The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal

Hardcover | October 15, 2001

byHugh B. UrbanForeword byWendy Doniger

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This is a study of the Bengali Kartabhaja sect and its place in the broader movement of Tantrism, an Indian religious movement employing purposely shocking sexual language and rituals. Urban looks closely at the relationship between the rise of the Kartabhajas, who flourished at the turn ofthe 19th century, and the changing economic context of colonial Bengal. Made up of the poor lower classes laboring in the marketplaces and factories of Calcutta, the Kartabhajas represent "the underworld of the imperial city." Urban shows that their esoteric poetry and songs are in fact saturatedwith the language of the marketplace and the bazaar, which becomes for them the key metaphor used to communicate secret knowledge and mystical teachings.

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This is a study of the Bengali Kartabhaja sect and its place in the broader movement of Tantrism, an Indian religious movement employing purposely shocking sexual language and rituals. Urban looks closely at the relationship between the rise of the Kartabhajas, who flourished at the turn ofthe 19th century, and the changing economic ...

Hugh B. Urban is at Ohio State University. Wendy Doniger is at University of Chicago.

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Format:HardcoverPublished:October 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019513902X

ISBN - 13:9780195139020

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Table of Contents

A Note (or Apology) on TransliterationAbbreviationsIntroduction: Secrecy and Symbolic PowerI. The Secret Marketplace: Historical Origins and Socioeconomic Contexts1. The Underworld of the Imperial City: The Religious, Social, Economic Context of Early Colonial Bengal and the Rise of the Kartabhajas2. The Religion of Man (Manuser Dharma): The Religious Ideals and Social Vision of the KartabhajasII. The Power of Secrecy: Esoteric Discourse and Practice3. The Language of the Mint: Secrecy and Esoteric Discourse in the Kartabhajas Tradition4. The Poor Company: Mercantile Discourse and Its Deformations in the Bhaver Gita5. Secret Bodies: Physical Disciplines and Ecstatic TechniquesIII. The Liability of Secrecy: Secrecy as a Source of Scandal and Slander, Elitism and Exploitation6. The Stinking Fruit in the Garden of Love: The Katabhajas and the Ambivalent Role of "Tantra" in Colonial Bengal7. The Economics of Ecstacy: The Economic Hierarchy and Business Tactics of the Katabhajas8. The Progressive "Exotericization" and "Institutionalization" of an Esoteric TraditionConclusions and Comparative Comments: "Uninitiated Understanding"NotesSelect BibliographyIndex

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"A refreshing blend of archival and field research, history of religions, postmodernism, and postcolonial studies."-- The Journal of Religion