The Śakti of the Caṇḍālī
The 11th century Tantric text, the Yonitantra, evokes a Yantra representing the Yoni in which the central divinity is presented as Caṇḍālī, a woman belonging to what Dumont has labelled “the old prototype of the Untouchable”. Other Tantric texts ascribe the same significance to the Caṇḍāla woman or to women belonging to other low castes, most prominently the Ḍombī, the washer woman. What are the reasons behind this antinomian tribute to the lowest of low-caste women in Tantric texts? An answer to this question can be approached by a study of the representations of these castes in other literary genres. This paper will present an analysis of these literary images and on that basis address their use in Tantric texts.