This 19-minute video offers a guided tour of the British Museum’s tantra exhibition. It’s a great way to gain a sense of this centuries-old tradition, particularly in India.

Westerners often grossly misunderstand the powerful, bloodthirsty imagery of this colourful spiritual tradition. For example, figures of demonic appearance sport human remains. And you will see ritual musical instruments constructed of human bones. Both serve as potent reminders of our physical impermanence.

Fierce, dominating goddess figures stand upon male figures. They represent the female principle of wisdom overcoming the ego (the supine figure).

Enjoy this memorable tour, but don’t expect specifics about sacred sexuality. The British Museum’s tantra exhibition is on until 24 January 2021.

This Tantric Lovers pull-out poster for Oz magazine, 1968 appears in the British Museum exhibit. It features Tibetan yab-yum imagery.

British Museum's tantra

Tantric imagery inspired by British artists such as Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, who worked under the name of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, produced psychedelic posters communicating ecological and free-love ideals. By the 1960s tantra symbolised social, political and spiritual liberation, as well as a ‘cult of ecstasy’ challenging repressive attitudes to sexuality.

In the West, many people assumed that the erotic Tantric images reflected a liberal approach to sex based on pleasure rather than, or as well as, a means of attaining power and enlightenment.