Categories: Hindu Culture

Yogini:Divine Feminine in Tantra and Yoga

The term “yogini” carries rich cultural and spiritual significance in the realms of tantra and yoga. Originating as the feminine counterpart to “yogi,” a yogini is a revered female practitioner in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This article aims to delve into the historical roots, characteristics, and practices associated with yoginis.

Yogini

Historical Evolution of Yogini Worship

The worship of yoginis traces its roots outside the Vedic Religion, evolving from local village goddesses known as grama devatas. Over time, these goddesses were consolidated into groups, often numbering 64, through the Tantric tradition. Historical evidence suggests that Yogini Kaulas had firmly established practices by the 10th century in both Hindu and Buddhist tantra traditions.

Yogini in Devi Worship

In Hinduism, yoginis are associated with or considered aspects of Devi, the goddess. The Kathasaritsagara, an 11th-century collection of myths, portrays yoginis as females with magical powers, further intertwining them with the divine feminine force. Devi, often depicted with a superimposed Yogini Chakra, solidifies the connection between yoginis and the goddess.

Nath Yoga Tradition

During medieval times, the term “yogini” was associated with women belonging to the Nath Yoga tradition. These practitioners, predominantly in the Shaiva tradition, engaged in yoga, influenced by various philosophical traditions, including Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Madhyamaka Buddhism, and Tantra.

Yoginis in Tantra Traditions

Whether in Hindu or Buddhist Tantra, women are referred to as yoginis. Tantric Buddhism recognizes respected yoginis like Dombiyogini, Sahajayogicinta, and others as advanced seekers on the path to enlightenment.

The Enigmatic 64 Yoginis

Around the 10th century, yoginis started appearing in groups of 64. These yoginis, whether divine or human, belong to clans, with fierce and powerful characteristics. Associated with shapeshifting, extraordinary powers, and often depicted with animal heads, yoginis occupy a unique and powerful space in both mythology and practice.

Yogini Temples: Mysteries Unveiled

Yogini temples, unlike typical Indian temples, are characterized by simplicity. Major extant hypaethral temples, such as Chausathi Jogan, built between the 9th and 12th centuries, can be found in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The iconographies of yogini statues vary across temples, depicting them with different postures and vahanas (animal vehicles).

The Goal of Yogini Worship: Siddhis

The primary goal of yogini worship, as described in Puranas and Tantras, is the acquisition of siddhis or extraordinary powers. The Sri Matottara Tantra outlines eight major siddhis, including Anima, Mahima, Laghima, Garima, Prakamya, Ishitva, Vashitva, and Kamavashayita.

Yogini Practices: Rituals and Occult Powers

Yogini worship involves rituals known as Mahayaga, conducted in circular temples conducive to magic. Offerings of wine, flesh, and blood are made to invoke the yoginis. The Sri Matottara Tantra describes the yoginis delighting in wine, and the Kularnava Tantra provides a recipe for brewing the yoginis’ drink. Corpse rituals, involving knives, human corpses, and skull-cups, are depicted in sculptures at yogini temples.

Maithuna in Yogini Worship

While sculptures at yogini temples do not depict maithuna (ritual sex), textual references suggest that it was part of Mahayaga rituals. The Kularnava Tantra mentions “the eight and the sixty-four mithunas,” proposing the portrayal of yoginis in embrace with Bhairavas. The Yogini Chakra involves circles of men and women, emphasizing random pairing, and highlights the need for privacy and secrecy in such practices.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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