The Yogmaya Temple at Mehrauli is possibly the oldest living temple in Delhi. This temple is located on the back of the famous Qutub Minar complex.
Mehrauli itself is one of the oldest residential areas of Delhi. It was the first capital of pre-Islam era. All the rulers of that period ruled from here. At one time it was a strong Hindu and Jain region. But to convert this area into Islamic territory, its impression was mostly destroyed. The temples were destroyed and mosques were built. High towers were built.
One temple that remained unaffected by these devastating invasions was the Yogmaya Temple. When you go from Qutub Sankhla towards the Mehrauli bus stop, you will see a stone entrance on your right which has statues of two lions adorning the door on either side. After entering from the entrance, when you move about 150 meters, you will see this temple on your left.
In the Jain scriptures, this Mehrauli region of Delhi Yoginipur Having said. Perhaps the area was named after this temple. Many ancient Jain temples such as Dadabadi still exist in this area. Looking at them, it is not difficult to understand this relationship.
Folklore of yogamaya
The Yogmaya Temple or Jogmaya Temple is an ancient Hindu temple. This temple is considered to be more than 5000 years old. This means it is the temple of Dwapara Yuga when the Mahabharata War took place.
Goddess Yogamaya is considered to be an incarnation of Adi Shakti Mahalakshmi. It is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths. It is believed that the head of Goddess Sati fell here, which is present here as a Pindi. Yogamaya Devi is considered as the Goddess of Sattva Guna. That is why there is a prohibition in this temple on any kind of sacrifice, ill-advised diet and offering of Sura.
Yogmaya was the sister of Shri Krishna who was the daughter of Krishna’s foster parents Yashoda and Nanda. With the intention of killing the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudev, how did he reach the prison house and in the confusion of Krishna, lying in his place, Yashoda and Nanda’s daughter got up and slammed on the wall, then she disappeared from her hand and disappeared into the sky. As the girl went, she predicted that Kansa would be the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, who had taken birth. After that, the girl went to Vindhyachal mountain and started living there as Vindhyavasini. There is also a temple atop the mountain dedicated to him. It is also mentioned in Durga Saptashati that at this time in the cycle, she was born as the daughter of Yashoda and Nanda.
Some scholars believe that Yogmaya Devi’s head is in Delhi and her feet are in Vindhyachal.
Mahabharata and Yogamaya
According to some sources, this temple was built by Shri Krishna himself. This is the story of the time when Shri Krishna and Arjuna came to worship at this Yogmaya temple during Mahabharata war. When Jayadratha killed Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu in the war, Arjuna vowed that he would kill Jayadratha till the coming evening, otherwise he would surrender himself to fire. The next day the Kauravas kept Jayadratha the whole day away from Arjuna. With this, the slaughter of Jayadratha was becoming impossible.
At that time Krishna and Arjuna came to this temple and requested the goddess for help. The goddess created a short period solar eclipse from her illusion. Arjuna killed Jayadratha when Jayadratha was heedless in the confusion of the evening.
Another legend states that Yudhishthira built this temple after the Mahabharata war.
As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied with the fact that it is an ancient temple and there is a continuous worship of Yogmaya.
History of Yogmaya Temple of Mehrauli
Yogmaya Chauhan is the Kuldevi of kings. The Chauhan kings took over the reins from Qila Rai Pithora in Delhi.
You must have wondered how this ancient temple survived safely from the many invasions in Delhi? For a long time this temple was literally located in the middle of the storm of invasions. It was first attacked by Ghazni, then by Islamic invaders. 17th The temple was renovated by Hindu Emperor Vikramaditya Hemu in the middle of the century.
At the end of the 16th century, Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of all temples, including this temple. It is said that Aurangzeb’s army had strange experiences while trying to demolish this temple. During the day they used to destroy part of the temple, at night the temple was completed again. In the process, they were losing their hands. This entire process was not taking the name of stoppage. Then Aurangzeb conceded defeat. Thus this temple survived. Around this temple you will see a long chamber. The invaders wanted to convert it into a mosque. Remember that the structure of the temple is always square and the hall of the mosque is long. This outer chamber is now used as a store house of the temple where food items are stored for free food arrangements here.
We can say that only the local residents who worshiped the Mother Goddess have kept this temple safe and protected till now.
Very few people know that the famous 1858 revolution of India was also planned in the courtyard of this temple.
This temple is considered to be one of the five vibrant temples of the Mahabharata period in Delhi. Another ancient temple is Bhairava temple which is located outside Purana Qila. It was the land of Indraprastha city of Pandavas. Other ancient temples are located near Nigam Bodh Ghat and in the streets of Old Delhi, such as Khari Bauli.
Yogmaya temple visit
In terms of location, this temple is located within the reefs of Lal Kot. 7th by Lal Kot Tomar Kings. Built in the century is the fort of Delhi. There was also a Sun Temple near the temple, but now it has no place.
It is a relatively small temple. If you are not aware of its long history, then you can easily ignore this temple. I was told that there is a Jalkund or Johar in the north direction of the temple named Anang Tal. But I could not find it.
The Yogmaya temple is now managed by a trust. A family of Vatsa priests has overseen this temple for centuries. I had a discussion with a grown woman worshiping inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. That woman is the elder daughter-in-law of this Vats family. He told me that as the Vats family is now very large, they take turns to worship in the temple. His family was responsible for worshiping in the temple that year.
He had a copy of Durga Saptashati in his hands. He informed that the temple that is there now is not more than 80 years old. The small sanctum sanctorum of the temple, which is called the temple of the Goddess, is hundreds of years old. No changes have been made inside the sanctum sanctorum over the years. Yes, marble and tiles must have been added over time.
The image of the goddess covered with clothes and flowers is a veil covered over the original statue of the goddess. As I have also written in the past, the original goddess sits in a pindi form within a structure similar to a well.
The elder daughter-in-law of the Vatsa Purohit family gave me detailed information about the daily rituals of the temple including bathing and dressing of the Goddess which are performed twice daily. Their bathing rituals are completed by water, milk, curd and madha which are distributed among the devotees in the form of charanamrit or prasadam after the ritual. The goddess is adorned by men. As the sanctum is very small, more people cannot go in together.
He explained to me that the Goddess is present in Shakti form and Shiva always sits with Shakti. Pointing to the nearby Shivalinga, he drew my attention to the fact that the base of the Shivalinga is slightly higher than the level of the Devi’s pedestal. Pointing to a long chamber adjoining the main temple, he told me that the chamber was built by Aurangzeb in an attempt to convert the temple into a mosque.
They showed me beautiful fans ornamenting the roof of the temple. The big fan in the middle of the roof was presented as a gift to the temple by the President of India on the occasion of ‘Phool Waliar Ki Saat’ festival. Other fans have been provided by other government officials.
Interacting with the elder daughter-in-law of the Vatsa Purohit family was the most interesting part of my visit to this temple. When she was providing information about the temple, her Vatsalya was not hiding. The facts he gave and the way he gave, was showing his total devotion to the Goddess.
There was gratitude towards the Goddess in her tones and a feeling of ecstasy that she was experiencing due to spending time with her beloved goddess. In today’s age, it is not possible to meet such a person easily. Whoever was coming to see the Goddess in the temple was also touching their feet. She was generously blessing everyone. His entire personality was steeped in devotion and feeling as if the Goddess himself was present in him. Sitting with them, beholding them and interacting with them was like the grace of Sakshat Devi for me.
Like all Goddess temples, Yogmaya Temple is also the most important and huge festival of Navratri. Sharad Navaratri, which falls in the month of October, is celebrated more enthusiastically with the two leading Navratris.
A trip to the flowers
It is said that the festival of flowers was started by Bahadur Shah Zafar. Some believe that Akbar started the festival when Akbar’s wife came here to visit the goddess to pray for the safe return of her exiled son.
Initially this festival was held on the Chaturdashi of Shukla Paksha of Shravan month which falls in the middle of the year. It is a coincidence that in the Vindhyavasini temple of Vindhyachal, Kajari is sung during the month of Shravan. I could not discern the difference between this year and the goddess. In today’s modern and secular era, this festival is celebrated in September-October. This means that sometimes this event is also held in Pitra Paksha Shradh period.
Perhaps by coincidence, this festival was celebrated at the same time when the ancient Shukla Ashtami of Bhadrapada month Indra Flag Festival Was organized. You will remember, Delhi is the land of Indra and worship of Indra was a tradition during the year.
Until some time ago, the people of Shahjahanabad used to reach the Yogmaya temple on foot to participate in the flower festival. They used to offer handmade petals made of flowers in the Yogmaya temple on Wednesday and offer it to the Dargah of Baba Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki on Thursday. It used to be a scene like a huge picnic when the urban masses would come out and celebrate in the forest.
This festival is a kind of new age heritage of this temple where the festivities become more superior to our religion and faith and become more community-centric. The temple priest told that most of the devotees visit both the religious places.
Simplicity of the temple
Putting its antiquity and legends aside and looking at the temple, it is a very simplistic temple. The outer reefs are irregularly painted. The houses around the temple are so dense that the peak of the temple is not visible from a distance. The entrance to the temple on the main road is the most ornate part of the temple. If you are looking for the magnificence of amazing architecture and structure, then surely this temple does not sit in that groove. You came to see this temple for its many wonderful legends and stories and certainly to see its determination to survive from ages to ages.
Coming out of the temple, you can walk around and observe the surrounding area. Here you can enjoy some expensive clothing shops and some ancient monuments. Take a tour, imbibe the culture and heritage of this place and experience the vibrant history of Delhi.
To know more about the history of Delhi, you can take a ‘Mehrauli Heritage Tour’ or visit the ‘Mehrauli Archaeological Park’.
Other Yogamaya Temples
There are many temples all over India which are dedicated to Yogamaya.
Some of them are:
- Vindhyavasini in Vindhyachal near Varanasi
- Yogmaya Temple of Barmer
- Yogmaya Temple of Jodhpur
- Yogmaya Temple of Vrindavan
- Multan which is presently in Pakistan
- Almathuruthy in Kerala
- Yogmaya Temple near Agartala in Tripura
Other Devi temples in Delhi include the Kalkaji Temple and the Jhandewali Temple. If you have information about other temples of Goddess, then do share. We will include it in our version.
Translation: Madhumita Tamhane