Tantra in India. Paulson Lectures in the Study of Religion

    In cooperation with the University of Tartu the Estonian Society for the Study of Religions is organizing the first Ivar Paulson lectures in the study of religion. This year the lectures will be held by the well-known scholar of Indian Tantra, Paolo E. Rosati. He is a distinguished scholar of Indian Tantra, in particular of its historical development in the wider social, cultural and religious context.


    Dates and location:

    02.11.2022 – 16:15-17:45 at Ülikooli 18-139: Tantra and Beyond

    03.11.2022 – 16:15-17:45 at Ülikooli 18-139: The Cult of the Goddess Kāmākhyā (Assam)

    04.11.2022 – 14:15-15:45 at Ülikooli 18-139: Blood, Sex, and Magic: The Power of the Yonipīṭha at Kāmākhyā


    Detailed descriptions of the lectures can be found below:

    Tantra and Beyond

    02.11.2022 – 16:15-17:45 at Ülikooli 18-139

    This lecture is a short introduction to Tantra as a religious phenomenon related not only to the Sanskritic élite and its textual production (such as, e.g., the highly philosophical Kashmiri Śivaism and its non-dualistic view of the universe) but also to the cross-cultural dialectic between Brahmanism and non-mainstream religions, such as tribal and folk traditions. After an analysis of the proposed definitions of Tantra in the history of the studies, the characteristics of Tantra will be point out in order to explain the problematic identification of Tantra as an univocal category because the extreme fluidity of its elements. Hence, also a differentiation between left-hand and right-hand or soft-core and hard-core Tantra emerges as a flawed attempt of classification. Finally, the controversial issue regarding the ‘birth’ of Tantra will be discussed highlighting the possibility of a multiple origin of what we call Tantra.


    The Cult of the Goddess Kāmākhyā (Assam)

    03.11.2022 – 16:15-17:45 at Ülikooli 18-139

    The mythology of the goddess Kāmākhyā was introduced in the early medieval Kālikāpurāṇa (ninth–eleventh century CE), a Śākta text that linked the yoni of Satī to the Assamese goddess Kāmākhyā. This lecture will analyse the medieval and pre-modern Purāṇas and Tantras compiled in northeastern India—focusing on their mythological accounts of the cosmogony of the yoni-pīṭha—in order to outline the intersection of Kaula-Tantra and Purāṇic elements in the formation of the Goddess’s cult at Kāmākhyā.


    Blood, Sex, and Magic: The Power of the Yonipīṭha at Kāmākhyā

    04.11.2022 – 14:15-15:45 at Ülikooli 18-139

    This lecture explores the connection between Tantra and the magic tradition of Nīlācala in Assam in order to explain the encounter between Brahmanism and magic. First, the doctrinal, ritual, and mythical background of the cult of the Goddess Kāmākhyā, whose roots go back to the esoteric sexual path of Kaula Tantra praxis will be discussed. Having traced the history to this path, which around the 10th century switched from blood sacrifice to a mystic-erotic ritual centred on the yoni-pūjā (worship of the vulva), homologizing blood offerings and erotic rituals focusing on the human body as a source of sexual fluids necessary to obtain such supernatural accomplishments (siddhis), this lecture then examines the concept of siddhi as a ‘magical power’ that can be acquired only by those belonging to the kula (clan), the only ones who know the yoni’s secret (the restricted transmission of siddhis over kula’s generations being a complement to the ideology of blood sacrifice). Finally, it considers the intersection of indigenous traditions and Brahmanical ritual praxis in Assam as the source of the peculiar cult of the yoni of Kāmākhyā. From this discussion, Assamese Tantra emerges as a religious phenomenon that crosses socio-cultural boundaries and encompasses apparently irreconcilable categories


    Paolo E. Rosati is an independent scholar based in Rome (Italy). He obtained a PhD in ‘Asian and African Studies’ (South Asian Section) from Sapienza University of Rome (2017). Since 2016 he has regularly published articles on the yoni cult at Kāmākhyā in peer-reviewed journals and collective volumes. His publications include a double special issue on Tantra for Religions of South Asia (vol. 14, nos. 1–2) and a volume (coedited with Andrea Acri) entitled, Tantra, Magic, and Vernacular Religions in Monsoon Asia: Texts, Practices, and Practitioners from the Margins (Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions). Actually, he is editing an upcoming volume Magic, the Supernatural, and Danger across Pre-Modern and Modern Monsoon Asia. Paolo’s main field of research is the medieval and pre-modern development of Assamese Tantra, although nowadays his research’s focus is expanding to the intersection of Tantra, magic, gender, and memory in the modern period.


    Ivar Paulson lectures focus on the most noteworthy topics, issues and new developments in the contemporary study of religion. Ivar Paulson (1922-1966) was known for the wide range of peoples, religious beliefs and practices he was interested in and which he studied by combining a number of different research approaches. Similarly, Paulson lectures aim to highlight and bring together some of the more significant developments from various approaches and perspectives in the contemporary study of religion.


    Statement of Estonian academic societies in relation to the crisis in Ukraine

    Estonian academic societies express their deep indignation about the military invasion of the Russian Federation into sovereign Ukraine. The current situation does not leave any space for illusions that the Putinist imperial formation might change politically and morally. Relying on our nation’s historical experience and our academic competence, we know only too well what the national chauvinism of the aggressor state and its will to suffocate peoples’ independence, self-determination and free thought mean. The wish of the current regime of the Russian Federation to assert itself but also its weakness is shown by creating festering crisis pockets on its borders. We can see that Russia will not be able not achieve much more than that in Ukraine either. Still, the war has already caused sufferings and losses to millions. We express our support to the Ukrainian academic community and wish them determination in defence of their state and democratic values.

    The great sufferings of the Ukrainian country and people are starting to bring it home to the Western welfare society how far the Russian Federation is ready to go for the sake of the ambitions of its authoritarian leaders. We are convinced that the West must show greater unity than ever before, be irreconcilable towards the aggression and jointly oppose Putinist imperialism. Currently, we can see a U-turn in the West against Kremlin’s aggressive activity. Relying on our knowledge and competence, we can contribute to the increase of social expertise in the West. Let’s do it! We are always ready to support our Ukrainian colleagues with advice and skills in our specialities and otherwise, now and in the future. Violence cannot suppress academic freedom, no matter how critical the situation is. Let’s keep and protect it!


    9 March 2022


    Estonian Academic Agricultural Society

    Estonian Academic Folklore Society

    Estonian Academic Theological Society

    Estonian Association of Engineers

    Estonian Association of Sociologists

    Estonian Biochemical Society

    Estonian Chemical Society

    Estonian Economic Association

    Estonian Geographical Society

    Estonian Learned Society in Sweden

    Estonian Mathematical Society

    Estonian Mother Tongue Society

    Estonian Musicological Society

    Estonian Naturalists’ Society

    Estonian Oriental Society

    Estonian Physical Society

    Estonian Semiotics Association

    Estonian Society for Immunology and Allergology

    Estonian Society for the Study of Religions

    Estonian Society of Human Genetics

    Estonian Society of Toxicology

    Estonian Union of the History and Philosophy of Science

    Learned Estonian Society

    Society of Estonian Areal Studies

    Supporting: University of Tartu School of Theology and Religious Studies


    Religion(s) and Power(s)

    Religion(s) and Power(s)

    Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

    October 5-6,2017

    The Lithuanian Society for the Study of Religions in cooperation with Latvian Society for the Study of Religions and Estonian Society for the Study of Religions invites proposals for its upcoming international conference “Religion(s) and Power(s)” To encourage new directions in critical research of interrelations of religion(s) and power(s) from a broad range of approaches, we are seeking proposals on a wide range of topics including:

    • Private and public religions;
    • Religions and politics;
    • Non-religion and power;
    • Religious inequalities and discrimination;
    • Religions, human rights and justice;
    • Powers of/within religions;
    • Religion and nationalism;
    • Mythology, divine kinship and power;
    • Religion and colonialism;
    • Religions and education.

    Other topics related to the conference theme are also encouraged.

    Conference paper and session proposals must be sent by April 1,2017. Please send your 250-300 word abstract and a 200-word personal bio to email:

    Important conference dates:

    June 15, 2017 – submission of conference papers and sessions proposals;
    July 1, 2017 – notification of paper/session proposal acceptance;
    July 1, 2017 – opening of registration for the conference;
    August 15, 2017 – closing of registration for the conference;
    September 1, 2017 – announcement of the conference program.

    Conference Registration Fees:

    - Members of national associations of Baltic States associations for the study of religions - 50 EUR;

    - Permanent/full-time faculty and non-affiliated participants - 80 EUR;

    - Graduate students and emeritus faculty - 50 EUR;

    - Late bird conference fee - 100 EUR.


    Symposium Places and Processes of Pilgrimage

    Symposium "Places and Processes of Pilgrimage, Past and Present" on January 11, 2017

    Join us at a symposium "Places and Processes of Pilgrimage, Past and Present" on Wednesday 11th January at 10.15. The symposium will be held in the Von Bock building (Ülikooli 16), room 214. The working language of the symposium will be English.



    Tõnno Jonuks (Estonian Literary Museum) "Pagan pilgrimages? Some thoughts about Early Modern age superstition in Estonia"
    Atko Remmel (University of Tartu)  "Pilgrimage practices in contemporary Estonia: some (peculiar?) developments"

    11:15-11:30 Coffee break

    Kristel Kivari (University of Tartu) "Crop circles in England: gateways to the web of meanings"
    Tiina Sepp (University of York, University of Tartu)  "From Canterbury to Durham: Pilgrimage to and at English cathedrals"

    12:30- 14:00 Lunch

    Lina Leparskiene (Lithuanian National Culture Center) "Our Lady of Trakai. Revival of the old cult"
    Kikee D. Bhutia (University of Tartu) "Mapping the sacred landscape of Sikkim"

    15:00-15:15 Coffee break

    15:15-16:00 Open discussion

    The symposium is organised by the Estonian Society for the Study of Religions and the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu.

    For further information contact -  Kristel Kivari -, Tiina Sepp -