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Yogini, 10th century Chola dynasty, Tamil Nadu, India. from the Smithsonian Institution

Yogini (Sanskrit: योगिनी, yoginī, IPA: [ˈjoɡiniː]) is the feminine Sanskrit word of the masculine yogi, while the term "yogin" is used in neutral, masculine or feminine sense.[1] More than a gender label for all things yogi, yogini represents both a female master practitioner of yoga and a formal term of respect for female Hindu or Buddhist spiritual teachers in India, Nepal and Tibet.

In the Hindu tradition, yogini has referred to women who are part of the Yoga school of Hindu traditions and to the women who were part of the Gorakshanath founded Nath Yogi tradition.[2] A Yogini, in some contexts, refers to the sacred feminine force made incarnate, as an aspect of Parvati, and revered in yogini temples of India as the Eight Matrikas or the Sixty-four Yoginis.[3][4]

Yogini also refers to women who are part of Hindu and Buddhist tantra traditions.[5][6] In Tantric Buddhism, Miranda Shaw states that a large number of women like Dombiyogini, Sahajayogicinta, Lakshminkara, Mekhala, Kankhala Gangadhara, Siddharajni, and others, were respected yoginis and advanced seekers on the path to enlightenment.[7]

In the Tibetan Buddhism and Bön tradition, some ngagmas are comparable, in practice, to the Mahasidda yoginis of Indian Buddhism.[citation needed]

Yogini in history[edit]

Yogini is a term that finds reference in ancient and medieval texts in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, typically in the context and as aspect of Devi. The Devi Sukta of the Rigveda 10.125.1 through 10.125.8, is among the most studied hymns declaring that the ultimate metaphysical reality (Brahman) is a Devi,[8][9]

I have created all worlds at my will, without being urged by any higher being, and I dwell within them.
I permeate the earth and heaven, all created entities with my greatness, and dwell in them as eternal and infinite consciousness.

— Devi Sukta, Rigveda 10.125.8, Translated by June McDaniel[8][9][10]

The Vedas includes numerous goddesses including Ushas (dawn), Prithvi (earth), Aditi (cosmic moral order), Saraswati (river, knowledge), Vāc (sound), Nirṛti (destruction), Ratri (night), Aranyani (forest), and bounty goddesses such as Dinsana, Raka, Puramdhi, Parendi, Bharati, Mahi among others are mentioned in the Rigveda.[11] However, the women are not discussed as frequently as men.[11] All gods and goddesses are distinguished in the Vedic times,[12] but in the post-Vedic texts, particularly in the early medieval era literature, they are ultimately seen as aspects or manifestations of one Devi, the Supreme power.[13]

Yogini in Hindu and Buddhist arts. Clockwise from upper left: Nath yoginis, Rajasthan (17th century); Nath yoginis, Rajasthan (18th century); Devi Yogini, Tamil Nadu (9th century); yogini, Tibet (16th century).

The earliest evidence of Yogis and their spiritual tradition, states Karel Werner, is found in the Kesin hymn of the Vedas, where these yogins are praised.[14] However, there is no mention that these Vedic era Yogi included women. Scholars note that some ancient Vedic sages (Rishis) were women.[15][16] A female rishi is known as a rishika.[17]

The term yogini has been in use in medieval times to refer to a woman who belongs to the Gorakshanath-founded Nath Yogi tradition.[18] They usually belong to Shaiva tradition, but some Natha belong to the Vaishnava tradition.[19] In both cases, states David Lorenzen, they practice Yoga and their principal God tends to be Nirguna, that is a God that is without form and semi-monistic,[19] influenced in the medieval era by the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, as well as Tantra and Yogic practices.[20][21] Female yoginis were a large part of this tradition, and many 2nd-millennium paintings depict them and their Yoga practices. David Lorenzen states that the Nath yogis have been very popular with the rural population in South Asia, with medieval era tales and stories about Nath yogis continuing to be remembered in contemporary times, in the Deccan, western and northern states of India and in Nepal.[19]

In medieval mythology such as Kathāsaritsāgara, yogini is also the name of a class of females with magical powers, fairies who are sorceresses sometimes enumerated as 8, 60, 64 or 65.[22] The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika text mentions Yogini.[23]

In real life, historical evidence on Yogini Kaulas suggests that yogini tradition in Hinduism, who practiced Yoga philosophy and Tantra, were well established by the 10th century.[24] This development was not limited to Hinduism, and included Yogini in Buddhist tantra traditions.[24]

Modern era[edit]

Though the leaders of the modern Yoga-asana & meditation tradition have often been male, the vast majority of modern practitioners are female.[25]

In some branches of tantra Yoga, ten wisdom goddesses (or dakinis) serve as models for a yogini's disposition and behavior.[citation needed]

Yogini in Shaktism and Tantrika traditions[edit]

Temples to the Sixty-four Yogini[edit]

Chausathi Jogini ('Sixty-four Yogini') Temple located at Hirapur, Odisha.
One of the Yogini of Chausathi Jogini Temple at Hirapur, Odisha.
8th-century Chausath Yogini Temple in Madhya Pradesh.

There are four major extant shrines of the Sixty-four Yogini (Chausathi Yogini, among other spellings) in India (named for 64 legendary yogini), two in Odisha and two in Madhya Pradesh. One of the most impressive yogini temples in Odisha is the ninth century CE hypaethral Chausathi Jogini Temple located at Hirapur in Khurda district, 15 km south of Bhubaneshwar. Another hypaethral sixty-four yogini temple in Odisha is the Chausathi Yogini Pitha in Ranipur-Jharial, near Titilagarh in Balangir district. Two images of the Sixty-four Yogini are missing from this temple.[26]

Two notable yogini temples in Madhya Pradesh are the ninth-century Chaunsath Yogini Temple to the southwest of the western group of temples in Khajuraho, near Chhatarpur in Chhatarpur District, and the 10th century CE Chaunsath Yogini Mandir in Bhedaghat, near Jabalpur in Jabalpur district.[27][28]

The iconographies of the yogini images in four yogini temples are not uniform. In the Hirapur temple, all yogini images are with their vahanas (vehicles) and in standing posture. In Ranipur-Jharial temple the yogini images are in dancing posture. In Bhedaghat temple, yogini images are seated in Lalitasana.[29]

The Sixty-four Yogini as depicted in the complete Hirapur shrine are:

  1. Bahurupa
  2. Tara
  3. Narmada
  4. Yamuna
  5. Shanti
  6. Varuni
  7. Kshemankari
  8. Aindri
  9. Varahi
  10. Ranveera
  11. Vanara-Mukhi
  12. Vaishnavi
  13. Kalaratri
  14. Vaidyaroopa
  15. Charchika
  16. Betali
  17. Chinnamastika
  18. Vrishabahana
  19. Jwala Kamini
  20. Ghatavara
  21. Karakali
  22. Saraswati
  23. Birupa
  24. Kauveri
  25. Bhaluka
  26. Narasimhi
  27. Biraja
  28. Vikatanna
  29. Mahalakshmi
  30. Kaumari
  31. Maha Maya
  32. Rati
  33. Karkari
  34. Sarpashya
  35. Yakshini
  36. Vinayaki
  37. Vindya Balini
  38. Veera Kumari
  39. Maheshwari
  40. Ambika
  41. Kamiyani
  42. Ghatabari
  43. Stutee
  44. Kali
  45. Uma
  46. Narayani
  47. Samudraa
  48. Brahmini
  49. Jwala Mukhi
  50. Agneyei
  51. Aditi
  52. Chandrakanti
  53. Vayubega
  54. Chamunda
  55. Murati
  56. Ganga
  57. Dhumavati
  58. Gandhari
  59. Sarva Mangala
  60. Ajita
  61. Surya Putri
  62. Vayu Veena
  63. Aghora
  64. Bhadrakali

Association with Matrikas[edit]

Often the Matrikas are confused with the legendary yoginis, who may number sixty-four or eighty-one.[30] In Sanskrit literature, the yoginis have been represented as the attendants or various manifestations of Durga engaged in fighting with the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, and the principal yoginis are identified with the Matrikas.[31] Other yoginis are described as born from one or more Matrikas. The derivation of 64 yogini from eight Matrikas became a tradition. By mid-11th century, the connection between yoginis and Matrikas had become common lore. The mandala (circle) and chakra of yoginis were used alternatively. The 81 yoginis evolve from a group of nine Matrikas, instead eight. The Saptamatrika (Brahmi, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani (Aindri) and Chamundi) joined by Candika and Mahalakshmi form the nine-Matrika cluster. Each Matrika is considered to be a yogini and is associate with eight other yoginis resulting in the troupe of 81 (nine times nine).[32] Some traditions have only seven Matrikas, and thus fewer yoginis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, योगिन्, Archive: yogini
  2. ^ White 2012, pp. 8-9, 234-256, 454-467.
  3. ^ Chaudhury, Janmejay. Origin of Tantricism and Sixty-four Yogini Cult in Orissa in Orissa Review, October, 2004 Archived May 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Sakta Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1974, 2d ed. 1996), p. 128.
  5. ^ Rita Gross (1993), Buddhism After Patriarchy, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0791414033, page 87, 85-88
  6. ^ David Gordon White (2013), Tantra in Practice, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120817784, pages xiii-xv
  7. ^ Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press, 1994
  8. ^ a b McDaniel 2004, p. 90.
  9. ^ a b Brown 1998, p. 26.
  10. ^ Sanskrit original see: ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १०.१२५;
    for an alternate English translation, see: The Rig Veda/Mandala 10/Hymn 125 Ralph T.H. Griffith (Translator); for
  11. ^ a b David Kinsley (2005), Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions, University of California Press, ISBN 978-8120803947, pages 6-17, 55-64
  12. ^ David Kinsley (2005), Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions, University of California Press, ISBN 978-8120803947, pages 18, 19
  13. ^ Christopher John Fuller (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691120485, page 41
  14. ^ Karel Werner (1977), Yoga and the Ṛg Veda: An Interpretation of the Keśin Hymn (RV 10, 136), Religious Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, page 289; Quote: The Yogis of Vedic times left little evidence of their existence, practices and achievements. And such evidence as has survived in the Vedas is scanty and indirect. Nevertheless, the existence of accomplished Yogis in Vedic times cannot be doubted."
  15. ^ Swami Vivekananda public lecture, Vedanta Voice of Freedom, ISBN 0-916356-63-9, p.43
  16. ^ Daughters of the Goddess: Women Saints of India, by Linda Johnsen PhD., Yes Int'l Publishers, 1994, pg. 9.
  17. ^ The Shambhala Encyclopedia of YOGA, p.244
  18. ^ White 2012, p. 8-9.
  19. ^ a b c David N. Lorenzen and Adrián Muñoz (2012), Yogi Heroes and Poets: Histories and Legends of the Naths, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-1438438900, pages x-xi
  20. ^ David Lorenzen (2004), Religious Movements in South Asia, 600-1800, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195664485, pages 310-311
  21. ^ David N. Lorenzen and Adrián Muñoz (2012), Yogi Heroes and Poets: Histories and Legends of the Naths, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-1438438900, pages 24-25
  22. ^ Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary (1899).
  23. ^ The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Georg Feurstein Ph.D., Shambhala Publications, Boston 2000, p.350
  24. ^ a b White 2012, p. 73-75, 132-141.
  25. ^ Gates, Janice. Yogini: The Power of Woman, 2006, Mandala Publishing, p. 3
  26. ^ Patel, C.B. Monumental Efflorescence of Ranipur-Jharial in Orissa Review, August 2004, pp.41-44 Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Jabalpur district official website – about us Archived August 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ Chausath Yogini Temple - Site Plan, Photos and Inventory of Goddesses Archived April 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ Chaudhury, Janmejay. Origin of Tantricism and Sixty-Four Yogini Cult in Orissa in Orissa Review, October, 2004 Archived May 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Dehejia, Vidya, Yogini Cult and Temples
  31. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Sakta Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1974, 2d ed. 1996), p. 128.
  32. ^ Wangu p.114


  • Brown, Cheever Mackenzie (1998). The Devi Gita: The Song of the Goddess: A Translation, Annotation, and Commentary. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-3939-5. 
  • Chopra, Shambhavi. Yogini: The Enlightened Woman, Wisdom Tree Press, India, 2006
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  • Johnsen, Linda. "Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India", Yes Int'l Publishing, U.S., 1994
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  • Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, North Atlantic Books, 3rd edition, 2001
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  • Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press, 1994
  • Shaw, Miranda. Buddhist Goddesses of India, Princeton University Press, 2006.
  • Tiwari, Bri. Maya. The Path of Practice: A Woman's Book of Ayurvedic Healing, Motilal Banarsidass Press, 2002
  • Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. Images of Indian Goddesses, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 2003
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External links[edit]