The 64 Yogini Temple:

Ranipur Jharial was the first stop on the recent road-trip I did with my parents in Odisha. We reached here after a gruelling 6 hours drive from my home town. The 64 Yogini temple of Ranipur Jharial in Bolangir district in Odisha, is one of the only 4 such temples dedicated to 64 Yoginis that exist in the whole country. Two of them are in Odisha – the other one in Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar.

The 64 Yogini temple is located atop small hill, which is a single rock spread over many acres. On that rock there are also many small temples dedicated mainly to Lord Shiva. What would catch your eye however is the peculiar structure of the 64 Yogini temple.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple under the sun on a cloudy day, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

It is a circular hypaethral temple. The deities of 64 Yoginis adorn the inner side of the circular temple. The centre of the temple is adorned by an image of three faced Lord Shiva, Adi Yogi himself, embracing his wife Goddess Parvati. This temple is believed to have been built by Somavamshi Keshari kings in 9th-10th century AD. All the deities are made of sandstone.

Lord Shiva
Three faced Lord Shiva at the center of 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

The temple is designed in such a way that energy from all the 64 Yoginis would stay within the circular wall of the temple, and the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here would benefit immensely from the concentrated energy from all Yoginis. The 64 Yoginis also represent 64 types of Siddhis a human can achieve.

The Indralath Temple:

Indralath Temple
The elevation of Indralath Temple from up close, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

Another attraction in Ranipur Jharial is the 60ft tall Indralath temple, the oldest and tallest brick temple in Odisha. Also built during 9th/10th century AD by Somavamshi Keshari kings, it is believed that this temple was probably dedicated to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. Interestingly however, the designs and statues on the outer wall of the temple suggest Buddhist influence on the architecture. The statues on the outer wall are made of clay and mud and are burnt to give them longevity, as it was done for the bricks.

The Experience:

Before I started the journey, I was told that it is not advisable and safe to go on top of the hill during the month of Ashadh, or the first month of monsoon, because of the numerous lightning strikes that have happened in the past. We were well past Ashadh, so that was a relief.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

When I went on top of the rock, near the temple, the first thing I noticed about the place was the calmness, even if it was windy. However, the calmness was only on the surface. The place was full of some mystic energy, as if all the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here left their legacy behind for the later generations to experience. Although there were many things running through my mind, when I closed my eyes, it was as if I got teleported instantaneously into another realm. What happened with my father however, was interesting! And I was a witness.

My father, as were both my paternal grand parents, is a follower of Satya Mahima Dharma, and he has been practising meditation for many years now. One of the youngest sects of Hinduism, quite interestingly, this sect also had 64 Siddh Purush (64 men with Siddhis). Numbering just a tiny fraction of Odisha’s population the followers of this sect do not worship any deity. Very much a part of Hinduism, they believe that to reach the Supreme you do not need any mediums. One of my next projects is to highlight this sect to the mainstream, so look out for that.

Being himself, my father decided to check how it feels to sit in meditation near the 64 Yogini temple. So, he removed his shoes, sat on the platform and closed his eyes and went into a meditative state. And I got busy taking photos. Few minutes later, I got back to him, and by that time he was done. I asked him how was it, and he told me that he could feel some kind of energy. After that we decided to visit the nearby Indralath temple nearby, and it was all fine till then.

It got weird when after having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and said “A Mahima sadhu (a preacher of the sect of which my father is a follower) had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a Balyaleela (a ritual done only special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.”

There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of that particular sect. The practitioners of this sect are very very small fraction of  the total population. To give you all an idea, there are only 2/3 families of this sect in my hometown which a population of at least one lakh. Too much of a coincidence, right?

The only thing that could possibly explain this incident was probably the fact that there are strong energies still existent in the 64 Yogini temple and nearby, and after father meditated there, he “was sent a message” that the path he had chosen for himself (that of Satya Mahima Dharma) is right for him, and he does not need to divert now. We reached at this conclusion after discussing on this incident for some time.

And then we decided to move ahead with our journey, a 2,000km road-trip across Odisha, which turned out to be quite eventful in its own right. More on that later!

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Written by Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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