Goddess Worship and Tantra
Majority of the Shaktas worship the Goddess with pauranic rituals. In addition, however, there is a tradition of Goddess worship developed from Tantra.
Tantras are a large collection of writings, about sixty-four in number . Tantric tradition developed in medieval period in Kashmir and Nepal as well as in Bengal and assam. Tantras take the form of a dialogue between shiva and the goddess. Tantras are surrounded by an aura of mystery and secrecy. In fact, tantric worshippers need to be initiated and learn the bija-mantra whose meaning is only revealed to the initiates by the guru who is usually a female. Tantrics can be classified into two types- one which focuses on the benevolent goddess, the tantras of sri kula, and the other which focuses non the ferocious goddess called tantras of kali kula. The tradition which developed from tantras of sri kula is known as sri vidya, which worshipped the beautiful and benevolent lalita Tripura sundari in south india and gradually merged with the Vedanta tradition. A prominent practice is the worship of young virgin girls, by both female and male worshippers.
Major feature of tantric worship is the use of yantras, which are geometric patterns of overlapping triangles, circles and squares, seen as symbolic representation of the great goddess. Centre of the yantra is occupied by the word sri and a bindu, which symbolises the very essence of the deity. Tantrism identifies shakti alphabet constitute the body of the goddess as well as the devotee. Through a ritual called nyasa, the worshipper trenfers these letters from yantra to different parts of his own body, thus transforming himself into divine.
Left hand tantra
This is the most controversial aspect of tantrism. It consists of ritual use of substances prohibited within pauranic worship. They are described as ‘five ms’ or pancham nakara. They are madya(wine),, matsya (fish), mansa (meat), mudra (parched grains), and maithuna (ritual sexual intercourse). These are prevalent in tantra of kali kula and Kashmir offerings of and Kashmir shaivism, who appease the ferocious female deities with offerings of blood, alcohol, and sexual fluids. The ritual sex between the tantric practitioners symbolises the union of shiva and shakti, which symbolises the union the male and female and polarity in the cosmos.
Animal sacrifice is a part of the cult of kali. In the legend of curga, it is mentioned that the goddess drank wine as she slayed the buffalo-demon. This myth logically reflects drinking blood of the sarcrificed animal. This practice has been barred from brahminical tradition or paurranic worship.unfortunately, even now animal sacrifice is practised iin some kali temples, although non-violence is an important aspect of Hinduism.
Samartas are those who follow the smritis, the scriptures like purana. They worship five deities-vishnu, shiva, devi, Ganesha and Surya. This tradition was introduced by adi shankaracharya. Their worship rituals are described as pauranic i.e. based on puranas. They are also knoen as panchyatana puja. The followers of smarta traditionabide by the vedic values and purity rules.