The initiation is the first step in tantra sastra, and there are well laid down procedures for this. This forum is out of place to discuss the associated rituals in an elaborate manner. To understand tantric concept, basic knowledge of initiation is required. Hence, only certain important procedures alone are discussed. The first step is to fix an auspicious time based on the birth chart of the disciple. Then a place is chosen for initiation and purification rites are performed for the ground. A small shed (mandapa) is erected on the ground duly covered and decorated with festoons and flowers. The size of the shed is related to the arm’s length of the sadhaka (the disciple). Normally it is five or nine arm’s length (hasta). Then Vastu god (a form of Vishnu) is first worshipped on the ground.

A square is drawn and divided into 60 parts and in each part, a god/demon is worshipped. Then food is offered to them by means of a bali. There is difference between neivedyam and bali. The former is offered to important gods and goddesses and later is offered to lower grades of gods and goddesses. The mode of offering is also different. When we discuss rituals, gradation of gods and goddesses do arise. In fact, no such difference exists. This is followed by a procedure called ‘ankurarpana’ or ‘paligai’. Certain seeds are soaked in water and allowed to sprout. On the appointed day, these sprouts are spread over five small clay pots filled up with sand, accompanied by mantras. This ritual is supposed to give auspiciousness to the entire place. Every ritual in tantra is accompanied by mantras.

The mantra that is going to be initiated to the sadhaka is also used along with other prescribed mantras for each ritual. This is one of the important differences between tantra and agama. An elevated platform is built at the north-eastern end of the mandapa. The main ritual of initiation will be done on this platform. Once the platform is constructed, it is also purified and decorated with sandal, turmeric pastes, flowers, etc. A big vessel (called kalasa) is placed with water inside, decorated with flowers, mango leaves, darba grass (some are placed in such a way that the bottom ends of the darba grasses are in touch with the water inside and their tips protruding out. This is because, darba grass is capable of absorbing and transmitting the potency of the mantras to the water, by which a ritual bath will be given to the sadhaka) and a coconut on the top of the vessel. This is called ‘poorna kumbham’. (Take a silver or copper or clay pot. Fill half of the pot with rice. Place a few mango leaves, so that they remain protruded above the mouth of the pot. Keep a coconut on top of the mango leaves. If mango leaves are not available, you can leave this. Place a coconut on the top of the kalasa. Keep some flowers over it. Change the contents as required. If such a kalasa is kept in a home, all auspiciousness will prevail). Then fire ritual starts by constructing kundas. Again the construction of the kundas depends upon the mantra that is to be initiated. The size of the kundas is related to the finger width of the sadhaka.

The important parameter in construction of the kunda is that a major portion of the kunda should be below the ground level and a very small portion is situated above the ground level. Kunda should be narrow at the bottom and broader at the top. Normally, for initiation rites, kunda of one hasta of the sadhaka is used. Then homa or havana (oblations) is performed with ghee (clarified butter) and other materials. All these decisions are taken only by the guru and the entire rite is performed by the master or guru himself. At the most, the guru may have a couple of existing disciples by his side to assist him. Once the havana is concluded, the power of the havana is transferred to the pot (kalasa) by means of darba grass. Then the disciple is given a mantra bath using the kalasa water. This mantra bath is an important aspect of any mantra initiation. At the end of these rituals, guru initiates the mantra to his disciple at the appointed time. The disciple should stay in this shed (mandapa) till he completes the number of recitations as prescribed by the guru. The disciple should follow certain daily rituals for the deity, whose mantra was initiated to him. Normally, a vow is taken to complete the prescribed number of recitations within a week or fortnight or more. During this period, the disciple should not enjoy any luxury and live on fruits and milk alone. (To be concluded)