Meaning - Power, Capability or Effort; A primordial cosmic energy; Personification of divine feminine creative power
Tantra is a Sanskrit word which means "to weave together". The term is based on the metaphor of weaving, states Ron Barrett, where the Sanskrit root tan means the warping of threads on a loom. It implies "interweaving of traditions and teachings as threads" into a text, technique or practice. The term tantra, in the Indian traditions, also means any systematic broadly applicable "text, theory, system, method, instrument, technique or practice". The major objective of Tantra's was to spread knowledge about our true self and bring humanity out of it's ignorance. The authorship of the Tantras is credited to Lord Shiva who is believed to have granted this knowledge to his Power -the Shakti- Parvati. She, in turn, made them available to mankind. Original Tantras are divided into three main groups according to the deity chosen for worship (Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti). Thus came into existence Vaishnava, Shaiva, and Shakta Tantra respectively.
In the Tantric cosmology, the whole universe is perceived as being created, penetrated and sustained by two fundamental forces, which are permanently in a perfect, indestructible union. These forces or universal aspects are called Shiva and Shakti. Shiva and Shakti are the basics of the entire Tantra philosophy. In essence Shiva and Shakti are undifferentiated unity. They can never be separated; one cannot exist without the other. Everything that exists can be reduced to two concepts: consciousness and manifestations. Consciousness gives rise to thoughts and manifestation is the consequence of the execution of thought. This consciousness is Shiva and manifestation in Shakti. From a metaphysical point of view, the divine couple Shiva-Shakti corresponds to two essential aspects of the One: the masculine principle, which represents the abiding aspect of God, and the feminine principle, which represents Its Energy, the Force which acts in the manifested world, life itself considered at a cosmic level. Shakti here stands for the immanent aspect of the Divine, that is the act of active participation in the act of creation. This Tantric view of the Feminine in creation contributed to the orientation of the human being towards the active principles of the universe, rather than towards those of pure transcendence. Broadly speaking, Shakti is considered to be the cosmos itself – she is the embodiment of energy and dynamism, and the motivating force behind all action and existence in the material universe. Shiva is her transcendent masculine aspect, providing the divine ground of all being. “There is no Shiva without Shakti, or Shakti without Shiva. The two in themselves are One”.
As a vital cosmic force, Shakti takes many forms and names, including mother goddess, fierce warrior, and the dark goddess of destruction. In Hinduism, every god has a Shakti, or energy force. It’s one of the reasons she is worshipped by millions of people throughout India. Shakti is also known as Parvati, Durga, and Kali, She’s an archetype who you might call upon for strength, fertility, and power. You might identify with her as a powerful female figure or you might look to her as you try to repair or sustain your marriage. As Parvati, she is the wife and energy behind the Hindu god of destruction and rejuvenation Shiva. With Shiva, she produced two sons: Kumara, who conquered the demon Taraka; and Ganesha, who became the elephant-headed god of wisdom and good fortune. Parvati symbolizes fertility, marital happiness, devotion, power, and asceticism.
There once lived two brothers, Shumbh and Nishumbh who performed severe asceticism to please Brahma. They sat for 10000 years. Being pleased by the penances of the two brothers, he asked the brothers to ask for a boon. Shumbh and Nishumbh said to Brahma that no man, god, demon or deity should not be able to kill them to which Brahma gladly accepted their wish. Shumbh and Nishumbh gathered demons and created an army. Their army boasted of great warriors such as Chand and Mund, Dhumralochan and Raktabija who was so powerful that even if one drop of blood spilled on ground a new Raktabija would grow out of it with similar strength and appearance. Their army became countless and a force to strong to be forced into submission. Shumbh attacked the heavens and fought tirelessly and violently that Indra and other gods suffered a crushing defeat. Shumbh defeated all the Gods and governed their kingdoms for 1000 years with the Gods wandering lonely in the forests. Brihaspati suggested that Gods went to Himalayan mountains and worship the Supreme Goddess. The Gods departed to the Himalayas and they became all merged in the devotional worship of the Supreme Goddess and began to meditate constantly chanting the hymns perfectly. The Devi Ambika emerged and said to the Gods that she will assassinate the powerful demon Shumbh and Nishumbh. She first encountered Chand and Mund who reported to Shumbh about Devi Ambika. On hearing this, he dispatched Demon Sugriva to ask Devi to become Shumbh's wife. Ambika told him that she will marry the one who defeats her in a war. Sugriva understands, he tries to make her understand and convinces her but he fails. Sugriva conveys this to Shumbh and Nishumbh back at heaven, they were very angry and sent Dhumralochan and his demon corps of 60,000 demon forces to get Ambika and kill off her companion Kalika and the lion. Devi Ambika proved to be so strong that Dhumralochan was burnt to ashes just by her shout of defiance. Shumbh ordered Chand and Mund to go the battlefield with all of their forces to kill the Kalika and bring the Ambika to Shumbh. A dreadful fight than ensued between Kalika and Chanda. Kalika rendered Chand and Mund immobile and cut off their heads as a sacrifice. She began to be known as Chamunda. Shumbh became very angry and sent extremely powerful Raktabij. He charged towards Shakti but she hurled a Sudarshan disc which cut his head off oozing blood all over the place. From there, thousands of demon sprung equal in size and power. Ambika Devi said to the lotus-eyed Kali to lick the blood of the Raktabeej before it fell on the ground. The Goddess Chamunda, of furious strength, hearing thus the Goddess’s words began to drink the jets of blood coming out of the body of Raktabeej. Thus, all the demons, created out of the blood were devoured; then, there was left, lastly, the real Raktabij. Ambika Devi then cut him asunder into pieces by her axe and thus killed him. On hearing Raktabij's demise, Nishumbh entered the battlefield. He charged towards Ambika. Chandika cleaves Nishumbh apart and his lifeless body lay there in the battlefield. Shumbh mounted on the chariot quickly and went where the Goddess Ambika was staying but met the same demise as his brother.
Shakti is the dynamic force animating all of creation, which gives us life and moves the planets in a cosmic dance called “Lila.” This universal energy is considered feminine in nature, and is often personified as the Divine Mother or Parvati, the consort of Shiva. Shakti is extremely diverse in nature; it can both be an agent of change and destruction as well as the means to fulfill our desires and dreams. Shakti comes from the Sanskrit world Shak meaning “to be able to”. The feminine energy is flowing and dynamic. Her moves can’t be predicted or always explained with the rational mind. She is unrestricted by the social norms because she doesn’t follow any rules other than guidance coming from her heart. The feminine energy can see the possibilities that are invisible to the structured, masculine energy. Thus she can create opportunities that are in contradiction to logic and had been previously impossible. The masculine energy is stable and more predictable. Its strengths are willpower, clarity, and focus. The masculine energy likes to create structures and rules, so it knows how to apply the logic correctly. Another way to look at the masculine energy is as knowledge whereas the feminine is knowing. The knowledge is static with precise dimensions and exact design. While knowing is forever changing. It’s not a level of knowledge to be achieved because once you get there, it opens new possibilities and thus inspires you to grow further.
Feminism can be of two types; Equality feminism believes that men and women are equal and Liberation feminism have right to make decisions as any other human beings. Hinduism tends to align with liberation feminism which talks about uniqueness in every human being and doesn't measure a gender to be inferior or superior. This is reinforced by the fact that Hinduism considers all creatures same because they all are containers of soul but they are diverse in a sense that they occupy different bodies. Shaktisangama Tantra consists of following verse which is translated as follows:
"Woman is the creator of the universe, the universe is her form; woman is the foundation of the world, she is the true form of the body. In woman is the form of all things, of all that lives and moves in the world. There is no jewel rarer than woman, no condition superior to that of a woman."