A Yoga Story: American museum readies for show


Now a rage globally, it may come as a surprise that Yoga was once despised as superstition in the 19th century. Interesting nuggets like these describing the evolution of the discipline in India told through ancient sculptures, paintings, photos, books and films are soon going to be up for show in Washington.

"Yoga: The Art of Transformation" the first major exhibition devoted to the art of yoga opens at the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, which is commemorating its 25th anniversary.

The gallery along with the older Freer Gallery located on the National Mall in Washington is part of the Smithsonian Museum.

Among the exhibits that will be up for display from October 19 this year are a set of 10 folios from the first illustrated sequence of yoga postures, created for Prince Salim who went on to become Mughal emperor Jahangir.

"Although the postures and practices described and illustrated in Bahral-Hayat manuscript pre-date its production in 1602, we read of them (and see them) for the first time in this manuscript," Debra Diamond, Associate curator South and Southeast Asian Art at Arthur M Sackler Gallery Freer Gallery of Art told PTI over email.

Debra who had curated a critically acclaimed exhibition of royal paintings from Jodhpur in 2008 at the gallery says the manuscript was "so important" that three scholars worked on it simultaneously. "Myself (as art historian looking at the paintings, some of which are by important Mughal artists), Dr Carl Ernst, who is a specialist in Islam, and Dr James Mallinson, a Sanskritist who focuses on yoga traditions," says Debra.

Another highlight is a powerful sculpture of the Bhairava deity created in Karnataka during the 13th century Hoysala dynasty(in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art).

"In the galleries, this will be juxtaposed with a beautiful granite Bhairava from Tamil Nadu (in the collection of the British Museum), which epitomizes the elegant Chola dynasty aesthetic. The two together will delight connoisseurs and intrigue visitors interested in tantric yoga," says the curator.

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