• Hugh B Urban Ohio State University, Professor, Department of Comparative Studies

Palabras clave:

Sacrifice, Transgression, Eroticism, Sexuality, Gender, Women, Tantra, sacrificio, transgresión, erotismo, sexualidad, género, mujer


Este artículo analiza el tantra hindú y la adoración de la diosa en el noreste de la India. Para esto se vale de varias de las ideas de Bataille sobre el erotismo, el sacrificio y la transgresión, al tiempo que las repiensa de manera crítica. Específicamente, analiza la adoración de la diosa Kamakhya y su templo en Assam, que es venerado como uno de los más antiguos «centros de poder» o asientos de la diosa en el sur de Asia y como el centro del órgano sexual de la diosa. En muchos sentidos, el trabajo de Bataille es extremadamente útil para comprender la lógica de la transgresión y el uso de la impureza en esta tradición. Al mismo tiempo, sin embargo, este ejemplo también pone de manifiesto algunas tensiones en el trabajo de Bataille, especialmente, la cuestión de la sexualidad femenina y la representación de las mujeres. En el caso del tantra asamés, la sexualidad femenina juega un papel central e integral en los fenómenos más amplios de la transgresión, los gastos y el éxtasis en la experiencia religiosa. Como tal, se puede poner fructíferamente en diálogo con el trabajo de Bataille para una «teoría de la religión» crítica en la actualidad.

Abstract: This article examines Hindu Tantra and goddess worship in northeastern India, by using but also critically rethinking several of Bataille’s insights into eroticism, sacrifice, and transgression. Specifically, the article examines the worship of the goddess Kamakhya and her temple in Assam, which is revered as one of the oldest “power centers” or seats of the goddess in South Asia and as the locus of the goddess’s sexual organ. In many ways, Bataille’s work is extremely useful for understanding the logic of transgression and the use of impurity in this tradition. At the same time, however, this example also highlights some tensions in Bataille’s work, particularly the question of female sexuality and women’s agency. In the case of Assamese Tantra, female sexuality plays a central and integral role in the larger phenomena of transgression, expenditure, and ecstatic religious experience. As such, it can be fruitfully put into dialogue with Bataille’s work for a critical “theory of religion” today.


Biografía del autor/a

Hugh B Urban, Ohio State University, Professor, Department of Comparative Studies

PhD University of Chicago, Professor of Religious Studies and South Asian Studies and the Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Ohio State University.  He is the author of nine books, including: "Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion" (2003); "Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism" (2005); and "Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Spirituality and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement" (2016). 


Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Volume II (New York: Zone Books, 1993), p.119.

J.A. Schoterman, ed., The Yoni Tantra (Delhi: Manohar, 1980), 3.16-17.

In addition to Bataille’s own various writings on religion, such as Theory of Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1992), see also Amy Hollywood, Sensible Ecstasy: Mysticism, Sexual Difference and the Demands of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Michael Taussig, “Transgression,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp.349-364; Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007); Andrew Hussey, The Inner Scar: The Mysticism of Georges Bataille (Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000).

See Hugh B. Urban, “The Power of the Impure: Transgression, Violence and Secrecy in Bengali Shakta Tantra and Modern Western Magic,” Numen 50, no.3 (2003): 269-308; Hugh B. Urban, The Power of Tantra: Religion, Sexuality and the Politics of South Asian Studies (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), pp.68-9, 118-121.

Hussey, Inner Scar, p.65. See Bataille, The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), p.78.

Bataille, ed., Ecyclopaedia Acephalica (London: Atlas Press, 1995), p.55.

Bataille, Tears of Eros (San Francisco: City Lights, 1989), p.206. See also Jean Bruno, “Les techniques d'illumination chez Georges Bataille,” Critique 195/196 (1963): 706-721. Bruno draws many parallels between Bataille’s own unique method of meditation and Tantric practice. He suggests that Bataille achieved a “lucide somnolence” in 1938 and advanced states of samadhi like those described in the Vijnana Bhairava, a tantra from the Kashmir region, in which exterior and interior states are interchangeable (p.716). Hussey likewise argues that there is an “Oriental basis” to Bataille’s method in works from this period such as “La pratique de la joie devant la mort:” “Bataille here draws upon the cosmology of Tantric literature and in particular borrows from tantric meditative practice which aims at the annihilation of perceived chronological realizes” (Inner Scar, p.69).

Tantra is notoriously difficult to define and often misunderstood. In simplest terms, Tantra is a complex body of texts and traditions that spread throughout the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions of Asia since the 4th or 5th century. As Madeleine Biardeau suggests, perhaps the most unique feature of Tantra as a religious path is that it attempts to transform desire or kama – which is normally a source of bondage – into the supreme path to spiritual liberation. Tantra could thus be defined as a “means of harnessing kama – desire (in every sense of the word) – and all of its related values to the service of deliverance” (quoted in André Padoux, Vac: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras [Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990], p.40). See also David Gordon White, ed., Tantra in Practice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000) p.9.

Various scholars have identified Assam as the “principal center” and “birthplace” of goddess worship in South Asia and as the “tantric country par excellence;” see Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism: An Historical Sketch (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1921), p.278; Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), p.305; D.C. Sircar, The Sakta Pithas (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1973).

Material for this chapter is drawn from research in northeast India between 2000 and 2008, using sources in Sanskrit, Assamese and Bengali. Some of this material has been published in my book The Power of Tantra. For other discussions of Tantra in Assam, see Loriliai Biernacki, Renowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex, and Speech in Tantra (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); K.R. van Kooij, Worship of the Goddess according to the Kalikapurana (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972).

See Ladelle McWhorter, “Is there Sexual Difference in the Work of Georges Bataille?” International Studies in Philosophy 27, no.1 (1995): 33-41: “Despite his emphasis on radical, orgiastic sexuality, Bataille pays little if any attention to the presence, the activity and the desire of anyone who is not phallic” (p.35). See also Susan Rubin Suleiman, “Bataille in the Street: The Search for Virility in the 1930s,” Critical Inquiry 21 (1994): 61-79. Suleiman argues that Bataille had an obsession with “virility” conceived in masculine terms that “locked him into values and into a sexual politics that can only be called conformist in his time and ours” (p.79).

Urban, “Matrix of Power: Tantra, Kingship and Sacrifice in the Worship of Mother Goddess Kamakhya,” South Asia 31, no.3 (2008): 500-34.

Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (San Francisco: City Lights, 1986), p.92.

B.N. Shastri, ed., The Kalika Purana (Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1991), 39.73.

See Urban, “Matrix of Power.”

White, Kiss of the Yogini: Tantric Sex in its South Asian Contexts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p.67.

Khanna, “The Goddess-Woman Equation in the Tantras,” in Gendering the Spirit: Women, Religion and the Post-Colonial Response, ed. Durre S. Ahmed (New York: Zen Books, 2002), p.49. There is a vast literature on menstruation in India; see for example Narendra Nath Bhattacharyya, Indian Puberty Rites (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1980); Susan S. Wadley, The Powers of Tamil Women (New York: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, 1980), p.164; Frédérique Apffel Marglin, "Female Sexuality in the Hindu World," in Immaculate and Powerful: The Female in Sacred and Social Reality, ed. C. Atkinson et al (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), pp. 39-60; Sarah Caldwell, Oh Terrifying Mother: Sexuality, Violence and Worship of the Goddess Kali (New York: Oxford University Pres, 1999).

Ganga Sarma, Kamrup Kamakhya (Guwahati: Visnu Prakasan, 2002), p.23.

Ganga Sarma, Kamarupa Kamakhya: Itihasa o Dharmmamulaka (Guwahati: Visnu Prakasan, 2001), p.108

Bataille, Erotism, p.121.

Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in South India Saiva Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press), p.29.

See Urban, The Power of Tantra, chapters 1-3.

On human sacrifice in Assam, see Urban, The Power of Tantra chapter 3.

B.N. Shastri, ed., The Kalika Purana (Delhi: Nag Publishers, 1991), 55.3-6, 67.3-5; See Urban, “Matrix of Power;” Bani Kanta Kakati, Mother Goddess Kamakhya (Guwahati: Lawyer’s Book Stall, 1952), p.65.

See Urban, The Power of Tantra, chapters 2 and 3.

Madeleine Biardeau and Charles Malamoud, Le sacrifice dans l’Inde ancienne (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1976), p.146-47.

Bataille, The Accursed Share, volume I, p.59.

See Alexis Sanderson, “Purity and Power among the Brahmins of Kashmir,” in The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History, eds. Michael Carrithers, Steven Collins and Steven Lukes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp.190-216; Urban, “The Power of the Impure.”

P.C. Bagchi, ed., The Kaulajnananirnaya and Some Minor Texts of the School of Matsyendranatha (Calcutta: Metropolitan Printing and Publishing House, 1934), 16.7-8, 22.9-11. See White, Kiss of the Yogini, pp.213-15.

White, Kiss of the Yogini, p.17; see Bataille, Erotism, p.115

The metaphor of sexual union as a sacrifice can be found as early as the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, where the female body is likened to the sacrificial altar with the yoni as the blazing fire; and this metaphor recurs throughout Tantric literature. See Urban, The Power of Tantra, chapter 4.

Kaulajnananirnaya, 18.7-9. See Urban, The Power, chapters 4-5.

Hindu law books warn repeatedly of the dangers of sexual intercourse during the menstrual period; and Hindu mythological texts contain many examples of the monstrous, demonic and criminal offspring of such unions (Urban, The Power of Tantra, chapters 2-3).

Yoni Tantra, 2.16-26.

Schoterman, Introduction to Yoni Tantra, p.30.

Bataille, Erotism, 65.

Bataille, Erotism, pp.65, 116.

Sanderson, “Purity and Power,” pp.201, 199.

See among other texts Yoni Tantra, 4.28, 1.8, 4.7, 6.6-7.

Bataille, Erotism, p.115

Bataille, The Accursed Share, volume II, p.119. As McWhorter notes, transgression represents for Bataille “moments wherein the self is torn open and exposed to what is other to it. These movements may occur, for example, during religious ecstasy, extreme physical suffering, or erotic release. In these moments, individuation and identity are threatened and on some sense overcome; the boundaries between self and other tear apart or liquefy, melt away, and communication…occurs (McWhorter, “Is there Sexual Difference,” pp.37-8).

Bataille, The Accursed Share, volume II, p.183-4. See Hussey, The Inner Scar, p.67

Sanderson, “Purity and Power,” pp.201, 199.

See Dandisvami Damodara Asrama, ed., Jnanarnava Tantra (Calcutta: Navabharata, 1982), 22.30-32: “How can there be any impurity in excrement or urine? Undoubtedly, that is a false opinion. The body is born from a woman’s menstrual blood. So how can that be impure, when by means of it one attains the highest state?”

Kaulajnananirnaya, 11.27-9.

Akulavira Tantra, in Bagchi, ed., Kaulajnananirnaya 24-26.

McWhorter, “Is there Sexual Difference,” p.34. See also McWhorter, “Bataille’s Erotic Displacement of Vision: Attempts at a Feminist Reading,” in Panorama: Philosophies of the Visible, ed. Wilhelm S. Wurzer (New York: Continuum, 2002), pp.117-127.

Bataille, Erotism, p.17

Bataille, Erotism, p.18.

McWhorter, “Is there Sexual Difference,” p.40.

Yoni Tantra, 7.27.

Yoni Tantra, 1.6.

See Urban, The Power of Tantra, chapter 5.



Cómo citar

Urban, H. B. (2018). DESEO, SANGRE Y PODER – GEORGES BATAILLE Y EL ESTUDIO DEL TANTRA HINDÚ EN EL NORESTE DE LA INDIA. Biblioteca | Repositorio (Open Access) | Escuela De Tantra En España, 1, 26-48. Recuperado a partir de