Yoga referred to India’s gift to the world for the well-being and wellness of humanity at large has become immensely popular globally. The celebrations of International Yoga Day on June 21 every year is proof of that. Emphasizing this aspect, New Delhi’s India International Centre has been holding a virtual photo exhibition “Yoga: India’s Gift To The World” exhibiting 94 stunning images clicked by renowned photographer and art historian Benoy K. Behl.
The pictures clicked in India and different countries from Colombia to US to Costa Rica to Vietnam to Brazil to Argentina to Bahamas do highlight India’s soft power. Explaining this to India Narrative Behl said: “Throughout history India’s main gift to the world is philosophy and yoga. In fact, yoga, in all its forms, is the action part of Indian philosophy. In Asia, yoga had spread extensively during ancient times and today it has become extremely popular also in the continents of the Western world. This ancient path towards inner peace and physical well-being is today recognized throughout the world as India’s important contribution to health, global harmony and inner peace.”
Though the pictures are many, each is well shot making them attractive and engaging. They stand out for the choice of the locations depicting great natural beauty and the selection of yoga practitioners, all of whom look very peaceful and graceful. The veteran photographer’s use of early morning light in the frame is remarkable.
Going beyond the aesthetic elements of the pictures, each of them has a story to share. For instance, the images showing Marjariasana and Shavasana being taught by Natalia of Dunna Yoga were shot at the Juvenile Reform Facility in Colombia’s Cali. This place Behl informed has seen the greatest violence by drug cartels. “It is most wonderful to see a young woman fearlessly teaching the path to inner peace to the inmates,” he said.
In fact, now in Colombia’s Medellin – one of the most violent cities to witness drug crimes in the world — Yoga is being taught in educational institutions. See Bhujangasana being taught at the city’s Institution Educativa Finca La Mesa. Similarly, Behl clicked Trikonasana by Satyadev and Nirmala in the scenic locale of Atman Yoga in Colombia. Located in the heart of thick rain forest, it was once infested with guerrilla fighters.
Moving from South America to South east Asia, Behl takes the viewers to Vietnam where at the Sivananda Center, with a charming free-flowing waterfall as the backdrop girls are performing Kapotasana, Vrischikasana, Sirshasana and Natarajasana. Sharing details about the country, Behl told India Narrative: “The people of Vietnam take so naturally to the tradition of yoga. This is in keeping with their long traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Hindu Kingdom of Champa in Vietnam was one of the greatest centres for the spread of Indian influences for more than a thousand years in ancient and medieval times. In the 6th Century CE Bodhidharma, a great Buddhist teacher from Kerala taught Dhyana Buddhism in Vietnam, before he became very famous for teaching this form of Buddhism in China.”
Talking about the people captured on camera while doing Yoga Behl said: “These are knowledgeable practitioners. Their views are that yoga is the answer to the present health problems, as well as to many of the mental afflictions which have become so common in the world.” Specifying how this ancient art has helped them, many pointed out their health has improved significantly from doing yoga while others said they were able to handle the stress of modern life much better through doing regular yoga.
Summing up beautifully the essence of Yoga, Anandaprema who is from Russia and is seen doing Bharadvajasana at Sivananda Yoga Farm, US told Behl: “It’s very hard when your mind is running like a wild horse and not willing to follow any discipline and it's very tough to gently take over it, to make it listen to you, to make it follow what you would like it to do. This is yoga”.
(The exhibition is on till July 5). Click on to view.