The old structures tell us stories of the time long gone by, but their yearning for timelessness is everlasting. Some just have to jolt our memory harder to gain attention while some are lucky enough to get it effortlessly. A few gems of Madhya Pradesh’s Chambal region fall in the former category. Or perhaps the yesteryears’ horse-riding dacoits of the area, made more famous by the movies, didn’t give many a chance in the race for popularity.
64 Yogini Temple of Mitawali
Around 50 km from the former princely state, Gwalior, stands a magnificent structure in sandstone that is believed to have inspired the design of none other than the Parliament House in New Delhi. Yet, all one gets is blank faces, when asked for directions.
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Despite some time-taking halts for cross-checking the course, some 15 km from Morena (famous for its gajak across the world) on NH3 and another 15 km after from Thekari, you see a board for Mitawali. Once you reach the destination, the sheer sight of the Mitawali temple, also referred to as the 64 Yogini Temple, seems like a happy ending of a treasure hunt.
The temple structure is also a wonderful lesson for rain harvesting and engineering. The perforated base at the central structure allowed rain water to collect in a huge reservoir below which is not visible from outside. The roof is also built in a way that rain water gets drained quickly.
Believed to have been built in the ninth century as a centre for imparting astrological and mathematical knowledge, the circular structure of the temple on a hillock almost looks like an initial draft of the Lutyens and Baker-designed Parliament House. Unlike the headquarters of the democracy in the Capital that has pillars on the outer verandah, this temple has pillars inside.
One among the four major existing shrines of the 64 Yogini, Mitawali’s outer wall is decorated with images of Hindu gods and goddesses. Historically, yoginis has referred to the women attendants of Goddess Durga possessing sacred feminine force as a blessing from the goddess or to women who were part of the ancient schools of yoga. The open mandapa (main circular temple in the centre) is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is surrounded by 64 chambers with an image of Lord Shiva in each, which were earlier images of yoginis.
Hardly three km from Mitawali is another temple which the locals believe to have actually served as a case study for the illustrious Khajuraho group of monuments near Jhansi.
The artwork of the temple is worth admiring– interiors of the mukhmandapa (the entrance porch) that are intricately carved with 3D details and the wonderfully-carved pillars and ceilings depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology. While at one place there are Krishna’s gopikas churning butter and he fighting Kesi bull, at the other is Lord Vishnu’s 10 incarnations, Samudra Manthan, Lord Ganesha’s wedding and many more.
While some things point at the Padavali temple being dedicated to Lord Vishnu, a huge nandi (Lord Shiva’s mount) found from its ruins means it could have been dedicated to the god of destruction too. It is difficult to verify as the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, mandapa (the assembly hall) and mukhmandapa are in a visibly ruined state.