Mitaoli: Tracing a Mystical Landscape in Bundelkhand

Mitaoli is one of the three riveting historical sites of Morena in Madhya Pradesh. We reached Mitaoli after exploring the Bateshwar Group of Temples and Garhi Padavali. Both captivated us with their puzzling decimation, astounding resurrection (by the Archaeological Survey of India), and eternal grandeur. With our hearts lurching both with gratification (thanks to the fascinating Bateshwar and Garhi Padavali) and curiosity (regarding the next destination), we reached the village of Mitaoli.

Mitaoli Temple
The Chausath Yogini Temple of Mitaoli.

Location of Mitaoli:

Mitaoli is also spelled as Mitavali or Mitawali. It is situated in the district of Morena. It is 40 km away from Gwalior and 15 km from the town of Morena. From Bateshwar and Padavali, it takes roughly 30 minutes to reach Mitaoli. Now a nondescript village, Mitaoli was once infested with the notorious Chambal dacoits.

The Chausath Yogini Temple
The circular temple is situated at the top of a hill.

About Mitaoli:

Mitaoli is known for its Chausath Yogini Temple, which at present goes by the name of Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple. According to an inscription of 1323 CE, it was built by Kahchhapaghata ruler Devapala. Thus, the temple was built between 1055 to 1085 CE, during which Devapala ruled. Owing to its hypaethral structure, it is generally believed that, this temple was built for the study of astrology, astronomy, and mathematics by observing the transition of the sun.

Inside the temple of Mitaoli
Inside the uniquely built Chausath Yogini Temple of Mitaoli.

Chausath Yogini Temples of India:

Yoginis are demi-goddesses, who are masters of Hindu Tantric or esoteric practices. It is also believed that the Yoginis were parts of Goddess Durga, who helped her slay ‘asuras’ or demons. At present, there are 4 Chausath Yogini Temples in India. Two of them are situated in Hirapur and Ranipur-Jharial of Odisha, and the other two are in Khajuraho and Mitaoli of Madhya Pradesh. With the exception of the temple in Khajuraho, all these temples are characterized by circular and hypaethral or roofless structures.

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Chausath Yogini Temple in Hirapur,Odisha

The temple in Mitaoli:

Mitaoli’s temple is perched atop a hillock. You need to hike around 100 rocky steps to reach the top, which provides a brilliant 360-degree view of the surrounding area.

Panoramic view
A panoramic view of the surroundings from the top of the hill.

The temple is circular, with a radius of around 52 m. The outer round-shaped wall has 64 small chambers with an open ‘mandapa’ supported by pilasters and pillars. These chambers once accommodated the representation of the ‘yoginis’. At present, they contain small Shiva lingas.

A mandapa at Mitaoli temple
A small ‘mandapa’ near the main temple complex.

At the center, there stands another circular temple, which houses the Ekattarso Mahadeva linga. Both circular structures have flat roofs. Although it is generally believed that, they had ‘shikharas’ in the past much like the Chausath Yogini Temple of Khajuraho.

In keeping with tantric traditions, this temple is roofless. It was built in such a manner as tantric rituals involve worshipping the environment along with its five principal elements, also due to the belief that the yoginis could fly.

Furthermore, like other Chausath Yogini temples in India, you will find no sculptures on the outer wall here.

The amazing sculpture of the temple
The hypaethral structure of the Chausath Yogini Temple of Mitaoli.

Interestingly, the temple of Mitaoli stands in the Seismic Zone III, an earthquake-prone region. We can safely assume that this temple has survived a number of earthquakes in the past without any apparent serious damage.

Many also believe that the architecture of the Indian Parliament was inspired by Mitaoli’s temple. However, it is nothing more than an urban myth.

Like Bateshwar and Garhi Padavali, this temple was also a hideout of the infamous Chambal bandits.

Rows of small chambers at Mitaoli
The small chamber now houses Shiva lingas.

Our experience at Mitaoli:

Mitaoli is one of the very few places where an uncanny feeling swept us away. When we reached the top after scaling some 100 craggy steps, we found the temple all to ourselves. Barring us, two cute puppies, and a couple of squirrels, there was no other visitor.

A view from the top
The steps leading to the Chausath Yogini Temple of Mitaoli.

After checking out the outer walls, we entered the temple complex. No sooner had we walked inside than we felt like getting teleported to another world. The temple was silent. The cloudy sky further amplified the eerie ambiance of this Yogini temple. The winds howled occasionally as if trying to speak for the lost Yoginis.

As we strolled around the temple and peeked inside the minuscule chambers, we sensed the strong presence of a spiritual aura. This may be due to the fact that this Chausath Yogini temple was one of the foremost places in ancient India for practicing Tantric rituals.

Inside the temple
A temple with a mystical aura.

Know before you go:

1. Mitaoli is just 40 km from Gwalior and an hour’s ride. Gwalior, in turn, can be easily reached from any part of India via trains and flights.

2. You can club Bateshwar, Garhi Padavali, and Mitaoli for an epic day trip from Gwalior.

3. There are no places of accommodation here. Though some hotels are available in Morena town, we suggest staying at Gwalior and exploring this area by making Gwalior your base. We stayed in Neemrana’s Deobagh, a wonderful heritage hotel located in the heart of Gwalior.

4. Also, you will find no shops for food or drinking water. So, carry a few snacks and drinking water with you.

5. Try visiting in the morning and avoid going after 3 PM. This place remains fairly deserted all throughout the day. So, it is better not to compromise on safety by visiting Mitaoli post-3 PM.

6. No entrance fee is required here.

The Floating Pebbles