Chausath Yogini Temple, Mitawali - The Inspiration of Indian Parliament
In the village of Mitawali near Morena in Madhya Pradesh, atop a hill surrounded by ravines of Chambal valley, stands a unique ancient temple resembling the Indian Parliament House. According to an inscription dated to 1323 AD, the temple was built by Maharaja Devapala of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty (originally feudatories of the Chandelas of Bundelkhand) in 8th century AD. The temple is dedicated to the Tantric sect of Chausath Yogini (Chausath meaning 64). A Yogini in Tantra means a practitioner of Yoga, who has controlled her desires and reached a higher stage. They are basically various manifestations of the Divine Durga. This association with various forms of Durga gave rise to the cult of Chausath (64) Yoginis over time. There are only about a half a dozen such temples in India.
The structure of the temple is circular in shape and is strickingly similar to the Indian Parliament House known as Sansad Bhawan. It seems that the British architects drew inspiration from this temple in designing and building the Parliament House. Most of the Hindu temples are based on square or rectangular plan. Circular temples are very rare.
The temple is located on a hill which is about 100 feet high. There are 100 steps leading to the entrance of the temple. The temple is externally circular in shape with a radius of 170 feet (52 m). There is a circular open mandapa in the centre, separated by a pillared courtyard. Unlike the Parliament House that has pillars on the outer verandah, the Mitawali Temple has pillars around the outer circumambulator path that opens into the central courtyard.
Within its interior part there are 64 small chambers, each with an open mandapa. The roof of the entire structure is flat including that of central mandapa. The outer walls of the temple is decorated with numerous images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Each of the 64 chambers in the outer circle has an image of Shiva deitified in it in the form of a Shivalinga. The central shrine is dedicated to Yogini. There was a time when each chamber also had an image of yogini accompanying Shiva. While some yogini murtis were stolen, some others are adorning Indian museums. It is said that the roof over the 64 chambers and the central shrine had towers or shikharas which were probably removed during later modifications. Within the main central shrine there are slab coverings which have perforations in them to drain rainwater to a large underground storage. The design of the temple has withstood earthquake shocks, without any damage to its circular structural features, in the past several centuries.
The Chausath Yogini Temple was once a well-known centre of Tantricism and still tantric rituals and yajnas are performed here. It is said that the temple was also a seat of education of astrology and mathematics.