Sankar Narayan Mallick
Books on relatively unknown destinations and their cultural significance are fairly rare. Rarer still are such books for the culturally keen lay reader. One such rare book is The Chausathi Yoginis of Hirapur : from Tantra to Tourism by Dr Adyasha Das. A vocation in sync with the subject matter, an avocation of viewing temples and an overture of having an oeuvre in music on the Yogini Temple has oriented the author to write this interesting and informative book.
The Publisher, Black Eagles have done a yeoman’s service by bringing such books and authors of the country to the wide arena of readership.
The cover design is done in quite a befitting way and the book format is pleasant.
The book sketches the historical background of the hypaethral Chausathi Yogini temple . While it may look unfinished or semi-constructed from a traditional view, it is intimately suggestive of being connected with the canvas of the sky, the cosmos!
The book reflects on how The Sacred Feminine has been a feature of the primordial stage of religions across the world. The Mother Power and Fertility Cult has predated the institutionalised religions. India is no exception. The cult of the Feminine has always been prominent in the primitive religions and also in Tantric ways of worship. Particularly in the Eastern part of India it has been quite prominent with Tantric and Goddess worship generally predating the worship of Vedic and conventional Hindu gods. In the process of Sanskritisation, the older and possibly Tantric goddesses have been accommodated as the consorts of Vedic Gods like Vishnu or Shiva or taken into the Hindu pantheon. Often the same Goddess has featured in the rituals or iconography of Hinduism,Jaininsm and Buddhism. What stands out is that the Goddess orientation and dominance of tantric mode has spanned across centuries and religions in the entire Eastern India. The Tantric cults of Buddhism like Tantrajana and Vajrajana had their origin and prevalence in the Eastern India as opined by many historians.
In the Introductory chapter, the writer deals with the genesis of the cult in Odisha.In the second chapter, the author touches upon the temples of the kind found in different parts of India with the comparative significance of Hirapur.The third chapter deals with the vehicles of the sixty-four Yoginis. The evolution of Shakti Cult in Odisha and the Literature, mythology and iconography of Yoginis have been dealt with in the fourth and fifth chapters respectively.In the sixth chapter there is an interesting and insightful comparison with the Yoginis of Hirapur with those of Angkor Vat. The spirituality and sacredness of the cult is discussed in the seventh chapter. A very insightful hint has been given about the relevance of mandalas to Jungian psychology and how the circular layout of the Yogini temples without a roof evokes the mandalas in mind. The cult obviously had deep psychic and symbolic significance.The eighth chapter connects this theme to the recent trends of cultural tourism and its sociological significance like feminism and women empowerment.Indeed, man is an eternal traveller and gender asymmetry is unknown to a natural and healthy evolution of human culture. The ninth chapter offers a beautiful and detailed description of the Hirapur temple. The last chapter connects this theme to the recent trends of alternative tourism and new age travel and highlights the way forward in terms of the emerging quest and interests, markets and readiness for and relevance of the same.It touches upon the tangible aspects of heritage tourism which encompasses the monuments and museums and the intangible aspects which include the values, traditions, oral history, music and the like.
The area of study of the Yogini Cult is vast and recondite and its contours are blurred in the mist of semi-known and unknown vistas of history. A bit of fine-tuning and further elaboration is expected to embellish the beautifully crafted book in its future editions. The book makes both light and enlightening reading with its interesting and insightful treatment of the topic. Written in a lucid language with a lapidary style, it spans the historical ,symbolic, aesthetic ,spiritual and cultural facets of Yogini Cult and relates it to the recent trends of tourism, their sociological relevance and psychological significance. It is a gem of a book which makes a scintillating Sunday read. Moreover, it shall surely stoke the culturally, spiritually and artistically inclined readers to delve deeper into this area and read and reflect more on the Yogini cult.
General Manager, NABARD, Aizawl