About the Book
In the religious history of lndia, the worship of Sakti or the following of the Tantric practices have their own importance. The Yoginis are adored as a form of Sakti-Kaula worship in the country. The females who achieve the divine spiritual knowledge with the following of the Yogic practices are called the Yoginis.
. Besides the Yoginis, several other centres of Sakti-worship known as Saktipitha have been mentioned In the Puranas, some of which give their number as 108 or 51. These Saktipithas are scattered throughout the country. With every set of Saktiputha a Bhairava-a form of Siva, was attached for its protection. These Saktipithas are said to have emerged, wherever the parts or the ornaments of the body of Sati fell on earth. Besides the above, there are several other Siddhapithas of the goddesses, some of which have been included in this work in order to make it more representative.
Both the Vol. III and Vel. IV of the series provide a comprehensive study on the Goddesses in India from the earliest times to the late medieval period, based on the literary as well as the archaeological evidence. Besides the thousand names of the Goddess Bhavanisahasranama, have also been highlighted in the present Volume in quite a lively manner which will appeal the readers in general as well as those with scholarly aptitude.
Shantilal Nagar, a graduate of the Punjab University, served in the curatorial capacity in the Central Asian Antiquities Museum, New delhi, the Archaeological Museum, Nalanda, and Archaeological Section of the Indian Museum, Calcutta for a number of years. He has to his credit the scientific documentation of over fifty thousand antiquities, in these museums, representing the rich cultural heritage of the country and comprising of sculptures, bronzes, terracottas, beads, seals and sealing, ancient Indian numismatics, wood work, miniatures arid paintings, textiles and Pearce collection of gems, ranging from the earliest times to the late medieval period.
In our country the tradition of the making of sculptures of the goddesses has been witnessed from the earliest times. The images of these goddesses made during the different periods have their own importance in the sculptural art of India. In the early stages of the cultural history of India, these images were carved by the artists on the basis of their own imagination, and the prevailing traditions, as is noticed in the archaeological remains of the Harappan sites. The same set of artists were responsible for the creation of new trends and traditions in the subsequent period. These traditions massively contributed in the development of Indian iconography.
The eminent scholars during the past have opined on the sculptural art of the country, including Mackey, Sir John Marshal, Cunningham, Smith, Coomaraswamy, Gopinatha Rao, J.N. Banerjea, R.D. Banerj ea, N.K. Bhattashali, Dr. V.S. Agrawala, Dr. N.P. Joshi, R.c. Aggarwal, Dr. K.C. Panigrahi, Krsna Deva and several others, from time to time in the past. Many other scholars are working on the subject even today. Presently an attempt has been made to put together the prominent goddesses of the Hindu pantheon like Yoginis and those of the Saktipithas together, besides others.
There is one thing common in the deities of the Saktipithas that Siva is associated with these goddesses in one form or the other. In the Saktipithas, Siva is said to be associated with each one of them in the form of a Bhairava while, with the Yoginis, Siva is placed over a central pedestal, more often in a dancing pose and the Yoginis are lodged in the cells around him in a circular form. In this connection one is reminded of the provision of the Matsya Purana (179.2-38) in which Siva is stated to have created two hundred goddesses out of his body for the purpose of the drinking of the blood of Andhaka, a ferocious demon of the past. The names of the goddess like Varahi, Kali, Narasimhi, Vaisnavi, Brahmani. Candika, Indrani, Kaumari and several others appear in the list of the goddesses so created by Siva. They also appear in the list of Causatha Yoginis contained in some of the Puranas like the Matsya, Kalika, Agni, Skanda and others and even the Jaina texts. Therefore there is every possibility that the origin of these Causatha Yoginis could be traced to the goddesses created out of the body of Siva. More research on this subject is required.
On the other hand the genesis of the Saktipithas is totally associated with Siva, who after the destruction of the yajna of Daksa carried the body of Sati over his head and shoulders and kept on wandering aimlessly in grief, in the universe. The gods felt concerned with this and according to the Puranic accounts, Visnu .and Sani entered the body of Sati and cut it into pieces bit by bit, which were thrown at different places. Wherever the pieces of Sari's body or her ornaments fell on the ground, a Saktipitha was established there and a Bhairava was lodged at each and every Saktipitha for its protection. The number of these Saktipithas has been variously described in the Puranas. Some of them describe them to be 108 while others give their number as 51.
The Puranas have spelt out variously the number of the Saktipithas. The Pithanirnaya or the Mahapithanirupana speaks of only fifty-one Pithas with the names of the goddesses and relevant limb of the goddess San which fell at each and every spot. The same number of Pithas have been described in the Sivacarita together with twenty-six Upapithas. The Devi Bhagavata Purana provides the complete list of a hundred and eight Saktipithas, which are spread over the entire length and breadth of the country.
I The Causatha Yoginis are another set of Tantric goddesses who at some stage of the religious history of India had been quite popular in the central and eastern parts of the country. The early temple of the Causatha Yogini is found at Khajuraho which was the capital city of the Chandelas and almost all the temples there have the erotic scenes. The builders of these temples were apparently influenced with the Yogini or the Tantric ideology, which flourished by about the 9th-13th century A.D. Matsyendranatha was the founder of this Kaula/Kapalika cult who had initially practised the Kaula rituals with the women of Kamarupa. It was believed that with the following of these Kaula rituals one could achieve the magical powers. But whether one could achieve the liberation from the worldly bondages, the relevant scriptures are silent on the issue. The Kaula worship was absolutely secretive, which could never gain popularity with the masses. There is no other authentic work on Kaula mode of worship except the one composed by Matsyendranatha under the title of Kaula-Jnana-Nirnaya. Besides no authentic literature on the emergence of the Kaula doctrine, the mode of worship and the building of the Yogini temples is forthcoming. These Yogini temples were restricted only to the selected sites of central and eastern India and nowhere else in the country. Some of the researchers feel that the Kaula- cult emerged over the religious horizon of India, because of the interaction of the religious practices of the aboriginals with those of the Brahmanical faith. In this connection one thing has to be kept in mind that in the Tantric traditions of the aboriginals, the female principle enjoyed greater importance and the culture of the aboriginals was dominating in the eastern and central India.
The Yogini temples were first brought to light in 1875 by Alexander Cunningham and then by others at Bheraghat, Khajuraho and Ranipur Jharial. The scholars brought to light the existence of these temples and the comprehensive study of the sculptural art and the descriptive details of the individual sculptures were wanting. Thereafter M.B. Gadre discovered the Yogini temple of Mitavali. Thereafter P.C. Mukherji discovered the similar type of temple at Dudhai near Lalitpur, while Kedarnatha Mahapatra discovered the Yogini temple at Hirapur in Orissa. Then the Yogini sculptures were discovered from the district of Shahdol and there is every possibility of a Yogini temple existing there. Prof. K.D. Bajpai discovered a Yogini temple at Lokhari in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.
The genesis and the forms of the Yoginis have been contained in the Puranas and the various historical treatises. In the Puranas, the Yoginis have been conceived as Saktis. The Markandeya, Kalika, Agni, Mahabhagavata, Matsya, Garuda, Skanda and Devi Bhagavata Puranas deal with the Yoginis in one form or the other. Besides the method of their adoration has also been spelt out. The Puranas and the texts like the Rajatarangini, Kathasaritasiigara, Prabodha-Candrodaya and other texts also contain accounts relating to the Yoginis. Infect Matsyendranatha was closely associated with the Yogini Kaula sect and he was the follower of the Natha-sect. It is believed that he disassociating himself from his own sect, was overpowered with the illusion of the ladies of Kamarupa and started practising the Kaula- faith. Under the influence of the same, it is said that the women of each and every house were turned as Yoginis. He, therefore, composed a treatise on the cult of Yoginl-Kaula, which is the only authentic work of the sect. The time of Matsyendranatha has been taken to be the 9th century A.D.
Most of the Yogini temples have been found in utter neglect which may be due to the sense of awe and dread they inspire in an ordinary person. People usually refer to the Yoginis in sub-dued tones, whenever it is necessary for them to mention them. The secrecy about them is so maintained that the temple of Yogini at Hirapur came to light in the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century. It is indeed surprising that such a well preserved shrine which is only a few miles from Bhubaneswar remained unnoticed for all these years. There is a widespread belief that a person might invite misfortune by approaching too close to these temples. Because of this, the people usually avoided visiting such temples. The Yoginis have been dreaded from ancient times. The Brahmanda Purana which incorporates the Lalitasahasranama or the thousand names of the goddess Lalita, concludes the section with the warning that anyone who so loses his wits to impart the poem to a non-initiate would be a victim of a curse from the Yoginis. The curse of a Yogini is considered to be worse than death. The Jnanarnava Tantra warns that a person who imparts the sacred and secret knowledge to an undeserving person will serve himself as the food to the Yoginis.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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