Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Prince Begins His Journey

I went with my aunt Jill to a great exhibit at the Sackler Gallery yesterday down on the Mall.  It was an art exhibit on Yoga: The Art of Transformation.  The exhibit explored yogis and ascetics in Sub-Continental art over the centuries through paintings, manuscripts, statues and miniature paintings.  The exhibit was quite well done.  I wandered through the various exquisite miniatures paintings of small scenes of Indian life, until I stopped at my favorite.  The name is above, the words are below:

The prince donned his sandals, the girdle and the patched cloak.  
His locks became matted.  He assumed the discus, 
the yogi's earrings, the necklace for telling his prayers, 
the staff, the begging bowl, and the lion skin.  
He wore the clothes of a yogi, the basil beads,
took up the armrest and the trident 
and rubbed his body all over with ashes.  
He blew the horn whistle and went on the path,
reciting the divinely beautiful one's name as his support.
He took the ascetics viol in his hand,
and applied his mind
to the practice of solitude.
-Mrivgati

I had noticed a number of people walking around with magnifying glasses.  I came across my aunt with one of the detective's monocles, and I took a look deeper.  Magnifying miniatures with a trusty, rusty Sherlock Holmes' lens to bring out the true beauty of the Indian miniature paintings.  All the exquisite miniature attention to detail and micro-touches of beauty that only comes apparent with deeper gaze.

The name Jogi, or Yogi, is derived from the word "jog" or "yog," signifying literally union or junction, and in practice, the idea of mental union with the deity by means of religious abstraction or contemplation.

I stumbled across a series of photographs of yogis and ascetics from the mid 19th century.  Yogic eyes lost in devotion and endless contemplation across the centuries.  Dreadlocked fellows smeared in ash, with a smile of divine abstraction across their visage.

The exhibit ended with some of the most elastic yogis I have ever seen on old film.  Something from the 1930s in black and white of various yogis wrapping themselves in pretzels.  I was reminded of a slow motion breakdance off.  These slowly contorting gumbys wrapped themselves in a fluidity of slow, powerful motion.

We left the exhibit and wandered through the Mall, making our way eventually up to the Botanical Garden.  We wandered through the lush gardens, chatting about la condition humaine.  We began to make our way back up to suburbia for a latke-and-vodka 30th birthday party for my sister Ellen.  On our way out, the sun was setting golden across the grey-pink overcast sky.  The Museum of American Indian soaked in the yellow light of the sunset, while the other white marble museums carried the dying light on their white facades.  

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