Matsyendranath (Macchendranath) and the origins of Tantra

matsyendra

“The folklore that crystallized around Gorakhnath bears witness not only to the tremendous impression that his magical powers made on the popular imagination but also to certain shamanic elements that confirm the archaism of the myths and symbols launched by the appearance of the Siddhas. The well-known story of the drought in Nepal has come down to us in several versions. Gorakhnath, not having been received with fitting honors in the course of a visit, shut up the clouds (or the Nagas who governed them) in a bale, sat down on it, and remained there for twelve years, lost in meditation. The King begged Avalokiteshvara (= Matsyendranath), who was living on a mountain named Kapotal (near Kamarupa), to save the country, and the saint came to Nepal; upon seeing his guru approach, Gorakhnath got up from the bale, the clouds escaped, and rain began to fall. After this service, Matsyendranath-Avalokiteshvara became the tutelary divinity of Nepal. We may note in passing that this legend clearly points to a historical fact: it was from Kamarupa (= Assam) that “Matsyendranath” brought tantrism, or more precisely, the new “revelation” of the Siddhas and Nathas, to Nepal.”

p. 311, Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009/1954).

Kamarupa is none other than Kamakhya, home of the Sri Sri Kamakhya Temple, our Mother. According to legend, Matsyendranath (also called Macchendranath) was initiated into a system related to what is now called Tantra by yoginis (female yogis) at Kamarupa (where Kamakhya is located), and that he then codified, Sanskritized, and disseminated its secrets throughout India and Nepal.

Artwork credit: SessionSpace