> Beware of the left; the cult of Shakthi. >
Today tantra has spread widely in the western countries also. Not only in spiritual and yoga circle but in painting and music also it has gained worldwide influence. Though the origin of tantra is in India, apart from Indian painters and those from the Eastern countries where tantra has existed from ancient times, European and American painters also have been creating traditional and modern tantric painting on the basis of hindu tantra. Similarly on the basis of tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist tantra and the Chinese tantra of Taoism also paintings are being created. As Shahraj is an Indian and he mostly creates hindu tantra here we have to focus on hindu religious tantra.
Hindu tanta predates aryanization, otherwise called hindutva, and aryan migration to India. In the archeological studies of Harappa and Mohanjodaro which belong to the Indus valley civilizasion traces of the dominance of Shiva - Shakthi worship and Linka - Yoni worship can be seen. Rudra of the ancient Dravidian civilization predates the vedic period. The immigrant Aryans because of their inability to erase the form of Rudra adopted it as Shiva. Later, Buddhism which rose against brahminism was also sought to be destroyed and because of their failure to do so they showed Buddha as the ninth avathar of Vishnu. This politics of aryanization also needs to be remembered.
Hindu tantra has its bases in kundalini yoga and Shiva - Shakthi worship. It is well known that among those who follow non-tantric general way of worship, those who give primary importance to Shiva and a secondary place to Shakthi are known as Saivites and those who give primary importance to Shakthi / Kali and consider Shiva secondary are called Shakthas. There are such religious sects in tantra also. According to this clarification, the sect that follows Shakthi worship is called 'vama marga' or 'koula marga'. It is also known as 'left marga'. as per the theories of yoga and tantra the left part of the body in both male and female contain female energy. Hence the name left marga. Similarly tantra which worships Shiva is 'dhakshina marga'. It is also called 'right marga'. In both the male and female the right side of the body belongs to the male energy. Hence its name right marga.
Right (dhakshina) marga which practices Shiva worship has a moderate approch. Raising kundalini and achieving ecstasy and divine state* through the practice of yoga are its objectives. There are no occult rituals in it. It practises only worshipes. This forms a part of white magic. Left (vama/koula) marga which practises Shakthi / Kali and Bhairavi worship has an extreme tendancy. Their practisesis to achieve ecstacy and godliness through maidhuna (sex rituals). This religious sect is known for wandering naked, performing sex rituals, eating meat, drinking alcohol, using drugs, giving animal and human sacrifices, eating the flesh of corpses, meditating amidst corpses in cremation grounds, wearing bones and skulls and performing occult rituals to get magical powers. This forms a part of black magic.
Tamil Siddhas and Kashmiri Pandits belong to dhakshina (right) marga and sects like Agoris, Kapalikas, Kaulas and the like belong to vama (left) marga.
Left marga rejects ascetic life and follows the path of mystisism. Its central principle is that one can reach Moksha (liberation) even after indulging in mundane life. As if to manifest this principle, it performs a ritual known as 'pancha mahara' (five 'M's) . Pancha mahara are madhyam (alcohal), mamsa (meat), matsya (fish), mudra (fried grain) and maidhuna (sex ritual).
Vamachara tantra operates aginst the main stream. Which is generally said that as against to Veda, it does not reject whole of the Vedas. It accept the sublime ideas and the great truths of the Vedas. It opposes inequalities, moral values, orthodox observances and the like. So generally it belongs to low class people and oppressed castes. So it is hated and rejected by the upper class people, particularly orthodox brahmins.
The modern tantric paintings of Shahraj are based on the religious doctrine of vamachara, a left marga. A tantric painter, who has taken his resourses from the anti-poet in him, practising left marga is not surprising. Moreover as he is an atheist even now, only this can be appropriate.
" I am a Shaktha, but not as it is in general or tantric sect. It is only on the basis of ideology. As a spiritual sciencist my Shakthi worship is only perceiving and expressing the cosmic energy which pervades all places and things. There is spiritualism and also science in this. If we look merely from a scientific perspective, this Shakthi will remain only as atoms and molecules. I am only a 'sciencist' and not a scientist. Moreover I am basically a creator. Science can be used in art (whether it is poetry or painting). But it needs the support of spiritualism. That is why I use as they are the forms of god, other metophors and symbols which in hinduism are the embodiment of kundalini energy the cosmic power, the creative, protective and destructive energies which are the trinity sources of cosmic existence and satva, rajo and tamo gunas, the basic qualities found in all beings even if they lack life and form"
-- says Shahraj.
These contemporary tantric paintings are not mere illustrations of tantra. These creations depend on the mysticism experienced by the metaphysical mind, spiritual visions, the realities based on science and psychology and creative fantacies. These multi-layered paintings which require ten to thirty minutes of explanation have deeper meaning. They emphasise spiritual awakening. They have innate transcendental meditative quality.
But, at first look, they create intense shock in those who are not familiar with tantra. Nude figures of gods and goddesses (Shiva - Shakthi / Kali ), sexual dipictions and sex images, particularly those of Shiva's skull, Shakthi / Kali's yoni eyes, yoni lotus, breasts of the moon, breast horns etc., are the cause of this shock. After viewing a couple of such paintings, Jeevan Kumar Vishvakarma, a close young relative of Shahraj as well as the designer of this website commented, "An agori in the world of art!"
Shahraj says that this single line evaluation is absolutely correct.
"Gora means darkness. Agora means removing darkness. Agori means one who dispels darkness and brings in light. On this basis I am certainly an agori. Even now there is darkness of ignorance in the minds of the people. As the Tamil Siddhas say these people without being aware of the godli-state within them, worship external idols of god. My paintings and I bring to light the gods within all human beings. What the dhakshinachara Siddhas did in their songs I, who belong to vamachara, am doing in my paintings to suit the contemporary period.
"Otherwise there is no need for me to say that nudity of gods and sexual dipictions are not new to hinduism. Not only in Kajuraho, but all over india in the towers and all other parts of number of Shiva and Vaishnava temples except the sanctum sanctorum showing gods sexual play postures of tantric sculptures and mortar statues which fare exceed hardcore sex depictions can be seen. Hinduism does not consider sex a forbidden fruit. Through sex ecstacy and godliness can be achieved. Also it comple that it to be attain. It is very foundation of tantra and Shaktha. Shaivam is nothing but placing the penis (linga) and the vulva (yoni-peetam) in the sanctum sanctorum and worshipping them. I am not drawing anything absent in or contrary to religion. I have only made the practises of tantra scientifically and psychologically suitable to the contemporary period and deepened its inner meaning."
It is true! When vamachara marga is based on nudity and sex rituals how can its paintings be different? The modern tantric paintings of Shahraj should be viewed in the same manner as you view the nude and sexually explicit statues in temples. If you see in them only nudity and sex it means that only these exist within you. If you can go beyond it and see the inner truth it means that visions have started within you.
* Divine state is of four kinds:
1. Salokyam - living in the world of god
2. Samipyam - remaining near god
3. Sarupyam - obtaining divine form
4. Sayujyam - mingling with god