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

Yogini (Sanskrit: योगिनी, yoginī, IPA: [ˈjoɡiːniː]) is the feminine source word of the masculine yogi- and neutral/plural "yogin." 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 a category of modern 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.[1] 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 eight Matrikas or sixty four Yoginis.[2][3]

Yogini also refers to women who are part of Hindu and Buddhist tantra traditions.[4][5] 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.[6]

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,[7][8]

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[7][8][9]

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.[10] However, the women are not discussed as frequently as men.[10] All gods and goddesses are distinguished in the Vedic times,[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] However, there is no mention that these Vedic era Yogi included women. Scholars note that some ancient Vedic sages (Rishis) were women.[14][15] A female rishi is known as a rishika.[16]

The term Yogini has been in use in medieval times to refer to a woman who belongs to the Gorakshanath-founded Nath Yogi tradition.[17] They usually belong to Shaiva tradition, but some Natha belong to the Vaishnava tradition.[18] 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,[18] influenced in the medieval era by the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, as well as Tantra and Yogic practices.[19][20] 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.[18]

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.[21] The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika text mentions Yogini.[22]

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.[23] This development was not limited to Hinduism, and included Yogini in Buddhist tantra traditions.[23]

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.[24]

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]

The Sixty-Four Yogini temples[edit]

Chausathi yogini (sixty-four yogini) temple located at Hirapur, Odisha.
One of the Yogini of Chausathi Yogini Temple at Hirapur, Odisha.
8th-century Chausath Yogini Temple in Madhya Pradesh.

There are four major extant "sixty-four yogini" temples in India, two in Odisha and two in Madhya Pradesh. One of the most impressive yogini temples in Odisha is the 9th century CE hypaethral Chausathi yogini (sixty-four yogini) 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. Presently only 62 images are found in this temple.[25]

Two notable Yogini temples in Madhya Pradesh are the 9th century CE 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.[26][27]

The iconographies of the Yogini images in four Yogini temples are not uniform. In Hirapur yogini 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.[28]

The 64 Yoginis that have been depicted in the Hirapur Chausat Yogini 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 Yoginis which may be sixty-four or eighty-one.[29] 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.[30] Other Yoginis are described as born from one or more Matrikas. The derivation of 64 Yogini from 8 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 of seven or 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).[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ White 2012, pp. 8-9, 234-256, 454-467.
  2. ^ Chaudhury, Janmejay. Origin of Tantricism and Sixty-Four Yogini Cult in Orissa in Orissa Review, October, 2004
  3. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Sakta Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1974, 2d ed. 1996), p. 128.
  4. ^ Rita Gross (1993), Buddhism After Patriarchy, SUNY Press, ISBN 978-0791414033, page 87, 85-88
  5. ^ David Gordon White (2013), Tantra in Practice, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120817784, pages xiii-xv
  6. ^ Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press, 1994
  7. ^ a b McDaniel 2004, p. 90.
  8. ^ a b Brown 1998, p. 26.
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Christopher John Fuller (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691120485, page 41
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ Swami Vivekananda public lecture, Vedanta Voice of Freedom, ISBN 0-916356-63-9, p.43
  15. ^ Daughters of the Goddess: Women Saints of India, by Linda Johnsen PhD., Yes Int'l Publishers, 1994, pg. 9.
  16. ^ The Shambhala Encyclopedia of YOGA, p.244
  17. ^ White 2012, p. 8-9.
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ David Lorenzen (2004), Religious Movements in South Asia, 600-1800, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195664485, pages 310-311
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary (1899).
  22. ^ The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Georg Feurstein Ph.D., Shambhala Publications, Boston 2000, p.350
  23. ^ a b White 2012, p. 73-75, 132-141.
  24. ^ Gates, Janice. Yogini: The Power of Woman, 2006, Mandala Publishing, p. 3
  25. ^ Patel, C.B. Monumental Efflorescence of Ranipur-Jharial in Orissa Review, August 2004, pp.41-44
  26. ^ Jabalpur district official website – about us
  27. ^ Chausath Yogini Temple - Site Plan, Photos and Inventory of Goddesses
  28. ^ Chaudhury, Janmejay. Origin of Tantricism and Sixty-Four Yogini Cult in Orissa in Orissa Review, October, 2004
  29. ^ Dehejia, Vidya, Yogini Cult and Temples
  30. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Sakta Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1974, 2d ed. 1996), p. 128.
  31. ^ 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
  • Dehejia, Vidya. Yogini Cult and Temples: A Tantric Tradition, National Museum, New Delhi, 1986.
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  • Gupta, Roxanne Kamayani. A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance: The Yogini's Mirror, Inner Traditions, U.S., 2000
  • Johnsen, Linda. "Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India", Yes Int'l Publishing, U.S., 1994
  • McDaniel, June (9 July 2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls : Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-534713-5. 
  • Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, North Atlantic Books, 3rd edition, 2001
  • Muktananda, Swami. Nawa Yogini Tantra: Yoga for Women, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, 2004
  • 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
  • White, David Gordon (2012), The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press 

External links[edit]