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TantraSex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion$
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Hugh Urban

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520230620

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520230620.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021

India's Darkest Heart

India's Darkest Heart

Tantra in the Literary Imagination

Chapter:
(p.106) Chapter 3 India's Darkest Heart
Source:
Tantra
Author(s):

Hugh B. Urban

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520230620.003.0004

This chapter explores the realm of the popular imagination, focusing on the often wildly exaggerated and exoticized image of Tantra in Victorian novels and Indian popular literature. It examines the rich confluence of Orientalist constructions, colonial paranoia, and poetic license that fed into the literary portrayals, both Eastern and Western, of the seedy Indian underworld in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tantra might be said to lie at the deepest core of this world, as “India's darkest heart.” The genre of the novel played a crucial role in the rise of nationalism, both in Europe and in the colonies, throughout the modern period. One of the most important figures in the construction of Tantra in the literary imagination—and in the modern imagining of Tantra in Western popular culture as a whole—was Sir Richard Francis Burton. This chapter also considers Tantra in the works of British women writers, as well as the works of the Bengali poet, novelist, and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore.

Keywords:   Tantra, fiction, colonial paranoia, poetic license, nationalism, India, popular literature, Richard Francis Burton, women writers, Rabindranath Tagore

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