Bhedaghat – The Secret World of the Yoginis

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Bhedaghat town falls in the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. The town is famous for its marble rock valley and Dhuandhar falls. Alexander Cunningham1 provides the earliest account of the antiquarian remains of the town. He visited the town in 1874-75 and describes the circular temple and the nearby falls.  Another explorer, James Forsyth, provides a very romantic description of the falls and the river valley, “What visitor to Jubbulpur can ever forget the Marble Rocks! In any country a mighty river pent up into a third of its width, and for a space of two miles or more boiling along deep and sullen between two sheer walls of pure white marble, a hundred feet in height, must form a scene of rare loveliness. But in a bustling, dusty, Oriental land, the charm of coolness and quiet belonging to these pure cold rocks, and deep and blue and yet pellucid waters, is almost entrancing. The eye never wearies of the infinite variety of effect produced by the broken and reflected sunlight, now glancing from a pinnacle of snow-white marble reared against the deep blue of the sky as from a point of silver; touching here and there with bright lights the prominences of the middle heights; and again losing itself in the soft bluish grays of their recesses. Still lower down, the bases of the cliffs are almost lost in a hazy shadow, so that it is hard to tell at what point the rocks have melted into the water, from whose depths the same lights in reverse order are reflected as clear as above, but broken into a thousand quivering fragments in the swirl of the pool. (sic)”1

Marble Rocks

Photograph of a general view of statues in the colonnade of the Chaunsath Yogini temple, Bheraghat taken by Joseph David Beglar in the 1870s | British Library

Chaunsath Yogini Temple – This is the main archaeological attraction in the town. The temple is in form of a circular cloister harboring a number of niches on its inner circumference and a temple in its northwest quarter. The outer diameter of the cloister is 130 feet 9 inches and the inner diameter is 116 feet 2 inches.4 The temple is generally known as Chaunsath Yogini temple suggesting it has sixty-four chambers, one each for sixty-four yoginis, however, the temple has eighty-one niches on its inner circumference. There are 84 pillars around the inner cloister forming as many spaces, three of these, two to the west and one to the southeast, are left for entrances, and the rest 81 niches were fitted with pedestals meant for sculptures. Cunningham provides the scenic description of the temple perched on top of a hill, “The position of this temple is singularly fine and commanding. Close beneath, on the south, the blue waters of the Narbada seem to sleep, spell bound, under the snow-white walls that shut them in. To the north and west the view is bounded by thickly wooded heights; but on the east the eye looks down on a long reach of the river, stretching away for miles towards Jabalpur(sic).”5


About the origins of the temple, Cunningham6 narrates the legend of Salivahan Nagavansa. His mother was a daughter of a merchant of Banares. Once while bathing, she was pursued by a serpent, and the latter assuming his human form made love to her. When she got pregnant, her parents removed her from their house and she found refuge in the house of a potter and gave birth to a boy. After a few years, the king of Delhi demanded tribute from the king of Banares. When the king of Banares was discussing this matter with his minister, the potter and the boy were attending a few vessels in the palace and to everyone’s surprise, the boy counseled for a war.  Later that evening, the boy lost his way while loitering in the fields and was found by Shiva and Parvati. The boy was sad and crying and narrated his problem that he had no army to keep his promise to the king. At the behest of Parvati, Shiva gave some ashes to the boy telling him that springing over the clay toys will turn those into soldiers. That army would be invincible except it would melt away in the water. The next morning the boy did exactly the same as told by Shiva and got a large army from his clay toys. He defeated the king of Delhi using that army and followed him when the latter was retreating towards the south on the Narmada river. The boy did not remember that the army would melt away in the water and his whole army was dissolved on the north bank of Narmada while the army of the Delhi king was on the south bank of Narmada. The boy went back to the king of Banares, and the latter received him with joy and made him the king of Badalgarh with the title of Salivahan Nagavansa. He installed the statue of Shiva, Parvati, and Nandi as he saw them when loitering in the fields.

The present structure is not the result of a homogenous construction but the different parts of the temple have been constructed in different phases spanning centuries. The earliest structure at the site would have been a temple housing a few standing sculptures. There are two pieces of evidence in support of this, the first is the use of structural fragments for the staircase to reach the hilltop and the other is the presence of a Kushana-period image in the present structure.7 Banerji8 tells Haranandan Pande discovered several inscribed images of the Kushana period at Garraghati and Dhuandhar. Banerji asserts that at least one image presently enshrined in the Yogini Temple belongs to the same date as that of the Kushana period images. Image No 1 of a standing male figure can be safely dated to the Kushana period as evident from the inscription it carries. Thus, he concludes that there existed a more ancient shrine on the top of the hill in which the standing images of reddish brittle sandstone were enshrined initially. The rest of the sculptures in the niches of the temple fall under two main categories, standing figures carved out of a brittle reddish sandstone and seated images carved out of a dull greenish-yellow sandstone. The first group does not carry inscriptions while the latter group has images invariably inscribed. About seven such images carved from reddish brittle sandstone are preserved in the inches and these can be dated to the seventh century CE post-Gupta period. Out of these seven images, five images represent the five matrkas, and the rest two of Shiva and Ganesha. Therefore, it may be surmised that there was a temple constructed sometime in the seventh century CE to enshrine the sapta-matrka group. Sometime during the tenth century CE, the original shrine was demolished or fell to decay and a circular wall was constructed where the existing images were removed and new images of the remaining yoginis were enshrined. Also, a structural temple was raised within that enclosure. On the inner periphery of the circular wall, provisions were made for the installation of eighty-one yoginis. The overall complex was hypaethral, the roof we see over the niches at present was not part of this construction. During the twelfth century CE, the temple inside the enclosure was rebuilt by the Kalachuri queen Alhanadevi. During the same time, the height of the circular back wall was raised to the heads of the yoginis, and a roof was provided over all the niches. Banerji9 tells an examination of the exterior reveals the fact that the contour of the back wall does not correspond to the outer line of the periphery of the basement and one may notice fragments of sculptures, employed during the erection of the circular back wall, proving that this back wall had been erected at some later date when the ruins of one of the temples were used for its construction.

Photograph of statues in the colonnade of the Chaunsath Yogini temple, Bheraghat taken by Joseph David Beglar in the 1870s | British Library
Image No 1 – Standing male figure

Cunningham was the first scholar to provide the details of sculptures enshrined in the niches and their probable identification on the basis of inscriptions engraved on the pedestals of a few images. Bloch10 visited the site in 1907-08 and also provides a list of sculptures and probable identifications. He mentions that the eastern entrance was the main entrance however during his time the common visitors were using the western entrance to enter into the temple. While describing the images, we will follow the labels as these exist today over the sculptures and niches, this labeling is different from how these were numbered by a few early scholars in their accounts. Remember, the labeling is done for sculptures found in the temple, and a few sculptures are only fragments and are put in a niche where another major sculpture is already enshrined. Therefore, the total number of sculptures goes beyond 81, the latter is the number of niches in the circular cloister. Image No 1 is of a standing male figure, only the lower half of the sculpture has survived. The sculpture is carved out of reddish brittle sandstone. Based on its faded inscription as well as the sculptural style, the image has been dated to the Kushana period.

Image No 2 – Sri Simhasimha

The image in niche 2 is inscribed as Sri Simhasimha. It shows a seated female deity depicted with four arms. She sits over a lotus pedestal supported by a male figure with the head of a lion. The face of the female deity as well as the male figure below is mutilated. Four ghost figures, two on either side, are placed below at the lower section of the sculpture. Two ghost figures are holding daggers, one holding a cup and all are depicted eating human flesh, one eating a human and the other eating a human leg. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period. Though the face of the goddess is mutilated, however, based on the presence of the man-lion mount, she may be considered as Narasimhi, the female shakti of Narasimha.

Image No 3 – Sri Rushini

The image in niche 3 is inscribed with the label Sri Rushini. It shows a four-armed goodness seated in lalitasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. The lotus pedestal is supported over a makara. The attributes held in her arms are all lost, remains of a lotus stem and a danda may still be seen. Devotees are flanking either side of the goddess at the lower section of the sculpture. On the sole of her left foot is carved a symbol of shankha (conch). On the basis of makara, Cunningham identifies her with river goddess Narmada, however, there is no evidence to warrant this identification. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 4 – Sri Kamada

The image in niche 4 is inscribed as Sri Kamada. She is a four-armed goddess seated in bhagasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal with two rows of petals, the upper row is unfolded upward while the lower row is folded inverted. In the middle of this lower row, two petals are unfolded in a manner that they form a symbol of a yoni (vagina) with perfect anatomical form. Below the seat, two male devotees are placed on either side of the yoni symbol. Beyond these male devotees, at either side, is a goddess playing on a vina, the goodness on the right is Sarasvati as evident from her swan mount, while the goddess on the left may be identified with Savitri. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 5 – Sri Ranajira

The image in niche 5 is inscribed with the label Sri Ranajira. The goddess is seated in lalitasana over a lotus seat. She is four-armed and three-eyed. Below her seat is an elephant carved with his head and trunk raised. Attributes in her hands cannot be identified as all the arms are mutilated. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 6 – Sri Aintakari

The three-eyed and four-armed goddess in niche 6 is known as Sri Aintakari, the label inscribed on the pedestal. She sits in lalitasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. She is depicted in a terrific form with her mouth wide open and wearing a skull diadem surmounted by serpents and flames of fire bursting out behind her head. An animal is shown below her seat, and from its remains, it appears a bull or a buffalo. Between the animal and the right foot of the goddess is a female emancipated figure wearing a munda-mala (skull garland). Next to the right foot of the goddess is a male figure holding a book and a pen. This figure may be of Chitragupta, the clerk responsible in the court of Yama, as suggested by Sharma.11 The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 7

A three-eyed, four-armed, and animal-headed goddess is enshrined in niche 7. There is no label inscription accompanying this image. Her face and arms are mutilated, she was probably holding a hooded serpent as evident from its remains above her upper right hand. There are remains of an animal, probably a varaha (pig), below her lotus pedestal.  Sharma12 suggests she may be equated with yogini Sri Simhani found at Shahdol. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 8 – Sri Erudi

A four-armed, animal-headed goddess is enshrined in niche 8 and known as Sri Erudi. She sits over a lotus pedestal that is supported by a horned animal, probably an antelope13. Sharma takes the face of the goddess as a boar while Dehejia takes it as a horse, and the latter appears correct. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 9 – Sri Nandini

Niche 9 houses one of the most elaborately carved images of the group, an eighteen-armed goddess seated in ardhaparyankasana on a lotus pedestal. The sculpture has not survived in the best shape, most of her hands are mutilated with her legs, face, and breasts. A lion is depicted below the lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 10 – Sri Vibhatsa

Niche 10 has an image of a three-eyed and four-armed goddess, Sri Vibhatsa, shown seated over a lotus pedestal. All her hands are mutilated, and in her upper left arm, she carries a shield. A three-eyed bearded male figure lies under the pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 11 – Sri Varahi

A three-eyed, four-armed, and boar-headed Sri Varahi adorns niche no 11. She sits over a lotus pedestal, below which her boar mount is seen running to the right. Two goddesses, one on either side, are placed in the lower section of the sculpture. As the label suggests, she represents the shakti of Varaha, and thus part of the Sapta-matrka group. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 12 – Sri Mandodari

The image in niche 12 has only survived with its lower part. The label inscription identifies the goddess as Sri Mandodari. Surprisingly, there is no mount depicted below the lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 13 – Sri Sarvvatomukhi

Sri Sarvvatomukhi is depicted with twelve arms and three faces. The middle face shows the terrific aspect of the goddess as it is depicted with an open mouth and closed teeth. The face to the right of the middle also depicts the terrific aspect while the face to the left reflects the benign character. She wears a skull necklace, the skull is prominently shown between her breasts. Below her lotus pedestal is an interesting lotus symbol made of two rows of petals. The outer row has sixteen petals and the inner row has eight petals. The circle inside the inner row has a tantric symbol of intersecting triangles known as sat-kona. In the middle of this emblem is engraved Hrim, the mystical tantric mantra.   The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 14 – Sri Thirachitta

The four-armed goddess in niche 14 is shown seated in padmasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. Instead of an animal supporting the pedestal, here the pedestal is supported by kosamanjusha, a vase of leaves. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 15 – Sri Khemukhi

Only the lower portion of the sculpture has survived in niche 15. The goddess here is shown seated in lalitasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal with usual attendants and devotees. A parrot is depicted below the lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 16 – Sri Jamvavi

Niche 16 has another boar-headed goddess known as Sri Jamvavi. The goddess wears an elaborate crown of jata-makuta. Her animal mount has not survived, however, from its remains it appears to be a boar. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 17

A three-eyed, four-armed, and animal-faced goddess is enshrined in niche 17. The label inscription is missing thus we do not know the name of the yogini goddess. She has horns over her head and a deer is depicted below her lotus pedestal, it may be surmised that she was originally a deer-headed goddess. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 18 – Sri Audara

Niche 18 has an image of Sri Audara, a four-armed goddess shown seated over a lotus pedestal below which is shown a naked male figure. The goddess wears an elaborate jata-makuta. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 19

Niche 19 has an image of a twelve-armed and three-eyed male figure shown dancing. Among the surviving attributes, the deity holds a shield and a khatvanga. A snake encircles the neck of the figure. On this basis, he may be identified with Shiva. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 22 – Sri Yamuna

The image in the next niche, labeled as 22 instead of 20, is of the river goddess Sri Yamuna. The sculpture has only survived with its lower half. Kachchapa (tortoise) mount of Yamuna is depicted below the lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 24

Image no 23 is not enshrined in a niche and represents the upper half of a yogini sculpture. Image no 24 is enshrined in a niche and represents the lower half of an eight-armed yogini sculpture. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 25

The next niche has an image of a standing dancing female figure. In the lower part of the sculpture, to the right left of the female is a couchant elephant figure. The sculpture is carved from reddish brittle sandstone and can be dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE.

Image No 26 – Sri Pandavi

A twelve-armed and three-eyed goddess seated on a lotus pedestal in padmasana-mudra is enshrined in the next niche. A bearded male figure is depicted below her lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 27 – Sri Niladamvara

A four-armed and three-eyed goddess labeled Sri Niladamvara is enshrined in the next niche. She sits over a lotus pedestal in lalitasana-mudra. A figure of Garuda is depicted below the pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 29

A four-armed standing male figure carrying a vina is enshrined in the next niche. The sculpture is carved from reddish brittle sandstone and can be dated to the post-Gupta seventh-century CE period.

Image No 30 – Sri Teramva

An image of Mahishasuramardini, Durga slaying the buffalo demon, is enshrined as Sri Teramva in the next niche. The goddess is depicted with eighteen arms and three-eyes standing in atibhanga-mudra. Many of her arms are mutilated, attributes still remaining are conch, shields, trishula, arrow, and a quiver. The lion of the goddess is depicted biting the hind parts of the buffalo demon, the latter is shown with his head severed and lying away from his body. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 31 – Sri Sandini

Sri Sandini seated on a lotus pedestal is enshrined in the next niche. The sculpture has survived only partially. A saddled horse is depicted below the lotus pedestal. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 32 – Sri Pimgala

Sri Pimgala is shown seated in lalitasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal in the next niche. It appears that the head currently fitted in the sculpture might not the original. A figure of a peacock is depicted below the pedestal and thus the goddess may be identified with Kaumari, the shakti of Kartikeya (Kumara). However, as the image carries a label therefore identification with Kaumari would be challenging. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 33 – Sri Ahkhala

Image No 33 has only survived with its lower portion that shows a goddess seated in padmasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. Below the pedestal are depicted two devotees, seated face to face. Beyond these devotees, at the extreme ends of the sculpture, are two divine figures. Both the divine fogres are four-armed goddesses, each holding a vina. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 34

A four-armed female figure depicted in a dancing posture adorns the next niche. A bird is carved to the right of the female figure. Mirashi14 takes it as a swan and suggests the goddess as a form of Brahmani. Debala Mitra15 takes it as a peacock and suggests the goddess may be a form of Kaumari. The bird appears to be a peacock however whether the goddess can be taken as Kaumari is conjectural. The sculpture is carved from reddish brittle sandstone and can be dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE.

Image No 35 – Ganesha

The next niche has an image of Ganesha depicted in a dancing posture. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 36 – Sri Masavarddhani

The sculpture in the next niche has only survived partially, the middle parts of the body with the head of the goddess are mostly missing leaving the legs and below intact. The goddess is four-armed and seated over a lotus pedestal. Below the pedestal is carved a parrot. The label inscription reads Sri Masavarddhani. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 37

A four-armed standing male figure adorns the next niche. The sculpture carries no inscription. A bull is carved near the feet of the god and taking it as Nandi the god may be identified with Shiva. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 37 – Sri Ridhalidevi

The next niche has a four-armed goddess seated in lalitasana-mudra over a lotus pedestal. Below the pedestal is a lion whose head is broken. The label inscription reads Sri Ridhalidevi. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 39 – Hanumana

A sculpture of Hanuman is set next to the western entrance to the temple. He is shown standing with his right leg supported over a prostrate male figure and his left leg is placed over a lotus supported by another male figure. The appearance and the size of the sculpture suggest that it was once adoring a door jamb. The sculpture is carved from reddish brittle sandstone.

Image No 40 – Ganesha

A four-armed dancing Ganesha sculpture adorns the next niche. All his arms, heads, and parts of his legs are broken, the one remaining arm is in abhaya-mudra. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 42 – Sri Chhattra-samvara with a horse below the lotus pedestal
Image No 44 – Sri Ajita with a lion below the lotus pedestal
Image No 45 – Sri Chandika

I have skipped detailed descriptions of a few images as they follow the regular pattern. Image No 45 is that of Sri Chandika. She is depicted as a twelve-armed, with protruding eyes, and a wide open mouth. Her raised hair is arranged around her head in form of a semi-circle. In her two upper hands, she holds an elephant skin.  Her feet are resting over a prostrate male figure. A group of ghosts is placed on either side of her figure. The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 46 – Sri Ananda, the lotus pedestal is supported over a tree
Image No 47 – Sri Aingini, the female shakti of Ganesha, her lotus pedestal is supported by a man-elephant figure (Ganesha)
Image No 48 – Sri Brahmani with her swan below the lotus pedestal
Image No 49 – Sri Mahesvari with her bull mount below the pedestal
Image No 50 – Sri Takari, a lion is depicted below the lotus pedestal
Image No 52 – Sri Tapani, a horse below her seat
Image No 54 – Sri Padmahamsa, her lotus seat is supported over a lotus stalk
Image No 55 – Sri Hamsini, a swan below her lotus seat
Images No 58 & 59

Image No 59 is of a seated male figure in padmasana-mudra. Below his lotus seat is carved a symbol of padukas (sandals) on either side of that are present a few female devotees. An inscription engraved over the upper row of lotus petals of his seat reads, “Brahmana-kulaprashu-Dhamona vasudha-raja-pujita…..”.16 The sculpture is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period.

Image No 60
Image No 62 – Sri Ishvari, a bull depicted below her lotus seat
Image No 63 – Sri Thani, a mountain of six peaks is depicted below her lotus seat
Image No 64 – Sri Indrajali, an elephant below her lotus seat, a devotee on her right is holding a large bell
Image No 65 – Sri Ga(?)hani, a ram shown below her lotus seat
Image No 66 – unknown eight-armed goddess, a bull shown below her lotus seat
Image No 67 – Sri Indrani, an elephant below her seat
Image No 68 – Sri Jha(?)ngini, a bull shown below her seat
Image No 69 – Sri Uttala, a rampant bull is shown below her seat
Image No 70 – Sri Nalini, a couchant bull below her seat
Image No 71 – Sri Lampata, a prostrate male and an owl below her seat
Image No 73 – Sri Duduri, a horse below her seat
Image No 74 – Sri Rtsamada, a composite animal with the body of a boar, the head, and manes of a lion, and the legs and hands of a human is shown below her seat
Image No 75 – Sri Gamdhari is depicted as a winged goddess, a horse shown below her seat
Image No 76 – Sri Jahnavi or Gange, her makara is shown below her seat
Image No 77 – Sri Dakini, a male prostate figure is shown below her seat
Image No 78 – Sri Vamdhani, her seat supported on a lotus stalk surrounded by five male figures
Image No 79 – Sri Darppahari, a lion below her seat
Image No 80 – a dancing female, a swan carved next to her right leg, dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE
Image No 81 – four-armed female dancing figure, dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE
Image No 82 – Sri Rangini, a figure of Garuda is supporting the lotus seat of the goddess
Image No 83 – Sri Jaha, a peacock below her seat
Image No 84 – Sri Thikkini, a parrot (?) below her seat
Image No 85 – Sri Ghamtali, a bull below her seat
Image No 86 – Sri Dhadhdhari, an elephant below her seat
Image No 87 – a four-armed female dancing goddess, dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE
Image No 88 – Sri Vaishnavi, her lotus seat is supported by Garuda
Image No 89 – Sri Bhisani, a male prostrate figure below her seat
Image No 90 – Sri Satanusamvara, a bull below her seat
Image No 91 – Sri Ksatradharmini, a composite animal below her seat, a body of elephant, lion-like claws, donkey-like ears, long and think tail, man-like face (?)
Image No 92 – unknown goddess, a bull below her seat
Image No 93 – Sri Phanendri, a prostrate male figure below her seat
Image No 94 – Sri Virendri, a horse and a prostrate male figure below her seat

All the above sculptures are dated to the Kalachuri period, if not otherwise stated. Usually, the sculptures carved from a reddish brittle sandstone are dated to the post-Gupta period of the seventh century CE.  is carved from greenish-yellow sandstone and can be dated to the Kalachuri period. Sharma enumerates seventy-nine images in the eighty-one niches of the temple. He categorized these as below:

  1. Kushana Period images (1)
    1. Standing Male – Image No 1
  2. Matrka images (7)
    1. Sri Simhasimha – Image No 2
    2. Sri Varahi – Image No 11
    3. Sri Chandika – Image No 45
    4. Sri Brahmani – Image No 48
    5. Sri Maheshvari – Image No 49
    6. Sri Indrani – Image No 67
    7. Sri Vaishnavi – Image No 88
  3. River Goddesses (4)
    1. Sri Rushini (Narmada) – Image No 3
    2. Sri Yamuna – Image No 22
    3. Sri Jahnavi (Ganga) – Image No 76
    4. Sri Jaha (Sarasvati) – Image No 83
  4. Yogini Images (61)
    1. Inscribed Yogini Images = 51
    2. Uninscribed Yogini Images = 10
  5. Others (6)
    1. Shiva – Image No 19 & 37
    2. Ganesha – Image No 35 & 40
    3. Hanuman – Image No 39
    4. Bodhisattva – Image No 56 & 57 (in two pieces)

With the above categorization, Sharma concludes that the temple was constructed for sixty-four yoginis, of which sixty-one images have survived and three lost. Of those three, Sharma claims that he was able to discover one matrka image of Kaumari at the Mandla Archaeological Museum.17 This conclusion from Sharma and the scholars before him was influenced by the fact that provisions for niches in most yogini temples and lists enumerating yoginis in different tantra texts were restricted to sixty-four in numbers. Vidya Dehejia tells the Sri Matottara Tantra mentions a grouping of eighty-one yoginis and provides a list and clearly mentions that it was specially intended for royalty.18 Sri Matottara Tantra introduces a mula-chakra that revolves around nine matrkas. These nine matrkas include the regular seven (Brahmani, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani, and Chamunda) joined by Chandika and Maha-Lakshmi. In this chakra, each matrka is a yogini and in turn is associated with eight other yoginis, thus making the circle of eighty-one yoginis. Though the names for the yoginis provided in Sri Matottara Tantra do not match one-to-one with the inscribed labels at Bhedaghat, however, this should not be of big concern as we have observed the names of yoginis are influenced by local idioms and not always follow the pattern as mentioned in tantra text, says Dehejia. She concludes the Bhedaghat yogini temple was a royal foundation. Out of the nine matrkas of the mula-chakra, six are found at Bhedaghat, these are Varahi, Chandika, Brahmani, Maheshvari, Indrani, and Vaishnavi. The three missing matrkas might be among the ones that are lost from the temple as Dehejia tells many of the original images enshrined in niches were lost. She tells eight matrka images belonging to an earlier structure were brought here and installed. The male images of Shiva and Ganesha, now in the niches, were also not originally part of the eighty-one images. The presence of Chandika, Ganga, and Yamuna in the niches of the temple confirms that it was built following the Sri Matottara Tantra, as these are only mentioned in the list of eighty-one yoginis but not in sixty-four yoginis.

Gowri Shankar Temple

Gowri Shankar Temple – The temple constructed inside the circular cloister is known as the Gauri-Shankar temple.19 The original structure of the temple has no more survived except for its adhishthana (base). The present building is built partly of stone and partly of brick. The temple does not occupy the exact center of the circle but is located in the northwestern quadrant of the enclosure. Cunningham20 suggests that there would have been another temple, a counterpart of the present structure, in the southwestern quadrant of the enclosure. However, no remains of this other temple have been found.

Images inside the garbha-grha

The main image inside is of Shiva and Parvati sitting over Nandi. Looking at the dimensions of this image and the fact that it is constructed over a pedestal, Cunningham suggests that this image belongs to the group of images adorning the cells inside of the enclosure. Probably, this image was removed from its original location at some later time. An image of Vishnu with Lakshmi riding over Garuda is embedded into the wall of the temple.

An inscription slab procured by Dr. Hall at Bhedaghat, now with the Americal Oriental Society, is dated 1155 CE. The inscription mentions the construction of a temple named Vaidhyanatha and a matha by the Kalachuri queen Alhanadevi. Cunningham and a few early scholars take the view that the temple mentioned in this slab refers to the present Gowri Shankar temple. However, Dehejia21 rejects the theory stating the exact finding place of the slab is not specified therefore its association with the temple inside the Yogini temple is not warranted. There is another inscription slab fitted in the present Gowri Shankar temple that mentions queen Gosaladevi and can be dated to 1190 CE or slightly later. This suggests that the temple was in existence during the time of Gosaladevi and therefore though the inscription of Alhanadevi may not be proven to be connected to the temple however it would not be very incorrect if we say the Gowri Shankar temple was built sometime during the 12th century CE, either during the time of Alhanadevi or slightly before or later.

This is very clear that the Gowri Shankar temple is built a few centuries after the Yogini temple. Based upon the paleographic study of the label inscriptions of the images, most scholars agree on assigning the Yogini temple to the last quarter of the tenth century CE. Dehejia assigns it to 975-1025 CE, to the rule of the Kalchuri king Yuvaraja II suggesting he probably built the temple to propitiate the yoginis beseeching their assistance in defending his territories, banishing his foes, securing victory in battle and his bid for a rival kingdom. However, Yoginis did not respond to his plea, as he was defeated by the Paramaras and had to flee for his life.

Inscriptions:

  1. Bhedaghat stone inscription of Narasimha22 – The stone that bears this inscription was procured by Dr. F. E. Hall in 1857 at Bhedaghat and later deposited to the American Oriental Society. The inscription is written in 29 lines in language Sanskrit and Nagari characters. The inscription refers to the reign of the Kalachuri king Narasimha and is dated in the Kalchuri year 907, corresponding to 1155 CE. The object is to record that his mother, Alhanadevi, the widow of Gayakarna, constructed a temple of Shiva under the name of Vaidyanatha together with matha (monastery) and a hall of study which she endowed with the income from two villages, Namaundi and Makarapataka on the right bank of Narmada, for the worship of the deity. The management of the whole establishment was entrusted to a Pasupata ascetic Rudrarasi of the Lata lineage. The inscription was composed by Sasidhara, the son of Dharanidhara, of the Maunya gotra. It was written on stone by Prithvidhara and engraved by Mahidhara. Finally, it tells that the buildings were designed by the architect Pithe.
  2. Bhedaghat Gauri-Shakar Temple inscription of Vijayasimha23 – the inscription is incised on a stone slab let into the front wall, on the right-hand side of the door leading into the garbha-grha of the temple. It is composed in Sanskrit language and written in Nagari characters. The record does not carry any date. The object is to record the obeisance of the queen Gosaladevi, the mother of the Kalachuri king Vijayasimha, and the grandmother of the heir-apparent Ajayasimhadeva, to the enshrined god who appears to be named here Bhagnakhidra (the destroyer of diseases). As Vijayasimha’s reign started in 1188, this inscription may be dated to 1190 or soon after.

Marble Rocks –  These perpendicular magnesium limestone rocks fringe the crystal clear waters of the Narmada providing a fascinating site. The serene loveliness of the scene is one of cool quiet, the sunlight sparkling on the marble-white pinnacles and casting shadows on the pellucid waters.

Dhuandhar Falls

Dhuandhar Falls – The Narmada, making its way through the Marble Rocks, narrows down and then plunges into a waterfall known as Dhuandhar, or the smoke cascade. So powerful is the plunge that its roar is heard from a far distance. The falls and the breaking of the volume of water at the crest present an awesome spectacle of nature’s power unleashed.


1 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp.
2 Forsyth, James (1889). The Highlands of Central India. Chapman and Hall. London. p. 40
3 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 60
4 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 62
5 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 62
6 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 75-76
7 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. p. 40
8 Banerji, R D (1931). The Haihayas of Tripuri and Their Monuments. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 69-70
9 Banerji, R D (1931). The Haihayas of Tripuri and Their Monuments. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 68
10 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey, Eastern Circle, for 1907-1908, Part I – General Remarks. pp. 14-18
11 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. p. 57
12 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. p. 59
13 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. p. 60
14 Mirashi, V V (). कलचुरी नरेश और उनका काल. p. 180
15 Mitra, Debala (1956). Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. XXII. p. 238
16 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. p. 114
17 Sharma, R K (1978). The Temple of Chaunsathyogini at Bheraghat. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi. pp. 47-48
18 Dehejia, Vidya (1986). Yogini Cult and Temples. National Museum. New Delhi. pp. 129-130
19 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 61
20 Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74 and 1874-75, Vol. IX. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p. 62
21 Dehejia, Vidya (1986). Yogini Cult and Temples. National Museum. New Delhi. pp. 137-139
22 Mirashi, V V (1955). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. IV, Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, Part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 312-321
23 Mirashi, V V (1955). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. IV, Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi Era, Part I. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. pp. 363-364

Acknowledgment: Some of the photos above are in CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain from the collection released by Tapesh Yadav Foundation for Indian Heritage.

9 COMMENTS

  1. रोचक यात्रा, सुंदर चित्र. आपके साथ अपनी यादों को ताजा कर लेने का मौका मिल जा रहा है. CAPTCHA Code अब भी बना हुआ है!

  2. Hallo,
    My name is Aleksandra Bajic, from Beograd, Serbia, Europe. Your Yogini temple is beautiful. I have made some research of similar buildings and their potential use for astronomical purpose, watching the Sun and making calendar. That is why I looked to Google Earth picture of Bhedaghat temple, and I saw TWO circular buildings at the sight. Nobody mentions the second, minor circle, and I was not able to find out anything about it. I would be very happy, if somebody tells me something about the second circle, or send me some photographs of it.That will help me to research eventual astronomical use of those buildings.
    With respect,
    Aleksandra Bajic

    • Aleksandra Bajic, I went to the 2nd circular bldg and was able to look over its wall. I can’t figure out who you are; several in Serbia. I climbed up the park to the South of the main temple and found it. It’s full of sculptures. No one around to get the key.

  3. I did not know about this ancient cult, but it seems familiar to me, some sort of similar essence to a strane symbol I received mentally, containing the essence of 9 and 8, 9×8=72, one degree of the sun or the name of the dual God “36+36, or on a larger scale=
    360+360=720”.
    I feel there must be temples with the element 8 and 8×8, and also 9 and 9×9 because they had access to the same identical information
    of the music of the celestial bodies and divine matrix, represented with many stiles and format by the various ancient cultures..

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