Modern Hinduism is a synthesis of different currents of thoughts. The two main streams are Vedic and Tantrik. Both these streams have many sub-schools. We are more or less aware of the Vedic scriptures and philosophies. But the philosophy, practices of Tantra are relatively shrouded in mystery. But before dealing with these, we need to know the fundamental stuff - like the original home of tantra. My question is where did Tantra originate?
Tantras have all emerged from Lord Shiva and not from a particular region or race of people. And, this is quite easy to prove. Also, the mass of Agamas and Nigamas is what constitutes the Tantras.
In my Guru Gita book, i find the following verse:
Vandeham sacchidAnandam bhedAtitam srimadgurum |
Agamo nigamashchApi nirvAnashcha tridhAgamah ||
TasmAdudhritya deveshi gurugitA mayoditA | 110
I praise the Guru who is OmkAra, who is of the form of eternal knowledge, who is blissful, without attributes and magnificient. O Deveshi, Agama, Nigama and NirvAna-- These are the three types of Agamas. And, from which i have extracted and told to you, this Guru Gita, which is known to be the essence of all of them (Agamas).
Now, the translator quotes from ViswasAra Tantram, the etymologies of the words- Agama and Nigama.
For Agama it is:
Agatah shivavaktrebhyo gatancha girijAsrutau matancha vAsudevasya tasmAdagammuchyate||
That which comes from Shiva's mouth (that is spoken by Lord Shiva) goes to GirijA's ears (that is heard by Goddess PArvati) and which is approved by Vasudeva (that is Lord Vishnu) is called Agama.
So, the Tantras which are spoken by Lord Shiva are called the Agamas and not some books which were written by the Kashmiris. For the Tantrikas, the Tantras are author-less and are AptaVAkya (words of God).
And, for Nigama the Nirukti is:
Nirgatam girijAvaktrAd gatancha girishshrutau matancha vAsudevasya nigamah parikathyate ||
That which has emerged from the mouth of PArvati, goes to Shiva's ears and is approved by VAsudeva is Nigama.
NOw, very few Tantras are like that-which are spoken by Mother Goddess, but those which are are known as Nigama. In general Nigama refers to the Veda as well.
In the MahAnirvana Tantram's 1st chapter, Sri Adya also says that Lord Shiva created the Tantras:
Tvaya kritAni tantrAni jivoddhAranahetave ||
NigamAgamajAtAni bhuktimuktikarAni cha | 1-49
By Thee also have been composed for the good and liberation of men the Tantras, a mass of Agamas and Nigamas, which bestow both enjoyment and liberation, containing Mantras and Yantras and rules as to the sadhana of both Devis and Devas. By Thee, too, have been described many forms of Nyasa, such as those called srishti, sthiti (and sanghara)
Further, in KulArnava Tantram, Lord Shiva himself says that the five Amnayas (eastern, western, northern, southern and the higher ones) have all emerged from his five faces.
Mama panchamukhebhyashcha panchAmnayAh samudgatAh |
Purvashcha pashchimashchaiva dakshinashachottara stathA ||
UrdhAmnAyashcha panchaite mokshamArgAh prakirttita || 3-7
From my five faces emerged the five Amnayas. And these five Amanyas are known to be the paths of liberation (MokshamArga)
The link between the five faces and the five Amnayas are as follows:
Name of the face- Name of the Amnaya that emerged from it
SadyojAta -PurvAmnAya (some say-Pashchima),
Tathpurusha- PurvAmnaya (some say Pashichama)
And, thereafter, these Tantras are propagated among mankind through the three Guru ParamparAs- Divyaugha (the lineage of Divine Gurus), Siddhaugha (the enlightened lineage like the several Rishis) and MAnavaugha (the lineage of human Gurus)
Though it can not be said with certainty, the most likely home of Tantra was Kashmir and Bengal. Agama was originated in Kashmir and Tantra was originated in Bengal.
If you are confused between Agamas and Tantras then this might help you. Tantric texts are classified in different ways. One of the classification schemes is as follows. Tantric works of Saivas are known as Agama and works of Saktas are known as Tantra. (Vaishnava Tantra works are known as Samhitas).
The pro-Bengal and pro-Kashmir theory was proposed by Winternitz. His hypothesis was based on the following facts -
Original manuscripts of Agamas are written in Sarada script of Kashmir and Tantra manuscripts are mostly available in Bengali scripts.
From Bengal Tantra was spread to Assam, Nepal and Tibet - few of the current strongholds of Tantra.
There is another exciting line of evidence can be found in Mahanirvana Tantra where it talks about three specific kinds of fishes for some rituals which are abundantly found only in Bengal!
An anonymous Sanskrit verse is found which says Tantra was originated in Gauda (the ancient capital of Bengal).
"hy" is pronounced as "jh" in some tantric texts which is precisely the way Bengalis speak.
Many of the tantric manuscripts are discovered from Bengal. (Even a few days back one Tantrik manuscript was found from Bengal - reported in a local newspaper!).
Many of the Sakti pithas are located Bengal.
Historically Bengal was not part of the Aryavarta. The Vedic practices were introduced in Bengal in the later period. So the Non-Vedic traditions like Tantra were prevalent in this part of India. Later Vedic and Tantrik practices got merged.
Ref. Encyclopedia of Tantra written by Sadhu Santideva. Cosmo publications, India. 1999.