New finds indicate tantric worship in South India 2000 years ago

Kondapur – New archaeological evidence indicates that the Satavahana kings who ruled parts of South India between the 3rd century BCE and 3rd century CE, practised Tantric worship. Earlier studies suggested that this region was a Buddhist site.

The excavations took place in the Kondapur region of the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. “Even though Satavahana kings were under the control of King Ashoka, who embraced Buddhism, they have also patronised Vedic religion,” said G. Maheswari, the Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Chennai Circle.

The Satavahanas trade relationship with the Roman Empire was also confirmed through finds of silver and gold-plated coins and terracotta dollars embossed with images bearing close resemblance to Roman Emperor Tiberius.

“A kaolin (lime and clay) image of a Brahmin, probably the Raja Guru, with a thick sacred thread, embracing the king, goes to show the status enjoyed by Brahmin priests. Presence of ‘pancha mathas’ and images of ‘Lajja Gowri’ clearly proves it is a Tantric cult site, where the goddess of fertility was worshipped,” said Ms. Maheswari.

Ms. Maheshwari also pointed to the presence of Images of nude women adorned with jewels, as proof of the worship of the fertility goddess. She said kings would have performed yagnas or vedic rituals and sacrificed animals to the goddess.

As per the philosophy of yoga, tantra is a method to raise the kundalini or psychic energy from the muladhara chakra or lowest energy center in the human body to the sahasrar, the highest chakra. The practice is considered to be allied to worship of goddesses and often involved using alcohol, meat and sexuality as a means to spiritual liberation.

The excavations were performed in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11 over an are of 81 acres (33 hectares) and an 11-meter-tall mound. Earlier, G. Yazdani of the erstwhile Department of Archeology of Hyderabad had concluded that this place was a Buddhist site after collecting evidence of Buddhist structures. “He had concentrated only on the peripheral areas. But excavations inside the mound have disputed his theory,” said Ms Maheswari.

The findings included sacrificial altars with ashes and animal bones, yagna kundas (sacrificial pits) made of baked bricks, terracotta bowls to offer grains to gods, coins, beads, rust-free iron nails and finely-crafted horse images.

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