Chausath Yogini Temple

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Time Required: 1-2 hours

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7:00 AM - 8:30 PM

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Chausath Yogini Temple, Jabalpur Overview

Located at an hour's drive away from Jabalpur, history has to offer one of its oldest religious sites - the Chausath Yogini Temple near Bhedaghat region. Chausath translates to sixty-four in English and the name has a direct relation to the structure of the temple. There are exactly 64 carved figures of Yoginis, each one in her own designated shrine, skirting the inner wall of the circular premises of the temple. As a bonus, the panoramic view of the mighty Narmada from the high open courtyard presents to you a lovely scene to be captured in the camera as well as to be remembered in the mind.

Built by the not-so-famous Kalachuri dynasty way back in the 10th century, Chausath Yogini has seen powers rise and fall uncountable times. However, some of them were not so good for the temple, as its construction suffered severe blows from Muslim rulers in later centuries who were determined to wipe away any reminiscence of Hinduism. However, this temple has stood the test of time and religious hatred and is now a favourite historical retreat for travellers.

Once you climb the 150-something stairs up to the central area, you get a prolific idea of 10th-century central Indian architecture as well the significance of Yoga tantric beliefs. This is also the only place where you will find the grandest couple of Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati riding the symbolic Nandi Bull. The idols of Shiv-Parvati stand in the Gauri-Shankar temple in the centre which is believed to be built at a later time than the original temple with Yoginis.

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You will not hear of many Yogini temples around you. That is because there indeed are very few. The concept of Yogini is a complex one. One could say they are manifestations of the Supreme Goddess Adi Shakti while others could also say they are females performing yoga. However, its origin is deep-rooted in the Hindu philosophy of Yoga Tantra, a part of which involved performing different philosophical positions to seek enlightenment or salvation. It was a feared cult back in the days, and one can assume that the Yoginis around the temple could each be in one such significant tantric position.

The temple's archaic look is evident to its ancient origin. According to historical studies, the Chausath Yogini Temple is one of the oldest, still-standing heritage sites of the country. It was constructed in the 10th century CE by the Kalachuri dynasty which gained popularity and kingdom in the west-central regions of India spreading over Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The regime itself is not much popular, but as per numismatics, they are the creators of the famous Ajanta Ellora Caves and Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra, as well as this temple in Madhya Pradesh. However, the Kalachuri-built structure had only the Yoginis.

Apparently, the central shrine dedicated to Lord Shive and his consort was built around two years later. A slab was discovered there which had inscriptions that stated that the Kalachuri Queen Alhanadevi, the widowed wife of King Gayakarna built the Gauri-Shankara temple in 1155 CE during the rule of her son Narasimhadeva. However, in the later centuries, with the advent of Islamic rulers from Iran, Afghan and other countries, like many other Hindu temples of India, the Chausath Yogini Temple also went through partial destruction of construction and disfiguration of idols. However, the central shrine remains unblemished.

There are always many local lores told about a historical or religious place. There is a myth about this temple as well, though its authenticity is very much questionable. The story says that when Iranian Sultan Muhammad Ghori came to India, he destroyed as many Hindu temples and establishments he could for his conquest of Islamic supremacy. The Chausath Yogini Temple of Jabalpur bore the brunt of this as well, and most of the Yogini states along the temple's inner wall faced his wrath. However, before he could attack the central shrine of Shiv and Parvati, a swarm of honeybees miraculously appeared and chased Ghori and his men away from the temple.

The architecture of the temple is simple but very much archaic. THowever, the 64 rock-carved figurines of Yoginis circling the inner perimeter of the temple premises are intricately designed, each in a different pose. Many of them have been dismantled or defaced because of attacks by Muslim rulers. At the centre is the Gauri-Shankar Temple with idols of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shive, both seated on their loyal and devoted servant Nandi Bull. Such interpretation, though found all over Puranas and other Hindu texts, is hardly seen in any temple of India.

Usually, the couple has individual shrines dedicated to them, and Lord Shiva is represented by the lingam; which makes this temple unique. To reach the main temple, one has to climb around 150 steps uphill. It is a common occurrence in many Indian Hindu temples and considered as a penance. The open courtyard of the temple on the top provides a spectacular view of the Narmada River.

The Chausath Yogini Temple is located in Bhedaghat Nagar area, around 25 km from the main city of Jabalpur and can be reached using the public bus, local cabs or in your own or hired vehicle. The nearest airport is at Jabalpur.

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