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The Economics of EcstasyTantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal$
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Hugh B. Urban

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195139020

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019513902X.001.0001

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The Language of the Mint

The Language of the Mint

Secrecy and Esoteric Discourse in the Kartābhajā Tradition

Chapter:
(p.93) 3 The Language of the Mint
Source:
The Economics of Ecstasy
Author(s):

Hugh B. Urban (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/019513902X.003.0004

This chapter and the following two delve into the most esoteric and hidden dimensions of the Bengali Kartābhajā sect, as they explore the use of secret discourse and bodily practice. This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the cryptic songs of the Kartābhajās and their own unique form of the Tantric sandhābhāṣā(intentional language with elaborate use of imagery, metaphors, and riddles), which they called the “Language of the Mint.” This is examined not so much in terms of its professed hidden content (the usual approach), but rather in terms of form and strategies. After briefly outlining the form and content of the Mint Sayings, the chapter delves into the hermeneutic problems involved in trying to make sense of these cryptic utterances, and offers the author's own reading, based on a modified version of Bourdieu's model of symbolic capital. Finally, it looks at the problem of secrecy as played out in contemporary field research from conversations with Kartābhajā gurus.

Keywords:   Bengal, cults, hermeneutics, India, interpretation, Kartābhajās, language, secrecy, sects, Tantrism

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