An Attic Presentation

Looking at Chaunsatha Yoginis : Beauty, Power and Secrecy

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On saturday 19th september at 6.30 pm Attic will present ‘Looking at Chaunsatha Yoginis : Beauty, Power and Secrecy’, an illustrated talk by Nilima Chitgopekar Popularly referred to as the ‘Chaunsatha’ or sixty-four Yoginis, even though the numbers may be either eighty-one or forty, this set of goddesses appear in sculpture in the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. Within the realm of group-divinities, the Yogini cult, has sustained its power to bewilder and captivate. Undoubtedly the inherent arcane nature of the yoginis, evident in their visual representation as well as the random mention of them in literature, is responsible for this aura of enigma.

Besides this, they also share an extremely important feature with some other female group divinities, that is, they were not subsumed into the cult of male figures. In a culture where many an authoritative goddess was, ‘spousified’, ‘consortified’ or ‘husbanded’, this self-dependence is a trait brimming with potential to illustrate yet more varied belief systems and cultural values. Historically, their apparent appearance at a point in time and then evident ‘disappearance’ within a few centuries is still another contributory factor to their sense of allure. This talk, with the help of visuals, is an attempt to unravel some of the mysteries pertaining to the yoginis.

Nilima Chitgopekar is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University. The papers she teaches are, The History of Early India, The History of the USA and Transformations in History. Her research, for the most part, has been in the History and Development of Indian Religions, which she has taught at the post-graduate level for several years.

In her writings and the lectures she delivers, she tries to unravel the complexity of Hindu gods and goddesses by combining the study of religion with historical data, which among other things includes, mythology, inscriptions, iconography and scriptures. More recently she has been testing this data in conjunction with elements of faith.. A poet, who has been published in anthologies and journals, she has presented her poems in readings in India and in the USA.

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