TRIBUTE M10 THE MAGAZINE
The royal patronage of the leg- endary Wodeyar dynasty evolved the city of Mysore into one of exquisite character. It is a city where the clock ticks ever so slowly, putting on show, on the dial of life, the kaleidoscopic images of royal personages who
walked the city’s soil for long years in glorious
splendor; the broad tree-lined, bougainvillea-smothered boulevards and the grandeur-filled edifices that dot the city, a testimony to their scope
It is a city where the air is still heavy with the
dignified aura of royalty when, in the years long
past, the Maharaja presided over myriad esoteric
pursuits ranging from the fine arts to wrestling; a
place like none other, where the ambrosia of heady
culture permeated the very existence of its people.
The Mysorean is a gentle, soft-spoken, easy-going kind of man for whom the din and tumult
of a Bengaluru or Mumbai is anathema; a kind of
culture shock which leaves him dumbfounded.
Not for him the mindlessness of heavy traffic, not
for him the frenzied pace of business. Not for him
the rush hours of life where clambering on to a
bus or a train defines the difference between success and failure.
To the Mysorean, life was almost always meant to
be an unhurried, relaxed, quiet and elaborate
repast. And even to this day, it is largely so.
Not too far from the wondrous palace of the
Wodeyars, with its shining red domes, in the middle of the old part of Mysore, is the Sita Vilas road.
Narrow, with mostly ancient houses on either side,
wedged closely together, this road has etched itself on the
Along this very road is the Parakala Matha, next to the
famous Jagan Mohan art gallery; an ancient repository of
the Srivaishnava faith, a temple and hermitage, from where
evolved two of the greatest known gurus of yoga — Bellur
Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.
It was in the 1930s that these two young boys, Iyengar
born in Bellur in Kolar district near Bengaluru, and
Pattabhi Jois, born in the little village of Kowshika in
Hassan district, came under the tutelage of
Krishnamacharya, a renowned yoga guru and Sanskrit
scholar who taught yoga in Mysore thanks to the munificence of the royal court.
Like all of us, Pattabhi Jois and Iyengar too played host to
age. But age, in their case, seemed to be a casual cousin who
just dropped by. Not a long-staying relative who bears upon
you the burden of his visit’s upkeep.
They were more like sun-kissed flowers. Vibrant, colorful,
joyous and bright. Age alighted upon them like a bee and
buzzed off in an instant.
Pattabhi Jois had seen 94 summers when he passed away
in 2009. Or winters, if you like. And Iyengar, 95, when he
breathed his last, August 19.
In both of them, the eyes flashed bright hues. The smile
was friendly and fulsome. It didn’t matter that it was den-
ture assisted. The skin was taut and blemishless. So much
like their resolve to do what they did in stages almost every
waking moment, for some 77 of their 90-odd years.
Learning, lecturing and teaching yoga. Theirs was a jour-
ney. Long, timeless, poignant, exciting, frustrating, fulfilling
and in a sense, eternal.
Two of the greatest living gurus of yoga in the world, Jois lived in Gokulam, Mysore. And Iyengar in Pune. If they were not teaching in London or Paris or
Melbourne or New York or San Francisco, that is.
Theirs was the life of men whose soul had been satiated
by the sheer attainment of life’s ambition; the fulfilling of a
karmic yearning; the continuing of a tradition that was
steeped in their very being.
To both of them, life was yoga. And yoga was life. There
was nothing beyond it. Not anything that they had tried
seeking. Pattabhi Jois ran away from his home as a 14-year-
old boy. Getting into the train to Mysore from the station at
Ambuga, a neighboring village, four miles away, because he
didn’t want anyone to notice him or even recognize him.
His mind was made up. To answer some strange other-
worldly calling. Watching guru Krishnamacharya demon-
strate yoga at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan one 1928 evening,
stirring in him some irresistible awakening. ‘It’s the shaping
of the soul over many lives,’ he once said. His answer to why
he got so irrevocably drawn to the pursuit of yoga.
Long years of tapas. At the Sanskrit College in Mysore.
In the early days, the meals were frugal, but the insults to
the heart were substantial. Poverty snapped at his heels
like a persistent dog. He could only glare back and keep
going. His resolve was cast in solid iron and his mind
wavered only as much as a mountain would against a mild
The numbing sacrifices in life. The honing of his very
internal rhythms to suit the lifestyle of a yogi. From an
unearthly young age. Waking up at 4 in the morning. When
the rest of the world remained snugly curled up in the folds
of a hazy dream. Pushing his limbs to do the mind’s bidding. Yoga practice. And more of it until the sun was high
up in the sky. Day after day. Week after week. Years went by.
B K S Iyengar tread more or less the same path.
Incidentally, under the very same guru Krishnamacharya,
who was also his brother-in-law, married to his sister.
A sad childhood marked by his father’s untimely demise,
an influenza-afflicted mother and a battle with tuberculosis; yoga eventually curing him of a potentially life-threat-ening disease.
There was to both of them the visage of a yogi. The mellow glow of knowledge and achievement. But not even a
All because two young boys began
to wake up at 4 am to learn yoga
With B K S Iyengar, the other great modern exponent of yoga along with Pattabhi Jois, passing into the
ages, Sunaad Raghuram explores their contribution to taking yoga to the world
In 2005, B K S Iyengar, left, and Pattabhi Jois came face to face for the first time in 65 years since learning yoga together under Krishnamacharya in Mysore.
COURTES Y: K PATTABHI JOIS ASHTANGA YOGA INS TI TU TE