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Gandharva Tantra is an important work of the school of Shri Vidya and follows Vamakeshvari Tantra. This introduction to the Sanskrit text was written by M.S.Kaul in 1944 and is out of copyright.
Abstract of Gandharva Tantra
Unlike the Agamas, the Gandharva Tantra begins with the two stanzas, one of salutation to the Elephant-god and the other of benediction invoking the protection of the Goddess Kundalini. This fact in itself reveals that the Tantra must be more or less modern. The tradition regarding the appearance of the Tantra is that the rival sage Vishvamitra, being envious of the prophetic powers of Vasishtha, performs a difficult penance. Failing even thereby to obtain equality with Vasishtha he goes to the North and implores the help of Dattatreya who consoles him and reveals the Gandharva Tantra which he has heard from Nandikeshvara. The tantra is in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati.
It begins with the question from Parvati about Brahman, Yoga and the Body. Shiva defines the Brahman only. Thereupon Parvati thereupon enquires after some such secret lore as will enable the humanity to get release from the bondage of actions while enjoying the blessings of the earthly life. Shiva says that the Tantric lore is triune in nature as Tamasik, Rajasik, and Sattvik leading respectively to hell, heaven and emancipation. He advises that care should be taken to reject the first and informs that the subject matter of the Tantra is already revealed by Him to Krishna the son of Devaki and to Nandikeshvara. The former related it to Brahma and the latter to Pushpadanta and through him to Gandharvas. The sages received it from Brahma and Indra from Angiras and the king of the demons from Sukra. The result was that everyone became piously-minded including even Namuchi and other demons and the eternal foes of the latter, i.e. Indra and other gods lost their high positions. Brahma, pitying them went to Shiva and related the grievances of the Gods. Shiva, consequently revealed more or less the materialistic Shastras to deceive the demons. Among these are mentioned the Pashupata-Saiva, the Vaisheshika, the Nyaya, the Samkhya, the Charvakas, and the Bauddha. All the mantras also were polluted as it were with various defilements and the Tantras interpolated with doubtful passages.
In this Parvati requests Shiva to remove the doubts referred to in the first Patala regarding the Shakti lore. Shiva accedes to the request and relates the importance of the worship of Shakti as Turiya. She (Tripurasundari) is called Turiya (the fourth ) in-as-much as Kameshvari is the first. Bhagamalini the second and Vajreshvari the third. After this Shiva reveals the Mantra called Panchadasi Vidya. The same is of three parts. The first is called Vagbhava, as it imparts mystery over all forms of speech. It is read as ka e ii la hrii.m. The second goes by the name of Kamaraja and is composed of the six letters ha sa ka ha la hrii.m. The third is named Shaktibija consisting of the four letters sa ka la-hrii.m. Panchadasi in this form is known by the name of Kamaraja-vidya. The forms of the same respectively worshipped by Lopamudra, Shiva and Shakti are sa ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m; sa ha ka la hrii.m, ha sa ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m.
Then comes the Shodashi which is read as hrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m. The second form of the same is called Chintamani read as shrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m. The same Shodashi when read as hrii.m shrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m is called Saptadashi. Rajarajeshvari is read as shrii.m hrii.m klii.m sauh o.m hrii.m shrii.m ka e ii la hrii.m ha sa ka ha la hrii.m sa ka la hrii.m shrii.m hrii.m o.m sauH ai.m klii.m hrii.m shrii.m.
In the third Patala Shiva reveals the Panchami Vidya which consists of five Kutas. It is so called because the whole world consists of the five elements –Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky represented by the five Kutas respectively presided over by the Shaktis of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva. These are Kameshvari, Vajreshvari, Bhagamalini, Tripurasundari and Para. The Vidya is to be read as ka e ii la hrii.m, ha sa ka la hrii.m, ha ka ha la hrii.m, ka ha ya la hrii.m, ha ka la sa hrii.m. After this follows the description regarding the way in which the Sadhaka is to practise the Vidya and of the powers appearing as a result thereof. Ekadashaksari or the mantra of eleven letters comes last. It is read as ka la hrii.m, ka ha la hrii.m, sa ka la hrii.m.
In this Patala is given the Kavacha of Rajarajeshvari called Trailokyamohana. The sage of the Kavacha is Shiva, metre Virat, and the Goddess Mahatripurasundari. The Kavacha is said to have various kinds of efficacy which are detailed in the text. It is efficacious not only when practised but also when borne on different parts of the body after being written on a birchbark. The way of writing is that the names of the practitioner and the object of practice are written in the triangle of the Shrichakra, the Mulamantra coming at the top and around it the alphabet and around the alphabet the Kavacha.
In this Shiva describes the way in which the Shrichakra is to be drawn and the different deities are to receive their worship in the nine component parts of Shrichakra. The Shrichakra is to be drawn either on a metallic plate or the earth with red lead by the golden pen. Devi is said to have three forms, physical, mental and cognitive. The first is represented by Mudra, the second by Yantra and the third by Mantra. Mahatripura-Sundari as seated in the lap of Mahashiva is to be worshipped in the Binduchakra or the centre. The maidens forming the six limbs of Mahatripura-Sundari Sarvajna etc. as also the Datal Eternities are to receive their worship in the four sub-quarters, centre and the quarters. The fifteen Kalas or fifteen vowels are to be worshipped in the triangle, five in the right side and five in the left side and five in the base of the triangle. The Datal Eternities are to be worshipped through the medium of the lady.
Attendant Deities. The three rectangles otherwise called Trailokyamohana chakra are respectively presided over by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Buddha, and the 10 Yoginis, Anima etc. are to have their worship in the external rectangle; in the inner rectangle eight Mothers Brahmani to Mahalakshmi and in the innermost the Mudradevis Sanksobhini etc. All the Deities of the three rectangles referred to above go by the name of Prakatayoginis. In the sixteen-petalled lotus called Sarvashapuraka Chakra, Brahma and sixteen Guptayoginis Kamakarshanika etc. are to be worshipped. Eight Guptatara Yoginis and Shiva receive their worship in the eight-petalled lotus called Sarvasankshobhana. In the fourteen-sided figure called Sarvasaubhagyadayaka Chakra the sun-god and the Sampradayayoginis Sarvasankshobhini etc. get their worship. Kulakaula Yoginis and Narayana are worshipped in the outer decagon called Sarvarthasadhaka and in the inner decagon Nigarbha Yoginis. In the octagon called Sarvarogahara Chakra Rahasya Yogini Vasini etc. receive their worship. The Divinities of the weapons of Paramashiva and Mahatripura-sundari receive their worship outside the triangle. Kameshwari, Vajreshvari and Bhagamalini which are the three Shaktis respectively of Rudra, Visnu and Brahma are to be worshipped in the apex, left and right side of the triangle which is called Sarvasiddhiprada Chakra. These Shaktis are called Atirahasya Yoginis. In the centre of the triangle or the Bindu Chakra Paraparahasya Yogini Mahatripurasundari is to receive her worship. The worship of Mahatripurasundari is threefold, Para, Apara and Parapara. In the Apara the practitioner has to worship her as identical with the Kundalini in the body. In the Apara she is to receive her worship in Shrichakra with all the necessary articles of worship. The third form of worship includes both the inner and the outer aspects of the worship.
In the sixth Patala Shiva, in reply to the query made by Parvati regarding the third form of worship, gives in detail instructions for the guidance of the practitioner. These are that the practitioner should rise early in the morning, sit on the Padmasana, have the Pranayama exercise and meditate upon his Guru seated in the thousand-petalled lotus, dressed in white, having two eyes and two hands with Vara and Abhaya Mudras, with his wife sitting on the left thigh and having two hands one holding the white lotus and the other engaged in the tight embrace of her husband.
Mantra of the Guru is aim hrii.m shrii.m ha sa kha phrem, ha sa ksha ma la va ra yum, ha sa kha phrem, ha sa ksha ma la va ra im, hsauh and names of the Guru and his wife followed respectively by anandanatha padukam pujayami and ambapadukam pujayami. He should offer the objects of senses through the latter to his Guru, smell as perfume, sound as flower, touch as incense, form as lamp, flavour as Naivedya. After this comes the mention of Yoga which is defined as the unification of Jivatma and Paramatma and of the eight limbs of the Yoga and their detailed description. At the end is given the description of the centres of Kundalini in the body, i.e., Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna and the thousand-petalled lotus above them, which in turn is followed by such instructions as those for bathing, application of collyrium to the eyes and the cleaning of teeth.
In the above is given the way in which the devotee of Mahatripurasundari is to purify his body and perform the Sandhya. Bathing is said to be of three kinds as also the Sandhya. The kinds are physical, mental and psychic consisting in the purification respectively of the body, the mind and soul. In the three kinds of Sandhyas done in the morning, mid-day and evening the devotee is to meditate upon Mahatripurasundari in three forms. The Gayatri of Mahatripurasundari is given as tripurasundari vidmahe kameshvari dhimahi tannah klinnam prachodayat. Each of these twenty-four letters is said to have a peculiar colour and shape. The muttering of the same results in having release from different kinds of sins. Agni etc. are the presiding deities of these twenty-four letters. Parashurama, Menanath, Agastya, Vasishtha and Dattatreya are declared to have freed themselves from heinous crimes such as matricide etc. Every important event in the life of a practitioner is to commence with the worship of Tripurasundari and at the end of the Sandhya he is to offer a handful of water mixed with red flowers and the powder of Sandalwood to the sun under the name of Martandabhairava with the Mantra hrii.m hamsah martandabhairavaya prakashashaktisahitaya idamarghyam namo namah.