REVIEW: Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution, British Museum

The British Museum’s new exhibition is filled with a dazzling array of objects to explore the philosophy that originated in medieval India.

Prepare to embrace your inner spiritual and philosophical self in this fascinating exhibition exploring the religion of Tantra and how it spread its influence across Asia.

From start to finish this thought-provoking and intelligent display offers a very detailed insight into how Tantra developed and changed, with a particular section focusing on what happened during the era of the British Empire proving to be extremely enlightening. As Indians rebelled more and more, many devotees of Tantra included, the British created a policy of fear and misinformation with regards to Tantra in a shameful way.

While many people entering this exhibition will expect there to be a strong focus on the sex element – this is not the case although there are moments in which it is referred to, the main focus is more on the life and death elements of the religion and how it could be used to gain enlightenment.

It is a complex topic to cover and at times it feels as though you need to have some understanding of the history behind Tantra before coming along, but there is plenty of reading material along the way to help put everything in context.

Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution is an exhibition that is filled with plenty of variety object wise that keeps the visitor completely invested in how the religion developed and changed. Objects on display include a drum made out of the tops of two severed skulls and a trumpet made out of a human thigh bone that reflect how closely this philosophy focuses on life and death – not just sex and yoga.

As you wonder around, the atmosphere is quiet and serene that reflects the thoughtfulness captured in the exhibition and the way in which it has been presented. It is an elegant and mystical exhibition that might be overwhelming in places but its intentions are good and it really explores the theme in detail.

Overall, Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution is an exhibition that is worth visiting if you want to understand more about this misunderstood religion – but it does help if you have some prior knowledge of its history.

By Emma Clarendon

Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution is on display at the British Museum until the 24th January 2021.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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