However, this cult later inaugurated their own priests called jangamas, who
are regarded as incarnations of Siva. The movement has no temples except
those erected as memorials. Women have equality with men and may choose
Among the things forbidden to cult members are pride, dishonesty,
meanness, animal sacrifices, eating meat and drinking intoxicants, astrology,
child marriage, sexual licence, and cremation. The last is forbidden because
at death the devotee goes immediately to Siva and is at all times, ensured of
his protection. (The dead are buried in a sitting position facing north,
unmarried people in a reclining position).
Although Saktism and Tantrism were originally two different cultural forces,
they are now closely associated. Both are centred on the worship of the
supreme goddess Sakti as the feminisation of ‘Ultimate Reality’ (Brahman).
Thus to members of these cults god is conceived as female.
The roots of the Sakti cult go back to the prehistoric ‘Earth Cult’, the
earth being conceived as a religious form which developed into the notion of
the earth as the ‘Great Mother’. The popular Indian village tutelary goddesses
(gramadevatas) are extensions of the concept of the great Mother Goddess. A
number of other archaic elements have been assimilated into the ‘Great
Goddess’, some from India’s complex tribal cults and others from the
Dravidian and Indus civilisations. The fact that Sakti is known by so many
names shows her composite nature, which incorporates the functions of many
local and tribal goddesses. Although Saktism is closely related with Saivism,
it is nonetheless distinguishable from it.
As early as the Rig Veda the goddess ‘Vac’ represented cosmic energy,
later deified as Sakti. Similarly Indra’s consort Saci also personified divine
power. The Atharva Veda makes a brief reference to Gnas (literally ‘women’)
which suggests that the powers of nature were associated with female
energies long before the advent of Tantric teachings. The Gnas were probably
divinities belonging to the vegetal and fertility cults of non-Aryan India.
By the 7th century, in Bengal, a number of local goddess cults, including
those of Manasa, Sitala and Chandi (goddess of hunters) had been assimilated