Religions of South Asia, Vol 7, No 1-3 (2013)

Dark Shades of Power: The Crow in Hindu and Tantric Religious Traditions

Xenia Zeiler
Issued Date: 8 Oct 2013


The crow is subject to intricate symbolism in religious traditions worldwide. In mythology, crows are very often understood to be wise and cunning on the one hand and dangerous and inauspicious on the other. This highly ambivalent character dominates the crows’ representation in South Asia. But while crows as birds only play a secondary role in classic Hindu mythology, they are of particular interest in Tantric narratives and Tantric rituals. In the general Hindu context, the crow is often stereotyped as inauspicious and its role limited to that of vāhana (vehicle of a deity). Conversely, in Tantric ritual manuals, the crow’s sphere of influence is based on a broader concept. Such scriptures imply ominous and ‘dark’ aspects of agency in crows, but they do so in a strikingly different way than Hindu classic mythology. Tantra emphasise an ambivalent potential in crows as beneficial to certain rituals and occasionally incorporate a ‘crow potency’ in ritual instructions. This article discusses the role of the crow in certain Tantric rituals and mythologies and analyses its relation with inauspicious, ominous, deities.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v7i1-3.212


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