Saktas, the worshippers of the Sakti (q.v.), the female principle, or the divine nature in action, which is personified under different forms, according as the worshippers incline towards the adoration of Vishnu or Siva-Saraswati being the Sakti, or wife, of Brahma; Lakshmi the Sakti, or wife, of Vishnu; and Devi or Durga the Sakti, or wife, of Siva. Since Siva is the type of destruction, his energy, or wife, becomes still more the type of all that is terrific. As a consequence, her worship is based on the assumption that she can be propitiated only by practices which involve the destruction of life, and in which she herself delights. Such a worship leads to brutalism and licentiousness, and it became the worst of all forms which the various aberrations of the Hindu mind assumed. Appealing to the superstitions of the vulgar mind, it has its professors chiefly among the lowest classes. The works from which the tenets and rites of this religion are derived are known by the collective name of Tantras; but as in some of these works the ritual enjoined does not comprehend all the impure practices which are recommended in others, the sect became divided into two leading branches — the Dakshinacharins and Vamacharins, or the followers of the right- hand and left-hand ritual. The Dakshinacharins are the more respectable of the two, although they indulge in practices contrary to the Vedic ritual. The Vamacharins adopt a ritual of the grossest impurities. Their object is, by reverencing Devi, who is one with Siva, to obtain supernatural powers in this life, and to be identified after death with Siva and his consort. The worship of Sakti requires the presence of a female as the living representative and type of the goddess, and is mostly celebrated in a mixed society — the men representing Bhairava (or Siva as the Terrific), and the women Bhairavi (or Sakti as the Terrific). The ceremony generally terminated with the most scandalous orgies among the votaries. The members of the sect are very numerous, especially among the Brahminical caste. All classes are, however, admissible and equal at these ceremonies. The particular insignia of the Saktas are a semicircular line or lines on the forehead of red sanders or vermilion, or a red streak up the middle of the forehead, with a circular spot of red at the root of the nose. They use a rosary made of the seeds of the el ocarpus or of coral beads, but of no greater length than may be concealed in the hand. In worshipping they wear a piece of red silk round the loins and decorate themselves with garlands of crimson flowers. Two other sects are likewise mentioned as belonging to the Saktas, but it is doubtful whether they are still in existence. See Wilson, Sketch of Religious Sects of the Hindus, 1, 240 sq.

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