Questioner: I never imagined that Tantric Buddhist and Yogic traditions
existed in Cambodia and Thailand. Normally when we hear the words Tantra and Yoga we are
made to think of places like India, Nepal and Tibet. Was the emphasis and approach the
same among the Khmer and the Thai? Could you offer a few artifacts to whet our
Ancient Khmer society, Tantric priests ritually deflowered pre-pubescent girls between the
ages of seven and eleven. The priests themselves represented Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and
unclassifiable schools. Such rituals occurred on astrologically auspicious nights. The
sanctified vigils were conducted inside of a deflowering chamber erected from perishable
materials by the parents of the virgin girl. A jungle site was preferred. Music and feast
preceded the event.
Then when everything was quiet, dark and mysterious, the appointed priest
entered the chamber and passed the night alone with the girl. But whether he used his
finger or some other instrument, nobody ever knew, or asked. But the bodily fluids that
flowed in the process were believed to be extremely precious. They were therefore
carefully collected in a vessel together with wine and rubbed the morning after on the
foreheads of the now deflowered girls family and friends. Some even tasted it.
although these priests were proffered lavish gifts in performance of their sacred tantric
duties, etiquette restricted their performing the ritual only one time in a lunar year. (1)
Q: Do other cultures have similar attitudes?
first it strikes me as somewhat bizarre the direction in which this conversation has
turned. But in any case, in India it is said that the girls hymen is generally torn
in early girlhood by the mothers forefinger in the daily course of washing the vulva
with water.(2) But the important
point to keep in mind is that virginity itself does not seem to have been particularly
valued in Hindu society. I believe it was the same with the early Khmer and Thai as well.
Quite to the contrary, in India they believed that a virgin could never attain
Enlightenment. And according to the Baudhayana Smarta
Sutra the corpse of an unwed maiden cannot be cremated until a formal marriage
is performed?after death. This seems to
have led to the extraordinary practice of post-mortem defloration.(3) This shows that virginity, per se, did
not necessarily depend on the girls hymenal intactness, but rather on whether or not
a male had accessed her.(4)
Q: But how does this tie in with the practice of ritual defloration by
broad perspective, there seems to have been a near universal belief that men were prone to
harm in contacts with virgins, especially regarding initiatory intercourse. First of all,
hymenal blood was held to be both extremely potent and contaminating. On the other hand, a
woman untouched by the male rod, as one writer put it, was liable at the time
of defloration to flash forth a devastating aura that could ruin both a man and his
family.(5) Thus arose the need
for ritual defloration, ostensibly to safely unleash the bridled passion.
why was it done by priests?
the absorbent nature of their calling, priests and holy men were regarded as immune to the
dangerous powers that were released at the time of initiatory intercourse. But there were
other reasons too. In fact, much of the interest in deflowering virgins focused on these
very believed-to-be-released potencies themselves, which certain tantric practitioners
used for magical purposes. Deflowering virgins, then, became a prime occasion for
alchemically transmuting the girls psychic discharge into a force for the tantric
practitioners own liberation. In this way, girls were handed over to priests as
religious offerings in the spirit of dana or
dakshina (a gift to a holy person). The
Calicut kings are said to have paid such priests to deflower their newly wed
wives. Where priests were unable to meet demands, temples installed small stone linga set in stone saddles upon which virgin were
instructed to sit.(6)
(6) Ibid., 2:432.