Dinnell, ‘Sāmrājyalakṣmīpīṭhikā: An Imperial Tantric Manual from Vijayanagara’ (2011)

Darry Dinnell. ‘Sāmrājyalakṣmīpīṭhikā: An Imperial Tantric Manual from Vijayanagara’. M. A. Thesis, McGill University, 2011. 142 pp. [official site]

From the Abstract

This thesis examines the Sāmrājyalakṣmīpīṭhikā, a tantric manual for kingship created during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire of early sixteenth-century South India. After establishing the plural, inclusive nature of religion at Vijayanagara in this period, this study identifies two crucial ways in which the text’s titular goddess Sāmrājyalakṣmī rewards kings who correctly propitiate her: firstly, by helping them to actualize god-like status on earth, and secondly, by allowing them to absolve themselves of sin (pāpa) without curbing their ability to perform the violence necessitated by their caste affiliation. In this way, Sāmrājyalakṣmīpīṭhikā articulates a solution to the classical Indian quandary of kingly dependence upon (and inferiority to) Brahmins, in the process offering kings unprecedented ritual power which translates directly into political power and, ultimately, universal overlordship (sāmrājya). The text provides another example of how tantric practices can be and were central to Indian society, aiding in statecraft and kingship.