Later, the term yogini, as used in the Chandi Purana referred to the form of Devi, the Supreme Goddess. Each of the yogini was seen as a different part of Devi’s body. Around the 7th century, the belief seems to have blended with Shakti cult and tantrism. The term dakini is still retained in the Buddhist tradition. In literature it even refers to sorceress, witch or even ghoul. It is said that they were a secret organisation with a secret communication called sandhya bhasa.
The purpose of the cult was to develop supernatural powers. They considered themselves as servants of Mother Divine. They were devotional in nature. It is said that they had tremendous supernatural abilities. These yoginis are linked to black tantrism using the destructive energies of Kali and Bhairavi but that hardly makes them witches! The saddhaka or practioner aspires to control body and mind to regulate the panchabhutas for material gains and also to acquire destructive powers. Their central focus of worship was Bhairavi, Kali and Shiva Bhairava. They used destructive energies of Kali or Bhairavi with a positive goal.
SIXTY-FOUR: There are various theories as to the number 64. But they are also enumerated as 60, 64 or 65 and even 81. The number 64 correlates to the currents or wind of human body as type of unproductive tendency. 64 also has its mystical use in Tantric rituals and numerology to get magical powers. The Matrikas are aspects of Devi. Ashta Matrikas are the eight mothers who arrive with their eight attendants. The Sapta Matrikas are seven Mothers. With a leading goddess in every group, making it eight the whole group counted to 64 yoginis.
TANTRIK WORSHIP: In Yogini worship, the Tantrik symbol is a chakra with 64 spokes in the wheel. Each spoke represents a Yogini form of Mother Devi. In the Buddhist Kalachakra tantric system, the navel chakra or the Wheel of Emanation, the 64 channels are the 64 goddesses of the Speech Mandala. In Kaula Marga Tantric system, eight chakras or lotus with eight petals each was taught by Matsyendranath.
Kaula Marga siddhas was a sub-sect of Kashmiri Shaivism. Matsyendranath is said to be the progenitor of the Kaula school of Tantra. Bhairavi is experienced in her wrathful form in a practice known as Bhairava Chakra. In the 9th chapter of the Kaulajnana Nirnaya attributed to Matsyendranath presents the 8 chakra system stating that the 64 yoginis are Kama-rupa. This means desire form, a way of referring to this reality where forms are born out of desire.
Apparently in sandhya bhasa of the siddhas, the word also refers to the female organ – trikona or triangle as used to depict the Muladhara or root chakra of the subtle body. By meditating on each of the 64 petals on induces the resident yogini to grant a boon in the form of siddhi. In the Kaula tradition, secrets of bodily perfection lie in the 64 fold complex matrices. The sadhana or ritual involves the 5 M’s: Matsya – dish, Mamsa – meast, Mudra – parched grain, Madya – alchoholic drink and Maithuna – sexual intercourse. Maithuna here is usually misquoted; so is Tantra wrongly attributed to black magic. Tantra goes beyond the naked eyes and weekly periodicals.
In a wider context Yoginis are women who practice yoga. Some of them possess supernatural powers such as transcending the aging process by internalization of their reproductive powers. Urdhva-retas are the upward refinement of the seed force. Many females have attained mastery of modern yoga asanas and meditation tradition through their feminine Shakti sensations. In Shaktam, creation myths place the Divine Feminine at their centre, taking the view that the nature of the Cosmos or Macrocosm is reflected in the human body or Microcosm and it is the female who the giver of life. In Shakta belief it is the female who can awakens the muladhara chakra, the seat of the kundalini shakti via fertility and sexuality while males must achieve that through kriya yoga.
In Tantra yoga, the Mahavidyas, the Ten Wisdom Goddesses, serve as models for a yogini’s disposition and behaviour. Bhairavi dwells in the Muladhara or Root chakra, and is the same as Kundalini. Bhairavi represents the successful aspirant of Tantra. Thus the title Bhairavi is bestowed upon a Kundalini Tantra Yogini. It presupposes that the yogini is beyond fear. In Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika, Bhairavis are yoginis who preserved their genital emissions or their rajas and contain the bindu, the male semen in a practice called Vajroli-mudra. Its reverse is practiced by the yogis.
TEMPLES: Stone inscriptions indicate dakini rituals well into the 16th century. But the cult seems to have diminished and the temples abandoned. Yogini temples are in dilapidated condition and neglected. These are found in Hirakud, Ranipur Jharial, Pheraghat near Jabalpur and Khajuraho. They are said to be scary, especially the one in Khajuraho which does not even attract tourists. The sculptures are intact. It was the cult’s belief that sex is not a path to self-discovery and none of the sculptures are erotic.
HIRAPUR: The ancient Yogini Temple at Hirapur was discovered only in 1953. Here, the principal Goddess of the Yoginis was Mahamaya, as referred in the Devi Bhagavatam. It is a hypaethral or roofless temple. While people leave the offerings at the foot of the deities, the presiding deity, Mahamaya, is still regularly adorned with ted cloth and vermillion. Mahamaya or Great Illusion is also Buddha’s name. The difference between Kali and Bhairavi is that Lord Shiva is extremely wrathful as Bhairavi’s consort but his wrathfulness is not seen so tremendous as the Kali’s consort. Thus it brings a notion that Bhairavi is thus the fiercest form of Mother Divine.
The iconography of the yoginis differ from place to place. In Haripur, the yogini deities are carved from a fine, black chlorite, each form or rupa represents a voluptuous woman wearing a kilt or skirt held around her hips by an ornate girdle. Besides the belt, she wears the other seven symbolic ornaments: bracelets, armlets, anklets, earrings, necklace, garland and headdress. Their hairstyles include the most common one which is a cluster or bun worn to one side, or else a coronet of tight curls. Some are depicted as warriors or huntresses with bows and arrows, others balance on a pair of wheels, or play a drum. Most have two arms but a few have four.
The yoginis in Hirapur are Bahurupa, Tara, Narmada, Yamuna, Shanti, Varuni, Kshemankari, Aindri, Varahi, Ranveera, Vanara-Mukhi, Vaishnavi, Kalaratri, Vaidyaroopa , Charchika, Betali, Chnnamastika, Vrishabahana, Jwala Kamini, Ghatavara, Karakali, Saraswati, Birupa, Kauveri, Bhaluka, Narasimhi, Biraja,Vikatanna, Mahalakshmi, Kaumari, Maha Maya, Rati, Karkari, Sarpashya, Yakshini, Aghora, Bhadrakali, Vinayaki,Vindya Balini, Veera Kumari. Maheswari, Ambika, Kamiyani, Ghatabari, Stutee, Kali, Uma, Narayani,Samudraa, Brahmini, Jwala Mukhi, Agneyei, Aditi, Chandrakanti, Vayubega, Chamunda, Murati, Ganga, Dhumavati, Gandhari, Sarva Mangala, Ajita,Surya Putri, Vayu Veena.
The vahana or mount of the dakini includes animals such as the fish, parrot, turtle, frog, snake, scorpion, rat, while some appear with a decapitated male head, an archer, or other representation at their feet. Several of the dakinis have animal faces.
SHAVA CHHEDAN: In Yogini temples Devi also manifests as the fearsome Chamunda. She has the form of an emaciating crone standing on a corpse. Shava Chhedan is a symbolic ceremony of beheading a dead body. This is the ultimate symbol of detachment from earthly desires. Yoginis do not harm living beings or human sacrifice as popularly stigmatised. They are known to have asked for corpses from poor families in exchange for a grand funeral after their rituals. With the coming of the Shakta bhakti movement preaching love as the finest path to self realisation, the practice seems to have died together with the cult.
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi