YS 120 | Women and Gender in Hindu Tantra

Available for Self-Study


Course Description

This course examines the status of women and the category of gender within in the contemporary world of Hindu Śākta Tantra (esoteric goddess traditions). We will challenge normative assumptions and categories of female practitioners and teachers by examining temple wives, guru mothers, and superwomen gurus. We will look at and discuss the complex nature of practice, ritual space, agency, community, social status, and more.

Special attention in this course will be given to an examination of a third gender—colloquially known as hijṛā in South Asia. Scholarship examining the status of women in this tradition often characterizes adherents using a simple binary of “empowered” and “exploited.” Little has been written on the hijṛās. Collectively we will examine how an overtly simplified lens of empowerment and exploitation is not an accurate representation of the varied and complex roles women and hijṛās perform in the larger world of Hindu Śākta Tantra.

Course Modules

Students Will Receive: 

  • 4 Video + Audio lectures (90 min)
  • 4 Precorded Q&A sessions (90 min)
  • 4 YS Credits
  • 12 Hours of CE credit with YA
  • Course Syllabus (PDF)
  • Weekly Readings (PDF)
  • 4 Multiple Choice Quizzes
  • Yogic Studies Certificate (PDF)
  • Access to the private Community Forum

Dr. Sravana Borkataky-Varma

Lecturer, Harvard Divinity School

Dr. Sravana Borkataky-Varma is a historian, educator, and social entrepreneur. As a historian, she studies Indian religions focusing on esoteric rituals and gender, particularly in Hinduism (Goddess Tantra). As an educator, she is currently a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School. She is on leave from her parent organization, the University of Houston where she is the Instructional Assistant Professor. In the past she has taught at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the University of Montana, Rice University, and Dalian Neusoft University, China.

There are five forthcoming book projects that Sravana is simultaneously working on: A monograph titled Divinized Divas: Superwomen, Wives, Hijṛās in Hindu Śākta Tantra, a co-written book titled The Serpent's Tale: Kuṇḍalinī and the History of an Experience, two co-edited volumes titled Living Folk Religions and Religious Responses to the Pandemic & Crises: Isolation, Survival, and #Covidchaos, and a co-edited special issue journal Digital Tantra. Her published articles can be found on sravanaspeaks.com.

As a social entrepreneur, she is the co-founder of a nonprofit, Lumen Tree Portal. Sravana invests in building communities with individuals from various faith backgrounds who believe in kindness, compassion, and fulfillment. 

Enrollment is OPEN for Self-Study

Regular Tuition


One-Time Payment

  • Lifetime access to YS 120

Regular Tuition

$88 x 2

Two Monthly Payments

  • Lifetime access to YS 120

Membership Program


Monthly Subscription

  • Access to YS 120

  • Access to all YS + BS courses—including live and future courses 

  • Access to SKT 100a + SKT 100b

This course is eligible for 12 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance

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