Almost every Hindu philosophy except Advaita Vedanta manifests a cult aspect too. A cult is formed when a particular mode of worship develops its own unique features. Tantras are various cults with different techniques by which a devotee is lifted from the world of senses to that of the Absolute. The term tantra means ‘that by which knowledge is spread’. The theological treatises on worship of God are known as Agamas
. The doctrines on rituals and worship dealt in the agamas gave rise to the tantras. In other words the tantras are the basic books that teach the devotee the technique of worship.
The origin of the tantra can be traced to even before the Vedas. A study on the origin and development of tantrik cults would certainly reveal that each of them is a synthesis of all that was good in the various forms of sadhana
or spiritual practices which prevailed at different ages of the ancient history of India.
The five generally mentioned tantrik cults are Ganapatya
. The last three are the major cults.