We have always been fascinated by esoteric aspects of religion, drawn to the mysticism of cultures and rituals. So it was not a surprise when I wanted to visit the Chausath Yogini Temple Morena during our trip to Madhya Pradesh. Also known as the Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple, this is a special place. What is more interesting is the fact that the temple resembles the Indian Parliament building.
64 yoginis have always intrigued me with its mysticism. Who are these Yoginis? Why are they 64 in numbers? What is more interesting is that these temples are exclusively dedicated to womanhood. I became enthused with these temples after our visit to the Chausath Yogini Temple in Jabalpur almost 7 years back. While I kept seeking knowledge about Yoginis and temples, it was only now that I was able to visit another Chausath Yogini Temple in India. Well, I assure you this blog is definitely not about my ramblings of the nuances of religion and temples. This blog is all about travelling to Morena and visiting the Chausath Yogini Temple at Mitawali in Madhya Pradesh.
- Where is Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple (Chausath Yogini Temple) located?
- Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
- Our trip to Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
- The Architecture of the Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
- Interesting Facts about the Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
- How to reach Chausath Yogini Temple Morena?
- Where to stay?
- Our Itinerary
- A few facts about 64 Yoginis
- Chausath Yogini Temples in India
- A Few other photographs of Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
Where is Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple (Chausath Yogini Temple) located?
The Ekattorso Mahadeva Temple is located in a quiet village named Mitawali (Mitavali or Mitaoli), situated about 40 km north of Gwalior and 15 km from the town of Morena. Madhya Pradesh has some wonderful and beautiful temples. We were visiting Khajuraho this time, but when we came to know about the temples around Morena, we had to tweak in to include these in our itinerary.
Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
According to an inscription dated 1323 AD, the Chausath Yogini Temple, Morena was built by King Devapala of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty during the 11th century. The temple was said to have been built for the purpose of imparting education in astrology and mathematics, based on the transit of the sun. Seeing the unique structure of the temple, this might be the reason for the construction of the temple.
Our trip to Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
It was an early morning with a sleepy demeanour when we started towards Morena. We had expected the trip to be enjoyable with our interest in the architecture of ancient temples. But we were not quite ready for what Morena held for us. Our first stop was the Bateshwar Temple Complex in Morena. We were not quite ready to see the wonder before us. The ruins of Bateshwar simply rendered us speechless. And with the foggy weather (though we preferred more sunlight for photography), everything felt like a dream.
After Bateshwar Temple complex, we visited the temple complex of Padawali. Interestingly, the Padawali temple was known to be the precursor of the temples of Khajuraho in terms of eroticism on stones. Our next stop was Mitawali where the Chausath Yogini temple was located.
To be honest, I was more excited about the Chausath Yogini Temple, Mitawali, for all the reasons I had stated before. Also that the temple resembles the structure of Indian Parliament made it even more intriguing. So as the foggy winter morning at Chambal Valley gradually gave way towards a sunny day, we headed towards Mitawali.
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The Chausath Yogini temple at Mitawali is situated on the top of a 30 m hillock overlooking the village and vast expanse of green fields. There is a flight of about 100 cobbled stairs that lead to the temple. Wild bushes and trees surround the temple complex, and you cannot see much from the entrance.
Once you are at the top of the hillock, you can see the circular temple. In addition to the main temple, there is also a small shrine at one end of the hill top. The shrine is placed on a raised platform having a few steps.
From the raised platform, you can have a panoramic view of the surroundings and an unobstructed view of the horizon.
The Architecture of the Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
All the Chausath Yogini Temples have a unique architecture. These temples are generally in circular structure with a main shrine in the centre, the only exception being the Chausath Yogini Temple at Khajuraho which is rectangular in shape.
The Chausath Yogini Temple in Morena also has a circular plan having a radius of about 50m. Inside the temple, the outer circular wall has 64 small chambers (Chausath means 64). These chambers have an open Mandapa with pillars and pilasters. There is a passageway or verandah along the inner circumference of the temple in front of the 64 chambers. The rooftop is flat. The chambers now house Shiva linga. Perhaps the idols or statues of Yoginis have been removed from these chambers and have been replaced by the Shiva linga.
Just in the middle, there is another circular shrine facing the east. This shrine also has a completely flat roof. The central shrine also has a Shiva Linga.
Interesting Facts about the Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
The architecture of the Chausath Yogini Temple or the Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple resembles that of the Sansad Bhavan or Parliament House Building located in Delhi. Some say that the architecture of the Parliament House has been inspired by that of the Chausath Yogini Temple. There is, however, no evidence to confirm this claim. The architects of the Parliament House, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker might have been impressed by the structure of a thousand-year-old Hindu Temple, but it is all hearsay!
The second interesting fact is that the location of the Chausath Yogini Temple falls in a Seismic Zone III region. In short, the area is prone to earthquakes all throughout the time. However, the building has remained strong and has survived the calamities of nature without any serious damage. This is attributed to its robust design and circular structure. Infact, this is another reason it is believed that the Parliament House is inspired by this temple.
There are things that you hear about a lot and want to see for yourself. The Chausath Yogini Temple at Morena is definitely one such place for us. We were prepared to be enamoured by the unique architecture of the temple, but we were definitely not ready to feel the utter sense of calm that engulfed us when we visited Mitawali.
The village through which we travelled was quiet and serene. Once we were at the top of the hill and saw around us, we were simply mesmerized. The surrounding green paddy fields interspersed by the yellow paddy fields looked straight out of a dreamland. We could see the winding roads around the village that led to some place distant. It was a total bliss.
The best thing about the temple was the simplicity of the structure. There is a beauty in symmetry and we saw that at the Chausath Yogini Temple, Morena. While we loved the beauty of symmetry at Mitawali temple, later on, we were entranced by the charm of asymmetry at Kakanmath Temple at Sihoniya. Well, that is another story for later.
How to reach Chausath Yogini Temple Morena?
The Chausath Yogini Temple Morena is located at Mitawali village in Morena district. The place is about 35 km from Gwalior and 34 km from Morena Railway Station. From
It is best to hire a car from Gwalior and visit the Bateshwar Temple Complex, Padavali and Mitawali together. If time permits you can visit Kakanmath as well.
Where to stay?
It would be better to keep Gwalior as your base and then explore the archaeological sites of Morena. We had stayed at Gwalior and then explored these places.
Alternatively, you can also stay at Morena. But we would recommend you staying at Gwalior itself.
We started from Gwalior early in the morning and wanted to visit Bateshwar Temple, Padavali and the Chausath Yogini Temple at Mitawali. We had hired a car for this trip from Gwalior and wanted to explore these places and return to Gwalior on the same day to catch our train to Khajuraho in the evening.
The Bateshwar Temple Complex was first in our list, as we were told that we can see a large number of peacocks there in the morning. Later we visited the Garh Padavali and then the Chausath Yogini Temple to Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple at Mitawali.
On the recommendation of our driver, we went to visit Kakanmath Temple as well, which according to us was the highlight of our trip. After visiting these sites, we came back to Gwalior and then caught our train to Khajuraho.
A few facts about 64 Yoginis
Well, I could not stop myself from sharing a few facts about Yoginis. This is the part where I ramble about my interest in the Yoginis and their esoteric nature and the fact how they do not conform to the accepted and known framework of religion. You can simply skip this part if this is not of your interest.
So what are Yoginis?
There is no clear definition of Yogini. A Yogini can be termed as a Goddess, or a human being or someone who practices Yoga and spirituality. She can be someone who accompanies Lord Shiva or Goddess Durga. In short, the term Yogini can have many dimensions to it. Commonly, Yoginis are related to an esoteric sect or cult. What interested me is that they do not have any typical form; they do not follow the known rules and regulations of Brahmanical Hinduism.
In the Chandi Purana, the term Yogini refers to the form of Goddess or Devi, and each Yogini was seen as a different part of the Goddess’s body. There are supposed to be eight Matrikas, who arrive with their eight attendants making the group as 64 Yoginis. Yoginis are not only worshipped as mother goddess, but they also embody the primal forces of nature and fertility.
Yoginis find mention in various old texts like Agni Purana (9th century CE), Kalika Purana (10th century CE), Skanda Purana, Chaturvarga Chintamani (13th century CE), and different tantric texts, such as Maya tantra and Kamakhya Tantra. Tantric rituals often have circular formations and Yoginis are generally associated with such rituals. Thus you can see that Yoginis do not have any definite form. They are as you think them to be. They can be anything and everything.
The Yoginis do not have any male deity accompanying them. Usually, Hindu Goddesses have their male consorts, despite being how powerful or singular they are. We always associate Goddess Durga with her consort Lord Shiva, Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Even Saraswati, the Goddess of eternal knowledge is known to be the consort of Brahma.
Yoginis, however, do not seem to have a standing consort with them. The Chausath Yogini temples do have a main temple dedicated to a male God, usually Lord Shiva or Bhairava, but the Yoginis by themselves are independent. They are placed separately from any male deity. Both architecturally and symbolically, she is on her own. She is self-sufficient.
The Yoginis defy categorization in iconography and description. They do have the attributes of the divine. The Yoginis can have a benign and serene look (Saumya) as well as a frightening one (the Rudra or Ugra). They can have multiple hands and head. She can also be therianthropic have the head of an animal or bird and the body of a woman. From their look and name, nothing about the Yoginis fit into the standard mould.
The Yoginis are worshipped in groups. Usually, we see yoginis in 64, but exceptions are also there. The Yoginis are beautiful to look at, voluptuous and enticing. The Yoginis usually blur the lines of humanity and divinity. The locals often perceive the Yoginis as human. I find the Yoginis totally fascinating. They seem to be the epitome of womanhood. They depict strength, beauty and everything feminine.
Chausath Yogini Temples in India
As I said earlier, the architecture of the Chausath Yogini temples is unique in their own way. The temples of ancient India boast of great architectural skill having elaborate mandapas, pillars and towering spires. However, Chausath Yogini temples do not conform to this rule, just like the idols they enshrine.
There are no elaborate columns and tall spires. They are generally circular and hypaethral, which means open to the skies. A few of them are rectangular as well. The statues or idols are 64 in number and worshipped in groups. There are places where there are 81 and 42 shrines, but they are also known as Chausath Yogini Temples. Here the visitor stands inside while the deities are all around them.
There are about 15 such temples in India, out of which majority are lost, either by invasion or by ravages of nature. The few standing ones are
- Chausath Yogini Temple in Morena located at Mitawali, Madhya Pradesh
- The Chausath Yogini Temple at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
- Chausath Yogini Temple at Bhedaghat, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh (dedicated to 81 Yoginis)
- Chausath Yogini Temple at Hirapur near Bhubaneswar, Odisha
- Ranipur Jharial Temple, Odisha
- Temples at Dudahi and Badoh (dedicated to 42 Yoginis)
Out of all these temples, only the ones at Hirapur and Bhedaghat have images or idols of Yoginis in the temple. The images of Yoginis at Mitawali are replaced by Shiva Linga while the Yogini temple at Khajuraho is in a state of ruin. As for the others, I have only heard of these places and am yet to see their photographs.
It is said that there are water channels running along the niches connecting the central shrine to the outer circular ones.
The Yoginis were worshipped for their magical abilities. They were believed to be very powerful deities blessing their devotees with victory and bringing downfall to anyone who angered them. The worship of Yoginis did not fall under the realm of mainstream religious practices. Perhaps this is the reason why these temples were built away from the main settlement areas.
Everything about the Yoginis and tantric practices were shrouded in mystery adding to the allure of the Yoginis. However, this enigma caused the Yoginis and the Chausath Yogini Temples to be lost in the annals of time. Over time, the temples have collapsed and the images and idols of Yoginis now find a place in the museums.
The enigma of the Yoginis remains and this is what plagues my inquisitiveness to know more about them. If you are interested in a discussion about the esoteric yoginis, drop me a mail and we can talk at length. Until then, enjoy the blog.
A Few other photographs of Chausath Yogini Temple Morena
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