A young boy in 19th-century India has conflicting religious experiences. Gopala becomes a priest at the temple of the goddess Ma Tara in Benares. Helped by the temple owner, a Vedantic guru, and a female Tantric teacher, Gopala comes to know many of the goddess' secrets. His knowledge leads to fame, and he leads a national revivalist movement. But he is dissatisfied: his own visions of enlightenment are at odds with the movement's orthodoxy. The tension between his roles as guru and movement spokesperson heightens with a deepening relationship with a young student, Govinda, who dramatically resolves the Goddess Ma Tar's secret.