My tryst with the Yoginis began with a training assignment at Hirapur,
a nondescript village near Bhu-baneswar where the relative-ly unknown Chausathi Yogini Temple is located. I did not re-alize then that I was stepping into a passion that would deep-ly connect me to the elusive Yoginis. This interest spurred not only my readings and writ-ings but also my travels in Od-isha and all over the country, even foreign lands in the trail of the Yoginis. Visiting the abode of the Yoginis was an intense-ly spiritual and transcenden-tal experience. The cult of the Chausathi (sixty-four) Yoginis was widely prevalent in the cen-tral and eastern parts of India along with other cults of Shak-ta-tantrism in about 8th cen-tury A.D. The yogini temples of Hirapur and Ranipur Jharial are mementos of the significance of this now extinct cult from Odisha.
The Yoginis have deep connections with modernity in the continued significance of the Goddess concept, inspiring a quest for the goddess within us, from the mundane to the magnificent. They symbolize gender asymmetry, women empowerment and represent a cult that connects the ancient and the obscure with the ut-terly modern in a magical loop. Odisha is successfully promot-ing its temples as destinations for temple tourism. The twin temples representing the Yo-gini Cult in Odisha are poten-tial niche tourism destinations. The infinite wisdom of the ages and the sacred creative force of All that is, will be and ever was is felt when one visits the Yogi-nis.
My books “The Chausathi Yo-ginis of Hirapur: from Tantra to Tourism”, “The Yoginis of Rani-pur Jharial: The Tantric God-desses of Yore” and “The Yogini Poems: Love and Life” have been based on the Yogini cult which extolled women as ren-dering dominant roles in lead-ership, creative inventions of an ancient culture.
Dr. Adyasha Das is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Tourism & Travel Management (IITTM) Bhubaneswar, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India
By DR. ADYASHA DAS
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