Unveiling the Yoginis – A Journey of Self Discovery. Book Review

“Whispers of the Unseen” offers a captivating glimpse into the life and experiences of writer and artist, Beena Unnikrishnan. For readers interested in Spirituality, Hindu Mythology and Art and for those of you who enjoy reading about mystics with a touch of super natural elements, then this book is surely a must-have in your collection.

It was during Beena’s transformative journey of painting her 64 yoginis, I got acquainted with her.  Had the good fortune of interviewing her during the Digital Woman Economic forum on this subject. Once when I asked her where she gets all her reference material, she replied, “No reference. It just flows into me and I paint what I feel”. Seeing all her paintings, was a breathtaking experience for me and prompted me to break into impromptu verses from Soundarya Lahari, Abirami andhadhi as well as a few Thevarams. Now after seeing her paintings  as well as reading her book twice from cover to cover, I understand that her knowledge doesn’t come from any written book or from several Gurus’ teachings but from a mosaic of experiences which she was receptive enough to absorb and express on canvas as well as in words. The 64 yoginis even for those well versed in Hindu Spirituality is not a very widely known subject.

The fascinating personal journey of the discovery of the feminine within a human body, began with Beena’s family astrologer declaring that she would turn into a Kali Upasaka one day. The visionary statement of the learned man, Shri Krishnan Potti, from Kerala further strengthened by his writing of a mantra on Beena’s tongue using a sharp tool, kickstarted Beena’s quest in seeking more knowledge about The Sri Yantram. For the readers not yet initiated into this Shakthi form of worship, Shree Yantram or the Shree Chakra is a multidimensional geometric pattern with 9 interlocking triangles which symbolizes the union of the masculine and the feminine, offering a profound insight into the intricate balance of the cosmic forces.

This book is remarkably different not only because it’s a personal journey but mainly because throughout the book, Beena navigates us through sensational experiences bordering on the bizarre. What’s most intriguing is how these incidents unfold, seemingly of their own accord, drawing the author into a vortex of the unknown, where hair-raising and logically inexplicable events occur one after another. It all serves as compelling evidence, that Beena is indeed the chosen one. The chosen one by the Goddess Tripurasundari herself cemented further by blessings from Dr David, her mentor.

At Kodungallur (Shakthi temple in Kerala) Beena is possessed by the Devi herself. Unlike the visible possession often observed in some individuals dancing frenetically in temples, Beena’s experience is characterized by internal dialogues with the Goddess, an ever-present sensation of someone accompanying her, and an insatiable, primal hunger that compels her to consume not only her own dinner but also that of her mentor’s.

The experience at the Kali Temple, New Delhi gives the readers an insight into the supernatural powers Dr David possesses. He practically proves that when a yagna or an offering is done right, one can conquer the Pancha Bhootas (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space) And dear readers we are still only on the 15th page! As a reader at this point, it made me wonder what more thrilling moments were in store.

“Paint and Write on the Srividya”, the words of Dr David perplexes Beena as she has no experience as a writer nor she has any reference material to paint about Srividya (The manifestation of the Goddess) Attempting to master the meaning of the Lalitha Sahasranama which Beena gives up midway, she decides to wait for the divine to guide her, just like her mentor had said, “Keep your mind clean to receive her…” Dabbling with the 27 Nakshatras followed by painting Ardhananareeshwara, Ganesha and Bhairava,  Beena begins painting the 64 Yoginis using the Chausath Yogini temple at Hirapur, Orissa as a rough guidance. Throughout the entire list, Beena just follows her heart and paints what occurs to her consciously or sub consciously. According to Indian mythology, Devi, the Maha Yogini, gave rise to eight great Divine Mothers known as the Ashta Matrikas. Each of these Divine Mothers then manifested into eight sacred Shaktis, resulting in the emergence of 64 Tantric Yoginis.

The book then moves on to the 64 Yoginis, one by one in the order Beena has painted them. In tantric mythology, Yoginis are depicted as goddesses of fertility. They are countless in number—some Yoginis embody benevolence, while others emanate fierceness. Some govern our negative tendencies, while others preside over our positive attributes. Collectively, they shape both our internal and external environments. These pervasive energies exert influence over our thoughts, speech, and actions.

So while creating each Yogini on canvas Beena experiences a variety of emotions ranging from positive to negative, depending upon the type of Yogini which is being painted.

I am choosing a few Yoginis below which really affected me deeply, much much after I had finished reading…

Yogini Varahi, one of the Ashta Matrikas with the head of a boar and a body of a woman. Beena and others in the room feel the heat in the room while painting this yogini. After all, Varahi led the other goddesses in the battle against Demon Rakthabeeja.

Yogini Manasa, who helped deliver Beena’s first born without an iota of pain. I asked her when we discussed about this Yogini later. “What about your second child? Did you feel the pain?” “Yes, of course I felt it very well. I had not surrendered myself to Manasa like I did for the first”

Yogini Vaishnavi. Beena actually had a spiritual encounter with a woman at the Guruvayoor temple and she goes on to paint this Yogini which turned out to be the very same woman she had seen at the temple.

Yogini Charchika, the fierce incarnation of Goddess Parvathi adorned with a garland of skulls, invokes an unexplainable surge of anger within Beena before she commences painting. However, as her brush meets the canvas, that anger metamorphoses into a profound sense of reassurance and peace, as if she is enveloped by a greater protective force.

Yogini Kakarali. The goddess appears in Beena’s dream before she commences painting as a lone woman wandering the streets feeding the dogs which followed her. The dog in the painting is Beena’s own pet dog!

Yogini Dhumavathi, not a conventional beauty but a grand old woman filled with love for her devotees akin to a grandmother’s love.

Yogini Chandrakanti, turns out strong and powerful, and seems to be firm in following her heart, rather like the author herself.

Yogini Jwalamukhi while painting Beena is filled with wild emotions which make her scream loudly. Only later through her friend she realizes that she is the Commander of the Goddess’ army and she enters the battle field with a war cry.

Yogini Kamakshi. While painting Beena goes through health issues which settles down finally after complete surrender to the Almighty. So she goes on to complete this Yogini with Meetu her pet parrot perching on her shoulder.

Yogini Bala Tripura Sundari. I have heard this story of how Beena goes to the Sree Bala temple without knowing where it is, how to go etc. But the priest welcomes her in saying he already knows Beena would visit him. Sree Bala was also the little girl who haunted Beena’s dreams earlier. Someday Beena has promised to take me too along with her to visit the Nemmeli Bala temple.

The last Yogini which Beena paints is Maha Tripurasundari. Beena goes into Mouna Vratham where she does not speak for 11 days. On the 11th day Beena paints the Goddess’ eyes and realizes that it was indeed Her wish to select her as a Medium to pass on the divine energies into 64 beautiful paintings which are now immortalized for posterity.

The book vividly portrays all 64 Yoginis, delving into the author’s emotional journey, the incidents that unfold while she paints each one, and offer glimpses into the legends surrounding these divine beings.

For heritage travelers keen on exploring the Yogini temples in India, the section titled “The 12-Day Sacred Sojourn” proves to be invaluable. Offering detailed descriptions of the various temples in Hirapur, Ranipur, Khajuraho, Badoh, Dudhai, and Morena, interspersed with real-life incidents, it transforms into an engaging and captivating travelogue.

The final chapter of the book, featuring conversations with Jain Joseph (JJ), offers a deeply introspective journey, serving as a profound summation of the essence encapsulated throughout the entire narrative. Here, readers find answers to the myriad “why,” “how,” and “where” questions that may have surfaced while accompanying Beena on her literary voyage.

Click on this link https://amzn.to/4awZGR4 to buy the book to get transported to a world where the boundaries between reality and the supernatural blur, and where whispers from the unseen beckon you to explore the depths of the human soul.



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