Tantric centres

There is a well-known story concerning Shiva and his consort Sati (an aspect of Shakti), concerning the origin of the traditional centre of tantra. There are many versions but the following is a brief summary of its main theme. Sati was the daughter of Daksha (Prajapati). Much against the wishes of Daksha, who intensely disliked Shiva, Sati yearned for and eventually married Shiva. At a later time, Daksha held a vast worship and sacrificial ceremony (yajna) to which all the deities were invited, all that is except Shiva and Sati. Sati came to hear of this through sage Narada, and she was very angry at not being invited. .After much pleading she finally persuaded Shiva to allow her to attend. When she reached the ceremony she immediately became involved in an argument with her father regarding the non-invitation of her husband and herself. Her father said that they were not invited because Shiva was so dirty, never wore clothes, was always adorned with a number of snakes and was generally unpresentable to the other deities. Sati became so angry that she jumped into the fire and killed herself. Shiva heard of this, and in a furious mood went to the meeting, caused havoc, disrupted the sacrifice, picked up the remains of Sati’s body and flew off into the celestial regions. He caused terrific disturbances among the deities and nothing could be done to calm him down. Eventually, however, Vishnu, flying on his garuda bird, sliced Sati’s body into various pieces with a discus, the weapon with which he is associated. The different parts of the body fell in various places throughout the Indian subcontinent. The places where they fell are said to be where tantric centres subsequently grew. Of course the story is very symbolic, but we will not discuss this here.

The tantric centres are known as pithasthanas (holy places), which are considered sacred by tantric worshippers and it is said that temples to Shiva and Shakti have been erected there. The number of these holy places is not certain. Some sources say that there are 4, 50, 51, 64,108, etc. However, as a matter of interest, it is said that the following places are included in the important holy tantric centres of India: Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Brindavan (Uttar Pradesh), Kalighat (Calcutta), Amarnath (Kashmir), Mathila (Bihar), Ratanabali (Madras), Prayag (Allaha-bad), Puri (Orissa), Benares (Uttar Pradesh), Bahula (Bengal), Kamarupa (Assam), Oddiyana (in the valley of the Swat River – now in West Pakistan) and Jalandhara (between India and Tibet). There are many more; these are merely a few examples. There is much un-certainty and confusion about the actual sites and one will receive various accounts from different people. This shows that the centres are not so important with regard to practice of tantra, and that a person can create a tantric centre in his own home. Though there is some good reason for having sacred centres, the essence of tantra is surely to have one’s own sacred shrine and to worship the holy centres in one’s own body.

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