A visit to the Chausath Yogini or 64 Yogini Temple near Bhedaghat at Jabalpur was completely by chance. We had a day to spare at Jabalpur after our trip to Pachmarhi. Naturally we headed towards Bhedaghat and the Marble Rocks. But unfortunately for us, boating at the Marble rocks had not yet started and we had to contain ourselves with the view of the Dhuandhar waterfalls. The 64 Yogini temple is located very near to the Dhuandhar Falls. Like most temples, this one also had a flight of stairs leading to the temple sanctuary. Our auto driver told us that it was the temple of the 64 Yogini. The name Yogini itself was enough to pique my interest. I was all ready to brave the stairs in the scorching heat to see what the temple was about.
Before going into further details about the temple, here is a brief history about it. “Yogini” formally means a female practitioner of Yoga or a term used for modern enlightened female spiritual teachers in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Alternatively, a “Yogini” is also considered to be the sacred feminine force as a sacred incarnation of Goddess Parvati. They are revered in yogini temples of India as the eight Matrikas or the sixty four yoginis. At some places, the yoginis are considered to be followers of a secret cult. Considered very powerful, yoginis were often considered to be sorceress capable of causing destruction. There is thus a secrecy and awe while discussing them.
Currently, there are 4 Chausath yogini temples in India, two of which are in Orissa at Hirapur and Ranipur. The other two are in Madhya Pradesh – one at Khajuraho and the other at Bhedaghat, Jabalpur. The 64 Yogini temple at Bhedaghat is considered to be the largest one among the four.
There are about 100 stairs leading to the temple. The temple consists of a circular structure with an inner diameter of 116 feet and an outer diameter of 131 feet having a commanding view of the neighbouring river Narmada.The temple cloister consists of 84 square pillars and has an arrangement of 81 cells and 3 entrances, two on the west and one on the south-east. It is said that this temple has 81 and not 64 yogini statues. The statues of the Yoginis stood in the cells around the periphery of the temple. The statues have all borne the ravages of time with some of the statues completely defaced and in some others, a large part of the statues were missing.
After a complete round of the temple, we headed towards the middle. It had the Gauri Shankar temple at the centre. The Gauri-Shankar temple was constructed about two centuries later, probably by queen Alhanadevi in 1155 (an inscription is found on a slab). The temple contains the stone idol of Shiva and Parvati riding a bull.
A visit at the Chausath Yogini temple compensated for the boat ride at the Marble rocks. The view from the temple was quite serene and the greenery around is soothing to the eyes. Most of the idols of the Yoginis are in various stages of demolition, but whatever remains shows the art and sculpture of that period. It is indeed so remarkable that these mud and stones speak volumes of the era that has gone!
Some useful Tips about 64 Yogini Temple:
How to reach: Jabalpur is one of the major cities of Madhya Pradesh. From Jabalpur, take a hired cab or auto to Bhedaghat. Visit the Marble Rocks and the Dhuandhar waterfalls. The Chausath Yogini temple is on the way to the Dhuandhar Falls.
Best time to visit: can be visited throughout the year. Winters are soothing. Please note that boating at Marble Rocks is closed during the monsoons. Moonlit nights are best for boating.
Places to stay: Jabalpur has a number of hotels. Madhya Pradesh tourism hotel is also available at Bhedaghat.