International Journal of Hindu Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 179–194 | Cite as

Red: An Ethnographic Study of Cross-Pollination Between the Vedic and the Tantric

  • Sravana Borkataky-VarmaEmail author


This essay explores the connections between Tantric rites and those of Indian tribal religions with “blood” as the central subject. Rooted in ethnographic research in Assam, India, the essay compares the ritual of bali, animal sacrifice, as practiced in the famous śākta pīṭha, Kāmākhyā, with corresponding data gathered from the practice of bali in the indigenous Ṭiwā tribe. The ethnographic findings are further mapped to instructions on bali given in the tenth-century text Kālikāpurāṇa and the sixteenth-century text Yoginītantra to highlight these complex negotiations that have continued for centuries. The primary objective of this essay is to concretize and bring into relief some of the dynamics inherent in the ways these neighboring sacrificial traditions relate to each other, to Brāhmaṇical Sanskritic norms, to sacred space, and to recent challenges from animal rights activists. In doing so, the essay also briefly discusses the mind state of the sacrifier and the effects of the sacrifice on the community.


bali blood sacrifice Kāmākhyā Assam 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA

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