Skt., cakra: Ritual Circle, Circle of Initiates
A name indicating that all participating women are veshya; i.e. ritual prostitutes. According to Bose and Haldar, who quote an unidentified Tantra, the five women are selected according to the following scheme:
devoted to the service of the king
belongs to the family
celestial prostitute(see also Devadasis)
visit sacred shrines
A ritual to be performed by initiates of the divya level only is described in the Mahanirvana Tantra. No pashu man is allowed to participate; neither is any woman who has had sexual union with a pashu or with too many vira men.
If this sounds like a new and Tantric version of the Indian caste system,
one must realize that pashu is mainly a psychological type and the two other simply two
different degrees of initiation, so they are not based on birth and can be changed.
A synonym for this ritual is Kula Puja.
Tib., kyi 'khor-lo; Circle Gathering, Assembly
Based on gana (gathering) and cakra (circle), this is a generic term for a variety of Tantric assemblies, or feasts, in which pracitioners meet to perform mantra, create and empower sacred tools and ornaments, to worship and to practice various Tantric rituals.
In general, the participants of a ganachakra ritual are an intiated adept (Guru), the (male) novice who is to be initiated, and a number of 8, 10 or 16 so-called karma mudra who engage in ritual sexuality with one or both of the men present.
Sometimes, however, as reported by Miranda Shaw throughout her excellent book Passionate Enlightenment, such assemblies consisted solely or mainly of female adepts who would only sometimes allow a male Tantric to join their celebrations and thus be initiated to the teachings of these living yoginis. Tantric literature abounds with such examples of female to male initiation, ranging from texts such as the Hevajra Tantra and personal songs to reports of pilgrims until at least the 12th century.
Often, such gatherings were held in charnel grounds, yet sometimes also at or near well known sites (pithas) dedicated to the Goddess, such as the Javalamukhi - or Kamakhya Pitha. Special forms of the gana chakra are known as bhairavi chakra, chakra puja, tattva chakra, yogini chakra and yogini gana; with the terms chakra puja and tattva chakra revealing that sexual initiations and other forms of ritual sexuality were rather common during these gatherings (see Pancha Tattva).
Skt., pancacakra; Circle of Five
A collective term for a variety of rituals similar to the Gopi Chakra (see above), but here the number of women is "limited" to five. All these rituals may include the practitioner's married wife and other family members; sometimes they are celebrated with professionals. Depending on the type of participants, and also varying according to the man's initiatory level, these rituals have different names.
What they all do have in common, as can be seen in all available depictions, is a focus of the man on all the yonis; each of which is either kissed, touched or entered. The women, changing place now and then, will not tire as easily as the man; who thus receives a sensory overload of sexual energy that he may enter the mental state known as maharaga or eroto-comatose lucidity.
According to one source, the women in this ritual are a given man’s mother, sister, daughter, and daughter-in-law, as well as his guru’s wife rather than his own.
[Banerjee, S. C. A Brief History of Tantra Literature. Calcutta, 1988. p.573]
A very different constellation is described in the following quote, translated from the Mahanirvana Tantra:
Five beautiful and most charming maidens of five different castes should be
engaged. The worshipper should offer honey, wine and meat. This is Raja Chakra. By its
influence one acquires piety, wordly gain, desire and emancipation and lives in the
celestial region for sixty-thousand years.
(Bose and Haldar, p. 144)
The authors follow this description, and that of the above deva chakra,
with the statement that these
mystic practices do not form an indispensable
part of daily or common Tantric worship and that
their efficacy is known only to
the initiated and can hardly be understood by the laity. (p. 145)
According to the Niruttara Tantra, the women worshipped in this form of the Pancha Chakra are the mother, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and the married wife of the man, who himself must be of the vira type in order to perform this ritual.
If this constellation is impossible, one or more of these women may be replaced by hiring veshya.