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First major exhibition in the UK focusing on the history of Tantra, a radical philosophy that transformed the religious, cultural and political landscape of India and beyond.

Charting the rise and spread of Tantra, a set of beliefs and rituals that first emerged in India around AD 500, the exhibition will explore its early medieval transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, along with its links to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture in the West.

Over 100 objects will be on display, including masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects, including four examples of some of the earliest surviving Tantras in the world, on loan from Cambridge University Library.

The exhibition will particularly explore Tantra’s radical challenge to gender norms, especially how depictions of Godesses and female Tantric practitioners transcended conventional images of womanhood as passive and docile. A number of contemporary works by female artists will also be featured, including Sutapa Biswas’ 1985 mixed media work Housewives with Steak-Knives, which evokes the Tantric goddess Kali in a modern feminist form.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Tantric ideas and imagery inspired global countercultural movements. Psychedelic posters from this time will be on show, as well as paintings, photographs and sculptures illustrating Tantra’s enduring influence in art and popular culture.

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