Return of the Yogini

The exhibition ‘Return of the Yogini’ is jointly organised by the National Museum, New Delhi and the National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology, New Delhi to mark the safe return of Yogini Vrishanana to India. The sculpture was taken to France illegally and acquired by the late art collector, Mr. Robert Schrimpf.  Mrs. Martine Schrimpf, informed the Embassy of India in Paris of her desire to donate the object. The Hon’ble Minister of Culture, Smt. Chandresh Kumari Katoch directed the National Museum, New Delhi to bring back the sculpture. Thereafter, the Yogini returned safely to India in the month of August, 2013.

Yoginis are a group of powerful female divinities, which are associated with the tantric mode of worship. They are worshipped as a group (often sixty-four) and seldom individually. They acquire formidable dynamism as goddesses who could impart magical powers to their worshippers. The yoginis were believed to possess infinite mystical powers such as the power of transformation and granting wishes.

The bodily form of the yoginis could be human, half-human or half-bestial. However, the bodies were always human. Their divinity was indicated through weapons, haloes and multiple arms. They carry skull-cups, maces, clubs, tridents, books, flowers, spears, skull-garlands and curved knives. They are often seen mounted on individual vehicles (vahanas) such as tortoise, swan, snake etc.  Yogini temples were often situated in isolated locations on the outskirts of a town or on the top of a hill. The yoginis are worshipped enshrined in an individual niche, generally within a circular temple.

Lokhari is a small village situated in the Mau subdivision of Banda district in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. The temple at Lokhari was identified as an important historical site after the discovery of yogini sculptures. The site confirms the tradition of esoteric forms of worship prevalent in that region in the tenth century CE.

The yogini temple at Lokhari has been an unprotected site. The sculpture Yogini Vrishanana, weighing nearly four hundred kilograms, was taken to France illegally.

This exhibition is important as it celebrates the return of rare heritage sculpture that was stolen from the country.