Yogini, Witch or the Goddess? 

Have you ever wondered why the legends, stories and mythologies around the world are so similar?

I got the inspiration for this article from an artifact in New Delhi’s National Museum – Yogini Vrishanana. The statue was similar to the Horned God of the ancient religion and Wicca. It was later that I learned that the statue was not of a male deity but a female divinity named Yogini Vrishanana. 

Yogini
Sculpture of Yogini Vrishanana in National Museum
According to historical records, Yoginis are a group of powerful female divinities associated with tantric practices or tantric mode of worship. They are usually worshiped in a group of 64 or sometimes individually. They acquire formidable dynamism as goddesses who could transfer magical powers to their worshippers. A Yogini was believed to possess infinite mystical powers such as the power of transformation and granting wishes.

Note that, the description above is similar to the ancient religions like witchcraft, Druidism, etc. The Wiccans work in a coven and sometimes as a solitary witch. Witchcraft is also considered as an inappropriate practice and often seen as something evil or unholy.  

According to some scholars, the Yoginis were originally women or priestesses, who being possessed by the spirit of goddesses became Yoginis. 

The bodily form of the yoginis could be human, half-human or half-bestial. However, the bodies were always human. Their divinity was indicated through weapons, haloes and multiple arms. They carry skull-cups, maces, clubs, tridents, books, flowers, spears, skull-garlands and curved knives. They are often seen mounted on individual vehicles (vahanas) such as tortoise, swan, snake, etc. – nationalmuseumindia.gov.in

Most of the ancient Hindu temples are either located on the top of a hill or in the caves. For example, Vaishnodevi temple. The pagans also practised in isolation away from the general crowd. 

The above statue of Yogini Vrishanana is exihibited at a joint exhibition by the National Museum Delhi, National Museum of History of Arts, Conservation and Museology in New Delhi by the name – Return of the Yogini. 

This life-size sculpture was taken to France illegally and was acquired by the collector Robert Schrimpf. After his demise, the sculpture was donated and returned back to India in the August of 2013.

Lokhari Village

Excavated from Lokhari, a small village in the region of Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh gives an insight of what religious practices were like in that region. The region confirms that esoteric form of worship was prevalent in the 10th century. After the discovery of yogini sculpture, Lokhari became an important historic place, but the yogini temple remains as an unprotected site. 

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