This book explores one of the most significant topics in the Shaiva Agamas, the doctrine of the Twelve Kalis systematically developed in the Kalikrama and its epistemological impact on the Kashmiri Shaiva tradition. The esoteric character of the early Kalikrama, directly linked to the mystical experience of the Sequence of Sun-Goddess, is not something of the mystery of the unnameable, entirely absent or lost in the parallel schools of the Kashmiri Shaiva Tradition, instead, it is acknowledged as their most significant inspiration. The doctrine of the Twelve Kalis, connected with the cult of the Kali of the Skeleton, had its origin in one of the earliest Shaiva sects, the Kapalikas, who rose into prominence in connection with the Tantric culture of the cremation grounds.
This study uncovers the earliest doctrinal background undergirding the cult of the Twelve Kalis and examines the philosophical relevance of this doctrine for Abhinavagupta, the great Kashmiri philosopher and tantric master, who in his hermeneutical exegesis known as the Trika, uniquely placed the doctrine of the Twelve Kalis to express the concept of “cognitive ritualization”, establishing it at the centre of tantric epistemology.
Addressing a wide range of historical, philosophical and ritualistic issues related to the tantric traditions of Kashmir, this book is a major contribution to the Kashmiri Shaiva studies, comparative religion and philosophy, and a fascinating account of virtually unknown tantric tradition.