The Brahmayāmalatantra and early Śaiva cult of yoginīs
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The present thesis comprises a study of the Brahmayāmalatantra, a scripture of early medieval tantric or "esoteric" Śaivism, and its cult of yoginīs: flying, shapeshifting female deities whose occult powers practitioners sought in visionary, transactional encounters. Composed prior to the ninth century, and perhaps considerably earlier, this unpublished work of one-hundred and one chapters and more than 12,500 verses constitutes one of the most significant sources for the study of early Śaiva ritual and goddess cults. After introducing the text, the tradition, and the figure of the yoginī, chapters 2 and 3 review the extant literary, art-historical, and epigraphic sources concerned with yoginīs, with a focus on the background and early development of their Śaiva cult. It is within this context that the Brahmayāmala is situated. Particular problems addressed include the relationship between the yoginī cult of the Brahmayāmala and the Brahmanical Mother goddesses (mātr), the post ninth-century temples of yoginīs, early tantric Śaiva literature, and the Buddhist yoginītantras. Chapter 4 investigates the Brahmayāmala's form, textual strata, provenance, and social and geographic horizons, while chapter 5 examines the position the text articulates for itself within the Śaiva tradition. Part II of the dissertation consists of critical editions and translations of several chapters of the BraYā, which appear in print for the first time.
0320: Religious history