Hirapur’s Secret

A temple in a circular form piqued Sridhar’s curiosity quotient. Join Sridhar as he steps inside a temple where secret rituals were performed in bygone times. Maybe today also.

Curiosity in human beings, in my humble opinion, is the prime driver for the creation of ideas. Not that you don’t know this fact. But still it makes sense when you experience it first hand. The curiosity to see what happens if a round object is rolled down a hill gave birth  to the most explosive of ideas, the wheel. 

Curiosity got the better of me when I visited Bhubaneshwar recently. Yes, the Udaygiri caves is well worth the visit. So also is Lingaraj and Raja Rani  temples. Bhubaneshwar, I feel, offers the best of destinations for the off beat traveler. During my visit, I decided to visit three places. A round temple, a tall temple and a piece of rock.  In this edition I will take you to the Round Temple.

The Round Temple

The 20 km drive from Bhubaneshwar to Hirapur is beautiful. The road snakes deep into the countryside dotted with simple houses and courtyards. Unlike in cities, where the concept of a courtyard is next to impossible, the Orissan countryside is blessed with houses with neatly cut courtyard in front of compact houses. Hibiscus flowers, red in hue, blooms forth with the green leaves acting as perfect percussionists. Suddenly my vehicle screeched to halt in front of a small thatched house. “ I am hungry and I want to break for lunch”my driver announced and stomped off to the khanaval (eating house) . Orissa has several khanavals embroidering the countryside. The food is fresh and for seafood lovers, it is paradise. As I waited for the driver to return, heavens opened up.

After the unscheduled lunch break, we drove alongside a vast canal. The green countryside lent its hue to the canal waters and the effect was scrumptious. Soon we reached Hirapur and a tiny lane led us to my destination. I stepped out of my vehicle and surveyed the surroundings.

 To the temple

Before visiting the Yogini temple, I did a little bit of reading on it. Essentially, reference to Yoginis or Dakini are made in the Puranas and Vedic texts. Reference to Yoginis are said to be found in Buddhism and Tibetan texts also. The subject of Yoginis and their manifestations is very vast and simply can not be encompassed in this report. But what I can definitely do is to move your grey cells a little bit and make you book tickets to Bhubaneshwar to see a magnificent structure which is now reached the realms of anonymity. How did one arrive at 64 Yoginis and not 63 or 65?. There are references to Yoginis who are said to be born to eight Goddesses and formed into eight groups.  As is the wont, one can come across numerous material on the internet or otherwise and get enlightened on this subject. Just to pique your curiosity, I want to tell you, there are only six temples for the 64 Yoginis in India and of them only three are built in a circular fashion! And, it was very clear that the temples were to be located far away from main towns or cities even in ancient times. Hence, we can deduce safely that whatever was practised here was not for the faint hearted.

As I made my way to the entrance, I was stuck by its size. It is a small temple. I expected something very grand and big. I bent under the baluster and stepped inside. Well, my jaw dropped ten inches. 

I have seen temples whose sanctum sanctorum is round and enclosed by rectangular walls. This is the first time I am seeing a circular outer wall and a rectangular mandap open to the sky right in the centre! On the four sides of the mandap , there are exquisite carvings. The 64 Yoginis are carved into niches on the circular wall. In the temple, tantric form of worship is still performed and Mahamaya is the main deity.

The temple was empty and birds chirped around. Maybe they too were surprised to see a visitor in the afternoon. The tantric form of worship was adopted in Orissa somewhere between the 8th-10th century. There are certain pockets where it is still continued and this temple surely follows them. The temple was built around the 9-10th Century. Each of the yoginis are exquisitely carved. Passage of time has eroded some of them. But to see elephant-like form of a yogini stumped me to no end! Each yogini has a mount of her own. The entire temple is built with coarse sandstone. 


And anticlockwise!

Note this Yogini is mounted on an elephant!

On a boar

Head on her left hand!

Yogini on a turtle

Yogini on the outer niches of the Mandap

The open mandap

I went around the mandap and counted 60 yoginis or I may have messed up in the counting! The temple is surrounded by paddy fields and coconut trees. Very sylvan and reminded me of God’s of Own Country.

As you come out of the temple you will see a tranquil pond. The setting is very ethereal and has a calming influence. Would I recommend a visit to this temple? As Sachin Tendulkar would say, most definitely.

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