras and Śiva Tantras) are used by the Śaiva Siddhāntins, and thus are sometimes referred to as Shaiva Siddhanta Tantras, or Śaiva Siddhānta Āgamas.

Tantra are mainly two types Agama and Nigama. Agamas are those texts in which Goddess asked questions and the God replied. In Nigama texts God asked questions and Goddess replied. This dialogue between God and Goddess is special feature of Hinduism Tantra.


In the Nāth Tradition, legend ascribes the origin of Tantra to Dattatreya, a semi-mythological yogi and the assumed author of the Jivanmukta Gita ("Song of the liberated soul"). Matsyendranath is credited with authorship of the Kaulajñāna-nirnāya, a voluminous ninth-century tantra dealing with a host of mystical and magical subjects. This work occupies an important position in the Hindu tantric lineage, as well as in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.


In contradistinction to the Vaidik ritual, which is traditionally performed out-of-doors without any idols nor emblems, the Tantrik ritual is largely a matter of temples and idols. The Tantras are largely descriptions and specifications for the construction and maintenance of temple-structures together with their enclosed idols and lingas—an example of type of text is the Ajita Māhātantra.[6] Another function was the conservation as state-secrets of texts for use by royalty to maintain their authority through rituals directed to deities controlling the political affairs-of-state—an example of this is the Śārada-tilaka Tantra.[7]


Tantric texts are usually associated with a particular tradition and deity. The different types of Tantric literature are tantra, Āgama, saṃhitā, sūtra, upaniṣad, purāṇa, tīkā (commentaries), prakaraṇa, paddhati texts, stotram, kavaca, nighaṇṭu, koṣa and hagiographical literature. They are written in Sanskrit and in regional languages. The major textual Tantra traditions with some key exemplary texts is as follows:[8]

A Hindu Tantric Painting. India, Pahari, circa 1780-1800. Depicting from top to bottom: Shiva, Sakti, Vishnu with his conch, Brahma sprouting from his navel, and Lakshmi. Below is Harihara and four-headed Brahma. At bottom is Trimurti. All painted against a gold ground forming the stylized seed syllable Om.
  • Śaiva – Sadaśiva (Śivagama), Vāma or Tumburu, Dakṣiṇa or Bhairava
    • Kularnava Tantra
    • Amṛteṣaṭantra or Netratantra
    • Netragyanarṇava tantra
    • Niḥśvāsatattvasaṃhitā
    • Kālottārā tantra
    • Sarvajñānottārā
    • Ṣaivāgamas
    • Raudrāgamas
    • Bhairavāgamas
    • Vāma Āgamas
    • Dakṣiṇāgamas
  • Śivaśakti traditions – Yāmala (also part of Bhairava tradition)
    • Brahma yāmala
    • Rudra yāmala
    • Skanda yāmala
    • Viṣṇu yāmala
    • Yama yāmala
    • Yāyu yāmala
    • Kubera yāmala
    • Indra yāmala
A tantric form of the Hindu Goddess Kali. Folio from a book of Iconography, Nepal, 17th century.
  • ŚāktaKālī traditions (Kālī, Kālī Viṣṇu, Kāmākhyā/Kubjika, Tārā and Others), Śrīkula tradition
    • Shakta Agamas
    • Muṇḍamālātantra
    • Toḍalatantra
    • Cāmuṇḍatantra
    • Devīyāmala
    • Mādhavakula
    • Yonigahavara,
    • Kālīkulārṇava tantra
    • Kaṇkālamālinī tantra
    • Jhaṃkārakaravīra,
    • Mahākālasaṃhitā
    • Kālī tantra
    • Kālajñāna tantra
    • Kumārī tantra
    • Toḍala tantra
    • Siddhalaharī tantra
    • Niruttārā tantra
    • Kālīvilāsa tantra
    • Utpatti tantra
    • Kāmadhenu tantra
    • Nirvāṇa tantra
    • Kāmākhyā tantra
    • Tārā tantra
    • Kaula tantra
    • Matsya Sūkta / Tārā Kalpa
    • Samayā tantra
    • Vāmakeshvara tantra
    • Tantrajā tantra
    • Yoginī tantra
  • Kula - Kulamārga and Other tantras
    • Kulārṇava tantra
    • Mahānirvāṇa tantra
    • Kulacūḍāmaṇitantra
    • Kulārṇavatantra
    • Guptasādhanatantra
    • Mātṛkābhedatantra.
  • VaiṣṇavaVaikhanasas, Pancharatra, bhakti-oriented tantras of Kṛṣṇa and Rāma
    • Pāñcarātra saṃhitā texts
    • Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitā
    • Jayākhya saṃhitā
    • Pārameśvara saṃhitā
    • Pauśkara saṃhitā
    • Pādma saṃhitā
    • Nāradīya saṃhitā
    • Haṃsaparameśvara saṃhitā
    • Vaihāyasa saṃhitā
    • Śrīkālapraā saṃhitā
    • Vaikhānasa Āgamas
    • Gautamīya tantra
    • Bṛhadbrahmasaṃhitā
    • Māheśvaratantra
    • Sātvatatantra
    • Rādhātantra
    • Agastyasaṃhitā and Dāśarathīyatantra
    • Īśānasaṃhitā and Ūrdhvāṃnāyasaṃhitā
  • Mantra-śāstra - textbooks on Mantras, metaphysics of mantric sound, related practices and rituals
    • Prapañcasāra tantra and its commentaries and Ṭīkās
    • Śāradatilaka tantra by Lakṣmaṇa Deśikendra
    • Mantramuktāvali of Paramahaṃsa Pūrṇaprakāśa
    • Mantramahodadhi of Mahīdhara
    • Mantradevaprakāśikā of Viṣṇudeva
    • Mantrakamalākara of Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa
    • Mantraratnākara of Yadunātha Cakravartin
    • Mantramahārṇava of Mādhava Rāya Vaidya
    • Tantrasāra of Kṛṣṇānanda āgamvāgiśa
  • Nibandha - handbooks on ritual worship, sadhana and puja
    • Kriyākalpataru of śaktinātha Kalyānakara
    • Kaulāvalīnirṇaya of Jñānānandagiri Paramahaṃsa
    • śāktanandataraṃgiṇī of Brahmānanda Giri
    • śāktakrama of Pūrṇānanda
    • śrītattvacintāmaṇi of Pūrṇānanda
    • āgamakalpadruma of Govinda
    • āgamakalpalatikā of Yadunātha
    • āgamatattvavilāsa of Raghunātha Tarkavāgīśa, and āgamachandrikā of Rāmakṛṣṇa
    • Tantrachintāmaṇi of Navamīsiṃha
    • Prāṇatoṣiṇī of Rāmatoṣaṇa Vidyālaṃkāra
    • Śhivarahasya
    • Śaivakalpadruma
  • Saura Tantras
  • Ganapatya Tantras
  • Others – supernatural, chemistry, astrology, alchemy, etc.,


Most Hindu Tantras remain untranslated. One widely translated exception is the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, which according to Christopher Wallis, is atypical of most Tantric scriptures.[9]

Sir John Woodroffe translated the Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahānirvāna Tantra) (1913) into English along with other Tantric texts. Other tantras which have been translated into a Western language include the Malini-vijayottara tantra, the Kirana tantra, and the Parakhya Tantra.[10]

Some translation of Tantra texts

1. The Kulachudamani Tantra and

Vamkehwar Tantra ,Louise M. Finn

2. Kularnava Tantra,Paramhansa Mishra

3. Kularnava Tantra ,Ram Rahim Rai

4. Yogini Hridaya, Vraj Vallabh Dwivedi

5. Yogini Tantra by GangaVishnu ShriKrishnadas

6.Maheshwar Tantra Sarala Hindi Vyakhya Sudhakar Malaviya Chowkambha(Narada Pancrata)

7. Kamratna Tantra, Hemchandra Goswami

Tantric Texts Series Arthur Avalon (John Woodroffe)

1. Tantrabhidhanam with Bijanighantu & Mudranighantu - A Tantric Dictionary

2. Shatchakranirupanam (Serpant Power) with 2 commentaries - Taranatha Vaidyaratna

3. Prapachasaratantram (reprinted as volumes 18 & 19)

4. Kulachudamani Tantra - Girish Chandra Vedantatirtha

5. Kularnavatantram edited by Taranatha Vaidyaratna

6. Kalivilasatantram edited by Parvati Charana Tarkatirtha

7. Shrichakrasambhara edited by Kazi Dawa samdup (Buddhist Tantra)

8. Tantraraja Part 1 commentary by Subhagananda Natha

9. Karpuradistotra with intro & commentary by Vimalananda Swami

10. Kamakalavilasa of Punyananda, commentary by Natananadanatha

11. Kaula & Other Upanishads with commentaries by Bhaskararaya & others

12. Tantraraja Part 2 commentary by Subhagananda Natha

13. Mahanirvanatantram with commentary of Hariharananda Bharati

14. Kaulavalinirnayah of Jnanananda Paramahamsa

15. Brahmasamhita with commentary of Jiva Gosvami & Vishnusahasranama

16. Sharadatilakatantram of Lakshmana Desikendra with commentary Part 1

17. Sharadatilakatantram of Lakshmana Desikendra with commentary Part 2

18. Prapachasaratantram Part 1

19. Prapachasaratantram Part 2

20. Chidgaganachandrika - Swami Trivikrama Tirtha

21. Tarabhakti Sudharnava - Panchanana Bhattacharya Tarkaratna

22. Sataratna samgraha, with Sataratnollekhani - Edited by Panchanan Sastri


  1. {cite|web url="https://hareesh.org/blog/2015/6/10/definition-of-the-word-tantra"}
  2. Flood, Gavin. D. 1996. An Introduction to Hinduism. P. 158
  3. Smith, Travis. Tantra in Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Brill. pp. 168–181. ISBN 978 90 04 17893 9.
  4. "Tantra Energy Healing". Lina Tantric Healer. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  5. http://www.64tantras.com/64thantra.php (Note: As of July 2021 this link is dead and directs to a spam page.)
  6. Ajita_Mahatantra 1–18 Ajita_Mahatantra,_19-35 Ajita_Mahatantra,_36-66 Ajita_Mahatantra,_67-89
  7. S%60arada-tilaka_Tantra,_1 S%60arada-tilaka_Tantra,_2 S%60arada-tilaka_Tantra,_3-5
  8. Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay; Demystifying Tantra-III: Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava Tantras, http://indiafacts.org/demystifying-tantra-saiva-vai%E1%B9%A3%E1%B9%87ava-tantras/
  9. Wallis, Christopher; Tantra Illuminated
  10. Wallis, Christopher; Tantra Illuminated

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

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