About the Temple
Located 15 KM from Bhubaneswar along the Bhubaneswar Puri highway in Hirapur hamlet, this circular open roofed temple is a miniature architectural treasure. One of the handful Yogini temples of the country, the temple is essentially dedicated to Goddess Durga and her sixty four incarnations, hence the name Chausathi (which means sixty four) Yogini. The Chausathi Yogini or Mahamaya temple at Hirapur is the smallest and amongst the best preserved of the four yogini temples in India (2 in Odisha – the other one in Ranipur Jharial in Western Odisha & 2 in Madhya Pradesh). The posture of the Yogini’s differ in these temples, while those in Hirapur are depicted riding their respective “vahanas”(Mount) in Ranipur they are depicted in dancing posture, while in the Yogini temples of Madhya Pradesh they are in”lalitasana” (seated) posture.
The temple is believed to have been built in the 9th Century AD by Queen Hiradevi wife of King Subhakar Dev II of the Bhaumakara Dynasty. The circular open air temple was essentially a tantrik seat, Goddess Kali is the presiding deity of the temple. The circular temple walls have cavities which houses a particular incarnation of the Goddess beautifully carved in black slate stone.
The open air circular structure of the temple is in consonance with the tantrik belief of worshiping the five elements of nature – air, water, earth, fire and sky
The Legend of the Yogini’s
The Yogini cult worshiped a “Chakra” (wheel) with sixty four wheels hence the name “Chausathi Yogini” which means 64 Yogini’s. The Yogini’s define and represent the ultimate feminine power, thus they are depicted as full of vitality and vigour and embracing life rather than withdrawing from it.
The Yogini’s according to Sanskrit literature are generally perceived as attendants or incarnations of Shakti (Goddess Durga), amongst them the principled yoginis are defined as Matrikas (according to legend there are 7 matrikas which are manifestations of Goddess Durga (Shakti) they are Maheswari (from Shiva), Brahmani (from Brahma), Vaishnavi (from Vishnu), Kaumari (from warrior god Skanda), Indrani (from Indra), Barahi (from Baraha) and Chamunda (from Devi) later on two more matirkas were added they are Chandika and Mahalaxmi. ) rest of the yogini’s are said to be their offspring.
The term “Yogini” was associated with ‘Gorkshanath” cult who practiced yoga and also with females having magical powers.
One set of belief is also that since ancient Odisha and for that matter India were actually Shakti Pitha’s (seats worshiping Shakti) as can be testified by the presence of “Grama Debi” (Village deity essentially a form of Shakti) in every village of Odisha today. The Yogini temples are a consolidation of all the Grama Debi’s at a single place. The congregation was depicted as all powerful and vivacious and were followed the tantrik sect of Hinduism and Buddhism.
However historical evidence suggests that Yogini’s followed the philosophy of Yoga along with Tantra (witchcraft) and also encompassed the Yogini of Vajrayana Sect (tantrik sect) of Buddhism.
The cult flourished between 800 AD till about 1300 AD in various parts of India. One interesting aspect as with many temples associated with central India and Odisha during that time, one doesn’t find any erotic depictions in the Chausathi Yogini temples, “as the cult didn’t believe in sex as a path to salvation”.
The temple was discovered in 1953 by noted historian and academician Shri. Kedarnath Mohapatra- who was the curator of the Odisha State Museum then.
The approach road is narrow but accessible, the direction pointers at regular intervals helps to locate the temple without much fuss.