Ranipur-Jharial Yogini Temple: A Ninth Century Monument Remains in Ruins
Visitors to the ruins of Ranipur-Jharial, about 110 km from Balangir, are welcomed by a signboard outside the entrance of the 64 Yogini temple that reads - this monument has been declared to be of national importance and protected under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 (24) of 1958. Any one inflicting any kind of damage to this monument is liable for prosecution.
A similar message is found outside the famous Indralath temple, situated at a distance of about 100 metres from the 64 Yogini temple.
It reads: the monument is protected under Ancient Monument Preservation Act 1956 (12) of 1956. Ironically, there is none to protect and maintain these monuments dating back to 9th century.
In the rocky terrain of Ranipur-Jharial remains the ruins of the stone temples and 64 Yogini temple that bear testimony of old era.
The 64 Yogini temple is one of the four remaining rare monuments of 64 Yogini shrines providing a glimpse into the religious sand occult practices from the medieval times that are still alive in Odisha’s tribal traditions and folklore.
The temple houses sandstone image of the three-faced Shiva embracing Parvati standing at the centre of the temple encircled by 64 images of Goddesses in various positions.
The other three Yogini temples are located at Hirapur near Bhubaneswar, Khajuraho and Bheraghat near Jabalpur.
The archaeological site, which once boasted of about 120 temples, now has just 52 of them. Most of these temples are in dilapidated state and needs immediate attention of archaeologists.
The hypaethral temple of 64 Yogini that houses the yoginis in various dancing poses is a unique monument. However, 13 of these 64 carvings of yoginis made of sandstone are missing and a few others have been damaged beyond recognition. The stone temples are situated in clusters in various parts of the rocky outcrop and in various sizes.
A short distance from these temples is another temple on a raised platform. This 20-metre high Indralath temple is claimed to be the tallest brick temple of that era. It is one of the tallest brick temples of ancient India and one of the most remarkable Odishan temples. But now lack of maintenance has taken a toll on this 1,200-year-old temple.
The callous attitude of the State Government as well as district administration towards these rare and ancient monuments of 9th century has invited widespread concern among scholars, historians and researchers.
Sources said the Government is paying more than `40,000 per annum towards deployment of watchmen at these temples. On papers, there are four watchmen deputed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to guard these temples, but in reality there is no guard at the spot for the last 10 years.
As far as connectivity is concerned, there is no bus service to Ranipur Jharial either from the district or the sub-divisional headquarters. Besides, there are no lodging and hotel facilities at the site for the tourists. A guest house built by Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) always remains locked despite the fact that many domestic and international tourists visit the site. There is no provision of electricity and drinking water supply.
“The guest house lies abandoned. Since Ranipur and Jharial are far away from the ruins, it is difficult to get food and water. Only scholars, researchers and historians visit the place,” said Pitobash, a local. A heritage researcher Santosh Kumar Rath said there is an urgent need for the State Government to look into conservation of the ancient structures as negligence and lack of maintenance over the years have been taking a toll on them.