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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tantra: Indian Rites of Ecstasy (1969)

This early western film documentary (filmed 1967-68) features Hindu Tantric rituals and visualisation as images and sounds from Northern India and Nepal.

Tantra (Sanskrit: तन्त्र) literally means "loom, warp, weave".

The connotation of the word tantra to mean an esoteric practice or religious ritualism is a colonial era European invention. The term is based on the metaphor of weaving, states Ron Barrett, where the Sanskrit root tan means the warping of threads on a loom. It implies "interweaving of traditions and teachings as threads" into a text, technique or practice. The aim is to experience immediate revelatory or conscious shifts in awareness through disciplinary practice; both physical and mental.

The word appears in the hymns of the Rigveda such as in 10.71, with the meaning of "warp (weaving)". It is found in many other Vedic era texts, such as in section 10.7.42 of the Atharvaveda and many Brahmanas. In these and post-Vedic texts, the contextual meaning of Tantra is that which is "principal or essential part, main point, model, framework, feature”. In the Smritis and epics of Hinduism (and Jainism), the term means "doctrine, rule, theory, method, technique or chapter" and the word appears both as a separate word and as a common suffix, such as atma-tantra meaning "doctrine or theory of Atman (soul, self)".

The term “Tantra” after about 500 BCE, in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism is a bibliographic category, just like the word Sutra (which means "sewing together", mirroring the metaphor of "weaving together" implied by Tantra). The same Buddhist texts are sometimes referred to as tantra or sutra; for example, Vairocabhisambodhi-tantra is also referred to as Vairocabhisambodhi-sutra. The various contextual meaning of the word Tantra varies with the Indian text.

Directed by Nik Douglas, Produced by Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser. Limited initial release in 1969 on college cinemas and galleries in the USA and England. Re-released in 1994 as a VHS cassette. 

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