Yoga: “The Art of Transformation”

Presumably, 2.000 years ago yogis didn’t wear OM-t-shirts, and probably they weren’t unrolling sticky mats in their Himalayan caves. But still, there are quite a few other preconceived ideas I had about ancient yoga practitioners that are a far cry from the truth. Examples? Here you go:

Yogis weren’t peaceful. Watercolours such asThe Battle at Thaneshwar‘, dating from the Mughal dynasty, depict bands of armed yogis battling over bathing rights at a sacred river. Holy water…

The archetype of a yogi was probably more looking like this:  

Female yogis (“yoginis”) were agents of otherworldly powers who could help win battles. Or at least this is what the Indo-Islamic rulers of Bijapur thought in the 17th century.

The exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation aims at exposing as myth some of the commonly agreed on ‘truths’ about yoga.

It started at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, went next to the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco and is now on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22–September 7, 2014). But the best thing:

The Cleveland Museum of Art has put together an extensive podcast, talking you in detail through various stunning pieces of art, and overall allowing you to “visit” the exhibition, room by room – without actually going there. Kudos to the guys at this museum! I’m in Australia and would have otherwise never been able to check out these artefacts.

I was particularly intrigued by “Tantra and Yoginis” (podcast #6), “Islam in India” (#7), and most of all “From ascetic to athletic: Yoga’s modern transformations” (#10).

Here’s the link to the audio podcast (by Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, ‘Curator of Indian/Southeast Asian Art’ at Cleveland’s Museum of Art).

Has anyone been to this exhibition? What’s your impression? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

~ Andrea

All images featured in the exhibition.

9 replies »

  1. Wow! The Gay Games 9 are taking place in Cleveland this week also and hopefully I can check out the exhibit with the ceremonies!


  2. I’m glad to hear that a team of people have put together an exhibit like this. Wish it were showing in my corner of the world. Thanks for sharing this information on your blog.


  3. Yogis of ancient times didn’t wear OM t-shirts? Tsk. Why ever not lol 🙂 What a wonderful thing, that they’ve put the exhibition online. Awesome!


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