Yoga in a museum

When Steve and I lived in Baltimore, we were frequent visitors to the mighty museum complex that you, the people, own in Washington, D.C. My favorite gallery was the combo Freer/Sackler Gallery, ingeniously designed to contain an eclectic collection of art. I went, originally, to see James McNeill Whistler’s paintings for the famous Peacock Room. But while we were there, we wandered around, and it was there that I saw my first Ganesha.

The Freer/Sackler contains a large collection of art that roughly follows the ancient trade routes known (collectively) as The Silk Road. So they have a lot of religious art that spans Christianity, Islam (including the Mogul Empire of North India), Buddhism, and Hinduism. I will never forget the Freer exhibit called “Puja: Expressions of Hindu Devotion.” It was there that my feet were set on a path that eventually led to my study of Ashtanga, and our trip to India, where we saw temple pujas in person, and now we do puja ourselves.

So I was excited to learn (from a Facebook tip–thanks, M.C. Yogi) that the gallery is attempting to raise funds to crowd source the first ever exhibit of yoga art: “Yoga: The Art of Transformation.”

I encourage you to donate; who knows what future yogi will wander through the gallery, and find the beginnings of a changed life. And if you do, you’ll get special access to the digital catalog.

Posted by Bobbie

$5-million Siva at center of huge, alleged art smuggling ring

Via the LA Times

A bronze dancing Siva statue at one point put up for sale for $5 million is among the dozens of art and artifacts that authorities believe were smuggled from their countries of origin and either sold or donated to major worldwide museums.

The Los Angeles Times has details, in part because two of the museums, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Norton Simon, are in LA County. Here is some of the story’s information:

Subhash Kapoor, a 64-year-old American citizen, awaits trial in India, where he is accused of being part of an antiquities smuggling ring that American and Indian investigators say spanned continents. U.S. authorities have issued their own arrest warrant for Kapoor, saying they have evidence he supplied stolen art to leading museums around the world.

In a series of raids on his Manhattan gallery and storage facilities last year, investigators with Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized dozens of artifacts along with Kapoor’s business records. Among the objects seized were a 2nd century BC pillar sculpture valued at nearly $18 million and a 5-foot tall head of Buddha weighing approximately 1,600 pounds, investigators say.

Authorities claim Kapoor falsified documents about the art, and they say they have evidence showing that items were shipped to American within the past few years.

In total, there may be about $100 million worth of art involved.

The Siva statue is at the heart of the investigation:

The National Gallery of Australia is the first museum to publicly grapple with its ties to Kapoor, in part because American and Indian investigators revealed last July that they had traced a costly stolen sculpture of dancing Shiva to the museum.

Last month, museum director Ron Radford told a committee of Australia’s senate that he was confident the Shiva and some 20 other objects acquired from Kapoor had not been stolen because the museum had ownership histories dating to before 1970.

But detailed records on several objects that Kapoor sold to the National Gallery of Australia show that they were photographed in India and exported from there years after the ownership histories indicated they had left that country — and long after India’s 1972 law prohibited the export of cultural artifacts.

Kapoor’s attorney did not respond to the Times’ questions. The museums are being pretty hush-hush, too. The sources of such artifacts is an ongoing issues for many — whether the origin is Greece, Italy or India.

Posted by Steve

Catholic school in Agra promotes yoga through art exhibit

It’s no secret that yoga isn’t universally practiced in India; some people even argue that, at this point, yoga is more popular in the West than in its homeland.

There’s no secret, either, that yogis and others in India are trying to change that. But this story runs a little counter to the normal expectation.

A Catholic school in Agra is holding an art exhibit of different asanas — including Christ sitting in lotus — intended to promote the practice to Indians.

The Times of India picks up the tale:

A brainchild of Father John Ferreira, principal of St Peter’s College, founded in 1846, it has taken two years of hard work conceptualizing and executing the project in a unique style.

“The idea was to bring the esoteric science of yoga to the masses from the closets of ashrams and libraries. The visual appeal had to be striking and the message simple to relate with the needs of the common man,” Ferreira said.

Five years ago, when John Ferreira took over as the principal, he introduced a one-hour daily yoga regimen for students.

“Not just the Catholic church but parents, teachers stood up in opposition. They thought it was a waste of time and energy, but today the miracle has been achieved. The boys are regular practitioners of yoga.

Some of them have become yoga teachers; the Catholic priests are also yoga fans, including the archbishop. The whole campus exudes positive vibes. Other schools too have taken to yoga and the various school boards are now planning to introduce yoga in the curriculum,” Ferreira said.

He has built a huge yoga hall on the campus, which is open to the general public morning and evening to practice and learn the intricacies of yoga. “I have stopped all junk food on the campus and brought out a series of calendars on various diseases and how yoga and natural cure methods can help.”

As one enters the portals of this grand institution, it is difficult to miss the huge painting of Jesus Christ in a yogic posture, in sublime tranquility.

Stopping all junk food and highlighting natural cures sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? The yoga transformation in action.

The story ceterainly puts a fine perspective on the debate about whether Christians can or should do yoga.

Posted by Steve