Former head of Bhopal and Delhi circle Archaeology Department, K. K. Mohammad says that the design of the Parliament House was inspired by this temple. The resemblances between the two structures are too similar to be ignored.
India is as much a land of architecture as it is of art, culture and traditions. The Hindu kings and their artisans of ancient and medieval Bharatvarsha prided themselves in bringing to fruition such architectural marvels that were not just beautiful but masterpieces in their own right. Every dynasty brought in some unique feature which gave rise to numerous architectural forms. In a country as vast as ours, it is only natural that the land would be dotted with temples and palaces; many of which are hardly known beyond the town or district they are located in. Among the numerous unique yet lesser known temples is the 11th Century Chausath Yogini Mandir, dedicated to Mahadev, located in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh.
Chambal valley is best known for ‘daakus’, desi Robinhoods who earned a bad reputation thanks to the British, even though they never harassed common people (that, however, isn’t what this article is about). The temple is situated on top of a hill, 40 kilometres away from Gwalior in the village of Mitawali. It is said that Kachchhapaghata King Devapala, who ruled from 1055 to 1075 CE, built this temple. It served as a place for teaching astrology and mathematics based on the movements of the Sun. This temple is also believed to have been the centre of Tantric education in erstwhile times. The Archaeological Survey of India has designated the temple as an ancient and historical monument. Surprisingly, it is one of those few monuments that finds itself in good shape and one that is well maintained; possibly because not many people know of this place just like other yet to be discovered historical treasures that lies in the Chambal valley.
A hundred steps climb will bring one to the entrance of this circular temple. In the inner part of the temple there are 64 chambers, which gives it the name Chausath Yogini. Although at present each of these chambers houses an image of Shiva, earlier it was the Yoginis who were deified in these chambers. There is a central chamber which houses an image of Lord Shiva and which is separated from the outer enclosure by a courtyard. The central chamber is also circular in shape and has a porch. Both the external and internal chambers have pilasters and pillars that have images of Hindu deities carved on them. The roof is flat and each chamber features a Mandapa. Earlier the roofs of the 64 chambers as well as the central chamber had shikaras which are believed to have been removed during subsequent modifications by later rulers. The premise also houses another temple facing the eastern side.
One of the outstanding features of this temple is a huge underground water storage facility that collects rainwater running off from the main shrine and reaching this facility through drain pipes. Hindu rulers of the past didn’t simple erect structures but these were architectural marvels in themselves. This temple is proof of their engineering and architectural expertise, like several others that dot the Indian landscape. The temple is located in Seismic Zone III (Moderate Damage Risk Zone) and has withstood the test of time by facing several earthquake shocks without any damage to it. Isn’t that an architectural marvel?
Connection with India’s ‘temple of democracy’
What does Chausath Yogini Temple and Parliament House have in common? What could a centuries old temple located in the Chambal valley possible have in common with India’s temple of democracy Parliament House situated several kilometres away in Raisina Hill? Former head of Bhopal and Delhi circle Archaeology Department, K. K. Mohammad says that the design of the Parliament House was inspired by this temple. The resemblances between the two structures are too similar to be ignored.
Although it is among one of the better maintained ancient structures, it is facing serious threat from constant bombardment by illegal mining mafia. The Chambal Valley is dotted with many such ancient temples that date back to several centuries and have remained hidden from public view. Restoration work must be undertaken by Archaeological Survey of India on a war footing of not just this temple but others in the Chambal Valley. Public must be made aware of their importance and the necessity to preserve them.
Preserving history for posterity is our duty and responsibility. It is our history that defines us and loss of such architectural wonders would be a great disservice to all those great dynasties that left their footprints in the sands of time in the form of monuments that are awe inspiring.