The beautiful circular open air temple was built by Queen Hiradevi wife of King Subhakar Deva II of the Bhauma dynasty in the 9th Century AD. The presiding deity is Goddess Shakti along with her sixty four incarnations, hence the name Chausathi (means sixty four in Odia) Yogini, although there are sixty two idols of Shakti in reality at the temple.
Odisha, during ancient times was a shakti pitha before it was taken over by Buddhism, Shaivism and later Vaishnavism. This could be the reason why one still finds a Gram Devi (Village deity) in every village of Odisha till this day. The Yogini temple probably is a consolidation of all the Gram Devi’s at one place which gave them a new form full of vitality and vigour. The Yogini temples (in India there are six of them out of which two are in Odisha, the other one being in Ranipur Jharial in Bolangir District) have a distinct open air circular structure in accordance with the tantric belief of worshiping the five elements of nature – air, water, earth, fire and sky or ether.
The Chausathi Yogini temple at Hirapur is the smallest Yogini temple in India and what's striking is that the Yogini cult in Odisha saw the peaceful amalgamation of the tantric Hinduism with that of tantric Buddhism or the Vajrayana sect as we call it.
The Yogini cult was influenced by tantrism and flourished between 800 AD till about 1300 AD. In the Yogini cult the symbol is a chakra with sixty four spokes. A very significant feature, whether its the yogini temples of Odisha or that found in Madhya Pradesh none of them have sculptures in erotic poses, as they did not believe in “Sex” as a path to salvation. Yoginis defined and represented the ultimate feminine power which was why they were depicted as embracing life rather than withdrawing from it.
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