Yoga is a global phenomenon practiced by millions of people seeking spiritual insight and better health. Few, however, are aware of yoga’s dynamic history. Opening this fall at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world’s first exhibition of yogic art. Temple sculptures, devotional icons, vibrant manuscripts, and court paintings created in India over 2,000 years—as well as early modern photographs, books, and films—reveal yoga’s mysteries and illuminate its profound meanings.
The exhibition borrows from twenty-five museums and private collections in India, Europe, and the United States. Highlights include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a tenth-century Chola temple; ten folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures), made for a Mughal emperor in 1602, which have never before been exhibited together; and Thomas Edison’s Hindoo Fakir (1906), the first movie ever produced about India.
Through masterpieces of Indian sculpture and painting, Yoga: The Art of Transformationexplores yoga’s rich diversity and historical transformations, including its philosophies, transformational goals, and importance within multiple religions. The exhibition also examines the varied roles that yogis and yoginis played in society, from sages to spies.