The 64 Yogini temples in Orissa provide a glimpse into the religious occult practices from the medieval times that are still alive in Orissa’s tribal traditions and folklore. Built during the 9th century to harness the supernatural powers, only four of the architecturally distinct 64 Yogini Shrines survive in India today. Two of the temples are in Orissa – at Hirapur near Bhubaneswar (15 km), and the twin villages of Ranipur and Jharial. The other two 64 Yogini Shrines are present in Khajuraho and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.


These 64 deities carved from fine-grained gray chlorite are goddess with voluptuous figures or animal faces and shrunken skulls give the 64 Yogini Shrines its name. These goddesses in turn serve Goddess Kali (Bhairavi). The Yogini cult, an offshoot of tantric practices in India during the 9th -13th century, believed that by worshipping the 64 goddesses and the Goddess Bhairavi, they would be able to channel the destructive energies of these deities to acquire positive supernatural powers for themselves including the ability to shape shift and become invisible.

The 64 niches included the four in the recently reconstructed central pavilion acted as mini shrines for the cult. The deities are derived from the village deity such as Ramchandi, Shyamkali, Harachandi, Tarini, Viraja, Bhagavati, Durgamata, Sarala, Bhadrakali, Kamakhya, Bhabani, and Mangala who are revered by the local villagers. Together in numerical groupings of 8 especially 64, they unleash significant powers that can create and destroy mankind.

The 64 Yogini Shrine at Hirapur was built under the aegis of Bhauma and Somavamsi rulers of Orissa and is the smallest in the group. The temple is a circular structure, 30 feet in diameter, which is built of coarse sandstone and has barely 8 feet high walls containing 64 niches to house the sculptures of Yoginis or Dakinis (2 feet in height)



After reading a lot about 64-yogini temples, I decided to explore the place when I was in my hometown. Me and my husband started on the Bhubaneswar-Puri highway.. the temple is in Hirapur,15kms away from Bhubaneswar.

We found a summary on the temple near the entrance gate put up by the Archaeological survey of India

Locally known as Mahamaya Mandir, this hypaethral shrine facing the east was discovered in 1953 by Kedarnath Mahapatra of the Orissa State Museum. The circular shrine, measuring 27.4 m in circumference and 2.4 m in height, having frontal projection, resembles a Gauri-patta in appearance. Made of locally available coarse sandstone, it harbours images of Yoginis standing on different mounts, postures, and each exhibiting a distinct coiffure. The image of the ten-armed presiding deity of the pitha, worshipped as Mahamaya is the largest among the Yoginis. Whereas in the centre, exists a lately restored Chandi Mandap displaying four shaivaite figures and yoginis, the entire delicately carved imagery notable for feminine beauty is carved in Chlorite brought from elsewhere. The projected niches on the exterior of the edifice are studded with icons of Nava Katyainis made of sand-stone.

I was taken aback because it felt like much ado about nothing at that moment.When I turned around, there was a village pond outside the compound..A small temple near the gate had a statue of Gopinath (one form of Lord Vishnu) make of black Chlorite and there was a circular stone structure in midst .As I moved closer to the temple, I saw a circular stone structure with a single door made of laterite.




I went back to the board which pointed the word hypaethral. Hypaethral Temple is an ancient temple with no roof. (From the Latin hypaethrus, from Ancient Greek hupaithros hupo- under + aithr, sky, air.) It has instead a hypaethros or hypaethral opening. Constructed as a hypaethral structure, it is distinct in architecture from Orissa temple architecture.


Temple Structure and details: There are sixty yoginis on the inner wall oblong niches encircling the devi mandap. The largest statue is that of ‘Mahamaya’. The mandap is adorned with 4 chlorite statues – on the southern side, two statues of ten-armed “Swacchanda Bhairava” (Blissful fearsome Shiva) and on the eastern side, the four-armed “Ajaikapada Bhairava” (Shiva standing on one leg), and one statue of ten-armed Swacchanda Bhairava all with urdhvalinga (erect phallus or idyphallic). The western and northern faces of the mandap contain three more chlorite yoginis. The outer walls are adorned with 9 Katyayanis. Katyayani, as per Skanda Puarana, is the the mother of Skanda. So the 9 katyanis are 9 different forms of the Goddess.

Why 64 Yoginis: Watson-Crick double helical DNA model came to my mind… It was said that the tantric traditions were so hush hush and sometime grotesque, that it instilled fear in the common man.

And as the brahmanical hinduism took centerstage, many of these documents  were destroyed.
The symbol of number 64 is a product of 8 directions and replication of each one in the asthamandala/ asthaka-cakra (eight points on the cosmic circuit). This theoretic or esoteric interpretation is explained in the Agni Purana,that prescribes that one goddess must preside overe ach group of the 8 goddesses. The primordial number of eight matrikas (mother goddesses) symbolises the condensation of the cosmic rhythm, and the number 64, resulting to the emergence of the matri-chakra or matrimandala represent its expansion (purna vikas). This pattern is clear by the geometrical arrangement of the 64 Yoginis. Thus, the number eight and sixty-four are the two phases of creation. Following the framework of the AgP,4, the placement of 64 Yoginis would be arranged into an Eight-petal (lotus) Yantra where each petal places eight forms of Yogini. Each of the petals is ascribed to a specific direction; and each direction is under the control of one of the eight forms of Matrikas : Brahmi (east) , Maheshvari (southeast), Kaumari (south), Vaishnavi (southwest), Varahi (west), Aindri (northwest), Camunda(north),andNarasimhi(northeast).


Finally to end it all,its not about the size when the medieval history is concerned. This temple marks the matriachal society persisting in Odisha and the respect for tantra to attend Siddha.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful photos of your journey..

    Liked by 1 person

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