|Chausathi Yogini Temple, Hirapur|
It has been a part of many cultures since ages. Of course in today’s time most of us do not believe in magic, but it still fascinates us right? In India, the earliest form of magic has its roots in Athava veda, but eventually magic or beliefs of magic grew in folklore with tantra vidya and black magic. While black magic is not really considered to be sacred in any form, tantra vidya was related to devis (Hindu Goddesses) had temples and sacred sites where believers supposedly practiced magic. With time maybe tantra vidya is gone completely, or maybe it is still practiced secretly by some people but majority of the temples have vanished with a very few exceptions. Of all the tantric temples the temples with all sixty-four devis (chausathi yogini) were even fewer and today we just know of four – two in Odisha and two in Madhya Pradesh.
|The central altar|
Last month visited one of them in Hirapur, Odisha which is just 5 kilometres away from Bhubaneshwar. Built somewhere around 9th century during Bramha Dynasty, Chausathi Yogini Temple of Hirapur is believed to be the most preserved yogini temples of India where locals still offer prayers to Goddess Durga. Due to the hypaethral structure of the temple it is believed that nature’s energies and elements were prayed to at this temple and feminine energy was worshiped too according to primordial texts, making this a pagan temple as well.
|Devi Statues with their Vahanas|
This circular limestone temple has 56 graphite devi idols cascaded in wall cavities inside the temple and 8 devis idols on the 4 sides of the central altar. All the devis are depicted with their vahanas and represent different shades of human life and feminine energy like birth, death, joy, anger, control, power etc. The central altar, though is empty as of today, it is believed that in the olden days a statue of Maha Bhairava was worshiped there, who represented Goddess Shakti (The ultimate power). The inner chakra of 8 devis is believed to represent sankoka or concentration of cosmic energy while the 64 on the other circle represent vikas or expansion of the world.
|The temple in form of Shiv Ling|
The architecture of the temple without the idols is also turned out to be equally interesting. An old man in the premises of the temple told me that the temple is actually a huge Shiva Lingam which was meant for worshiping the feminine energy of Ardhanareshwar (Half Man Half Woman avatar of Shiva). Later when I thought of what he said, it did make sense. The central altar was the lingam and the circular structure was the supporting kund. Also there was a small pond nearby, a water body which is very common around shiv temples. And after all, the shiv ling is just a representation of cosmic energy! Do you see the parallelism like I did?
|The small village pond closeby|
To know that so much thought went into creating these temples and just four of them have survived the test of time was kind of sad. The Chausathi Yogini temples, although, are one of the rarest of ancient sites of Indian History, all of them are pretty offbeat and not known to many. This temple in particular was pretty much lost in time and known only to locals till about 10 years back. In 2006, an Odishi Dancer named Pratibha Panda started a dance festival in the temple premises. After the festival was formally recognized by Odisha Government in 2010, the temple came into limelight and made its way to Odisha tourist maps. Though still offbeat and less known, the place now does see a lot of visitors from 23rd-25th of December every year – when the dance festival is held. So in case you are planning to travel to Odisha in December, you know of a place you might want to visit.
|Prayers are offered to the pond too!|
|One of the very few completely intact statues|
How to get there –
You can ask any auto or taxi to drop you at Hirapur Yogini Temple. It is 5 KM from Raja Rani Temple and a trip there can be combined with a visit to Dhauligiri or Old Bhubaneshwar. You would need maximum half an hour to explore the site. It is not advisable to go to that area post 6:00 PM.
Other Chausathi Yogini Temples.
1. Ranipur-Jharial in Balangir district, Odisha
2. Western group of temples in Khajuraho in Chhatarpur District, Madhya Pradesh
3. Chaunsath Yogini Mandir in Bhedaghat in Jabalpur district, Madhya Pradesh