Documentary on Dasha Mahavidyas

Dasha Mahavidyas in Hindu scriptures are a group of deities represented as Devis. The Devis represent ten (Dasha) great paths of knowledge as well as cosmic powers that hold the entire creation. This is a derivative of the worship of the Divine Mother which has been an integral part of the Upanishads and the Vedas and further developed in the Puranas and Tantras. The worship of the Divine Mother and Devis can be fulfilled through three forms – Satvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic.

According to Upanishads, the formless, attributeless Brahman, with the help of Maaya, when assumes form, is called Saguna Brahman. So there are two forms of ultimate reality- absolute and relative. Though both appear to be different, they are indistinguishable - like fire and its burning power.

The idea of addressing and worshipping
God as Mother finds its expression in Vedas and Upanishads and it was
further developed in Puranas and Tantras. 

The Dasha Mahavidyas are a group of deities represented as Devis. Their origin is narrated in Mahabhagavata Purana and the like, in the episode connected to Daksha Yagna wherein Devi Sati, the wife of Shiva and daughter of Daksha Prajapati, manifests as Dasha Mahavidyas or Ten Cosmic Powers. The conception of Mother worship flourished amongst Shakta followers. Shakta philosophy refers to, Shiva as pure supreme consciousness and his power of creation as Shakti. The divine mother can assume various forms to meet the spiritual needs of a devotee. The Tantra mentions Dasha Mahavidyas- the ten great paths of knowledge who hold the entire creation in their celestial grasp. All the ten great cosmic powers with their functions lead to self-realization.

  • Kaali – Might, represents time. Shakti of Kaala or death
  • Taara – Sound force, invoked for the acquisition of knowledge. She is the OM the sound syllable. Shakti of Akshobhya
  • Tripurasundari – Beauty, and bliss. Iccha shakti. The desire which is the secret of creation and the root of manifestation
  • Bhuvaneshwari – Vast vision.  Jnana shakti. Representing the space concept in creation
  • Tripurabhairavi – Effulgent charm, Kriya shakti. The force of Agni also called Durga.
  • Chinnamasta – Striking force. Shakti of Indra.
  • Dhumavati – Prominent inertness representing the primal state before creation and ultimate state after creation is withdrawn.
  • Bagalamukhi – Paralysing power, blocks the flow of speech in an acrimonious debater
  • Matangi – Expressive play, represents the word expressed as speech
  • Kamalatmike – Concord, and harmony, represents consciousness in manifestation and creation’s beauty and bliss in expression.

Devi is Trigunatmike i.e bestowed with three Gunas namely Satvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic. Hence her worship is also based on the Gunas. In this documentary we have taken up only Satvic type of worship, incorporating Vedic and Upanishadic principles behind her worship.

Our South
Indian music compositions dedicated to Devi have in its womb the essence of
Veda and Upanishads, helping the performer and the listener reach his goal- the

In this documentary we intend to cover only the Satvic type of worship, incorporating the principles of Vedas and Upanishads. In addition, the documentary will cover South Indian Music compositions dedicated to the Devi performed in their traditional form. The near 3-hour documentary will also contain information as well as pictures of various Shakti Pithas across India and an elaborate and simple commentary in Kannada and English explaining the philosophy so that the viewer can have a holistic view.

The goal of this documentary is to
educate the community on the Satvic worship of Dasha Mahavidyas and intends to
assist them to get closer to achieve their goal towards self-realization.

This three-hour documentary gives an overall view of Dasha Mahavidyas. Each Devi is described as referred in Tantra and Puranas whose principles are based on Vedas and Upanishads. This is comprised of Slokas, Yantras, Mantras, Karnatak Music compositions which co-relate to the principles of Dasha Maha Vidyas supported by Visuals of Shakti pithas and other Temples.  The commentary is in the languages Kannada and English. Musicians, Vedic scholars, Commentators, Visual artists, and others would be participating in this Project.



Dr.Meera Rajram Pranesh was honored and awarded "Ganakala Suvarna" at the golden jubilee celebration, the 50th conference of Gana Kala Parishat on 5th February 2020.


The Bengaluru Gayana Samaja Presented B.S Chandrakala Swaralipi award to Dr.Meera Rajaram Pranesh with the title "Swarabhushani" on 8th March 2020.

Bharatiya Samskriti Darshana- 18 - Guru Vandana

“Na Gururōr adhikam tatvam | Na Gurōr adhikam tapaḥ||  

Tatva gñānāt param nāsti | tasmai Śri Gurave namaḥ ||

As part of the 18th  program sequence of Bharatīya Samskriti Darshana, Vanamala Center for Art and Culture conducted and presented Guru Vandana program on 25th of August at Suchitra cinema and cultural academy. This beautiful Sunday was chosen by Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh,   managing trustee of Vamala Center for Art and Culture,  to celebrate, acknowledge and honor all the Gurus on the auspicious occasion of Guru Pūrnima and also to release the book on Gīta Gangādhara, a romantic gēya prabandha (opera), in Sanskrit, of 18th century by Kaḷale Nañjarāja, a king-maker in Mysore .

 The program began with a mellifluous rendering, featuring compositions on Guru’s, composed by various composers as Sri Tyagaraja, Muttusvami Dikshitar, Mysore Vasudevacharya, Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, Basavanna, Purandaradasa, Abhangs, Meera bhajan. The compositions were presented in unison by artists Vid. Mangala Subrahmanya, Vijayashree Rao, Mansa Gireesh, Vaishnavi Mayya, Nagashree Narayan, Thejaswini, Manasa K.S, and Pavani Kashinath. Kum. Aishwarya Mahesh preceded each one of these compositions with apt information which kept the audience involved. Their soulful presentation touched everyone in the audience who perhaps, offered their salutations to their own Guru’s.

After respecting the Guru parampara musically, Dr Archana Bhat, member advisory board, introducing the organization to the audience, invited all the Gurus, the guests of honor, Sri. Keerthanacharya Lakshmandas Velankar, Vid. Sudha V. Murthy, Vid Rohini Manjunath,

Dr. B. M.Jayashree and Vid.Kamala Balaji to grace the stage. “Guruvina gulāmanāguva tanaka doreyadaṇṇa mukuti"-says Sri.Purandaradasa.  Respecting this tradition, the Pranesh couple-Dr Meera and Dr Anant Pranesh felicitated the guests of honor. Dr Meera reminisced and acknowledged her association with all her gurus narrating wonderful experiences with them,  as she thanked them on how each of them has sculpted her, every stage of her life.

The guests shared their wonderful experiences as her teachers and had priceless words of wisdom for us, her students. Sri. Keerthanacharya Lakshmandas Velankar narrated a beautiful anecdote from Srimad Bhagavatham of Lord Krishna, the universal teacher and a painter who tried to paint his portrait. The first few attempts from the painter unguided did not yield a good portrait however, guidance from his Guru led to the right painting. Velankar ji stressed on the importance of the right direction a disciple is bestowed upon by his Guru and the insatiable quest a disciple should have to seek out for this invaluable knowledge.

  All the guests of honor spoke in length on the unlatchable bond of the Guru - Śiśya tradition, the route they have chosen to inspire and impart their knowledge to students. Virtues of humility, as a sign of strength, was stressed upon by each of them.    The main take away for each one of us as students were the lessons of humility, perseverance, dedication to the art and devotion towards the teachers who guide us in every step of our journey selflessly. Each of their words was a reinforcement of values that have been cascaded to us from Dr Meera Rajaram. It strengthened our motivation to imbibe more such qualities and endeavor to build a selfless personality of our own, enabling us to humbly share knowledge with society to the extent possible by us.

As a tribute to her Guru and guide Dr. BVK Shastri, Dr Meera Rajaram has brought out a  book on Gīta Gangādhara. This work sees the romance between Śiva and Pārvathi as the main protagonists in the form of aṣṭapadīs. The original manuscript transliterated to Kannada by Sri BVK Shastri was handed over to Dr Meera by him. This has been published now, as a book by Vanamala center for art and culture, which has the Sanskrit, Kannada and English versions of all the aṣṭapadīs and their summaries. The work was scholarly translated into all the languages by Dr.Rajani Jayaram, Dean, Student's Welfare and Head of the Sanskrit department, Jain (Deemed to be) University along with Sri Ramachandra. The guests of honor released this book open to the public. The book, a must-have to any artist is available at Vanamala center for art and culture and any one interested can reach out to Dr.Meera Rajaram Pranesh.

With us, the students of Dr Meera being blessed by her to carry forward the Guru - Śiśya Parampara, the beautiful event concluded thanking one and all present. Post a sumptuous lunch, all present dispersed enriched carrying pleasant memories of this wonderful event. - Ragini Sanath

Gurave sarva lōkānām    | bhishajē

Nidhaye sarva vidyānām | Srī Dakśiṇā mūrtaye namaḥ   ||


The moment a Sadhana Shibira on Durga Saptashati was announced by the Vanamala Centre for Arts and culture a couple of months back, it struck an immediate positive chord for three main reasons.

Firstly, the theme was Durga Saptashati. Durga Saptashati which is also known as Devi Mahatmya and Chandi Path is a Hindu religious text describing the victory of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. It is part of the Markandeya Purana, written by sage Markandeya.

Secondly, the sessions were to be
conducted by Keerthanacharya Lakshmandas Velankar, a renowned Harikatha
exponent and a scholar in Sanskrit and philosophy.

Thirdly the venue was Auro Veda
Farm on Kanakapura Road, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and
promised to be an apt place for the spiritual retreat

This 2-day workshop was part of an
ongoing series of lectures and workshops on Indian culture, called ‘Bharatiya
Samskriti Darshana’

That made me signup right away and
the day I was longing for, finally arrived on the dawn of March 11th.  There were around 40 participants who had
signed up and the various groups assembled at the venue. Dr Meera Rajaram
Pranesh and Dr Pranesh, the key co-founders of Vanamala Arts were already on
the job, trying to ensure that everything was set for a smooth beginning. The
participants also pitched in to help. We all had a sumptuous breakfast. The
food was so good that I was in a dilemma whether or not to go for that extra helping,
for fear of sleeping off in the session.

But any such fear was quelled by a
fantastic start to the day’s proceedings. After a melodious rendering of the
invocation by Shivashankari and a welcome speech by Dr Meera, Lakshmandasji was
bang on target right from the word go. He set the context by explaining that it
was important to understand the principles behind any shloka, epic or puranic
text. There are subtle secrets behind any Mantra and these subtleties can be
understood if we practise the mantra in the right way. He emphasised on doing
Sadhana by being in the worldly life, rather than renouncing. He went on to
explain the characteristic of Devi e.g.: She is Prakriti and Purusha, Vidya and

As the session unfolded, the divine
vibrations from Lakshmandasji’s presence and speech were already being felt and
any excitement from the lovely breakfast were already taken over by the sweet
and impactful words of Lakshmandasji. Lakshmandasji said that Devi Mahatmya was
not only for Jnanis and Jignasus, but for the entire mankind. He went on to
explain the prerequisites before the main Patha, like Achamana, Pranayama,
Devata Stotras, Sankalpa, Asana Shuddhi and Deepa Sthapana.He explained the
significance of the four Purusharthas – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

He then explained the significance
of Kavacham, Argala Stotram and Keelakam.

Kavacham: Consisting of 61 verses,
Devi Kavacham (armour) protects the reader in all parts of the body, in all
places and in all difficulties. Every part of the body is mentioned and Devi,
in different forms, is being worshipped. Lakshmandasji mentioned that our body
is Devi’s Karuna

Argala Stotram: Here, Rishi
Markandeya tells his disciples in twenty-seven inspiring couplets about the
greatness of Devi. She has been described in all aspects and names and at the
end of each shloka, prayer is offered to Devi for material prosperity, physical
fitness, fame and victory.

Keelakam: Here also, Rishi
Markandeya tells his disciples in sixteen shlokas the ways and means of
removing obstacles faced by devotees while reading Devi Mahatmya. Reading of
Keelakam brings blessings of Devi, spiritual harmony, peace of mind and success
in all pursuits.

Lakshmandasji explained that in
Durga Saptashati, Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati refer to the same mother Goddess
Durga. He said that any Mantra has more power only when it is received as an
Upadesa from a Guru. He spoke about the Ratri Sukta. It is a description of
Devi Ma’s power and what she can do for her devotees.

Then everyone chanted the first
part of the Saptashati. After the chanting came the apt Tatva Gnyana from
Lakshmandasji. He mentioned that problems still exist in the world because it
is Mahamaya’s play for the world to go on. He talked about the Nama Rupa Rahita
vastu (I am That). He said that Jagatjanani has true love for us, even after
death!  We all were so engrossed in the
sessions that we did not realize that two sessions had passed and it was time
for lunch. We had a coffee break with some light refreshing munchies.

There was an equally sumptuous
lunch after which we got ready for the remaining two sessions for the day.
These sessions were focussed on the second section of the Saptashati which
talks about the slaying of the demon Mahishasura. Lakshmandasji explained that
symbolically the asuras like Mahishasura represent the vagaries and vices of
the human mind. Durga Devi represents the conscious self which is capable of
killing these asuras. He said that we should all strive to achieve ‘Naija
Sukha’ or true happiness rather than ‘Vastu Sukha’ or material happiness.

The last session of the evening saw
the divine vibrations reach a new height. When honest vibrations of words
strike the soul, they take the form of tears. Tears welled in Lakshmandasji’s eyes
as he spoke about the greatness of the mother. I am sure many of us connected
our own mothers and the divine mother through Lakshmandasji’s tears when he
talked about the forgiveness and compassion of the mother, and this brought
tears to our eyes as well. It was a moment of divine purification which cannot
be explained in detail!

The day ended in contemplative
silence and any words that were spoken were only an artificial mask for
emotions. We had dinner and good sleep.

Day 2 was a refreshing start waking
up to a serene surrounding full of fresh air and nature’s warm hug. As we
headed back from breakfast, Dr Meera had an interesting idea of doing an open
air first session for the core part of the Saptashati which covers the Devi
Namaskara Mantra (after which we have the slaying of Dhoomralochana, Raktabeejasura,
Shumbha and Nishumbha). Everyone readily agreed and within minutes we had Guru
Lakshmandasji seated in front of a tree and the eager shishyas on the ground by
the side of a small Muruga temple. It resembled an ancient Gurukula where the
pupils were waiting to savour the nectarine words of the Maharishi.

Lakshmandasji began by saying that
some people can explain a small concept in many words and some can explain a
very intricate and deep concept in very few words. The latter are the yogis.
Through an analogy he explained that any message to be conveyed effectively has
to be conveyed in a simple manner. Hence concepts are better conveyed through
stories, and this is what our epics and Puranas beautifully did. The killing of
Raktabeejasura by Devi in the form of Kali drinking every drop of blood before
it fell to the ground, conveys that Devi will kill any Rakshasa that will come
in our life. He went on explain in depth the meaning of the various attributes
of Devi in the Namaskara Mantra. As he unfolded the secrets of Maya, Chetana,
Buddhi, Nidra, Kshudha etc., one could feel the heavenly bliss. This was not
any mere recitation; it was the flow of the highest knowledge.

The last session was back in the
auditorium, courtesy Surya Devata who decided he wanted his privacy in the
Gurukul! Lakshmandasji explained the significance of the Narayani stotram which
is a mantra for getting rid of all adversities and everyone recited it in
soulful chorus. The last sections included the part where Devi promises to take
an avatar every time the beings are in danger, to kill the Asuras. Lakshmandasji
ended the session with a request to preserve, with gratitude, the bounty which
God has given us. He said we should also, at least give our love in return, to
Bhagawathi. This can be done by living a simple life free from excess wants and

The proceedings ended with a warm concluding speech by Dr Meera Rajaram, felicitation to Lakshmandasji and his wife, and all the participants were lucky to receive individual blessings from Lakshmandasji and Smt Lakshmandas. There were group photos and selfies to seal the end, but well we all knew this was just the beginning. The platform was set for a new beginning for each one of us. We all got to meet such wonderful people at the Shibir. I have no words to describe Lakshmandasji’s greatness as his teachings transcended the complex with simplicity and the impact felt is something you can describe correctly only by being there. There are many experiences I would have missed out, some because I was not aware of them and including some might make this a dissertation rather than a write-up. So please pardon me for any mistakes in my description. My sincere thanks to my esteemed guide Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh for creating this opportunity and to all the organizers who did such a fantastic job! To the readers, please do not miss the next opportunity created by Vanamala!

Bharatiya Samskriti Darshana- 18 - Guru Vandana


To celebrate, acknowledge and honour all the Gurus

On the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima



Rendering compositions on Guru


Mangala Subrahmanya, Vijayashree Rao, Manasa Gireesh, Madhuri K.V, Thejaswini, Nagashree Narayan, Vaishnavi Mayya, Manasa K.S and Pavani Kashinath.

Release of the Book


A Geya Prabandha by Kalale Nanjaraja

In Sanskrit, Kannada and English with translation

Guests of Honour

Keerthanacharya Shri Lakshmandas Velankar

Vidushi Sudha V Murthy

Vidushi Rohini Manjunath

 Dr. B
M Jayashree

Vidushi Kamala Balaji

Guru Darshana  

Guru is the
primordial entity who helps the aspirant to seek the absolute supreme. Guru’s
grace is the benevolence of the almighty himself. Sanaatana Dharma has always
given importance to Guru, and the Guru is seen with great reverence by the
shishya. Indian music which dates back to the Vedic period, follows this
tradition and many compositions were composed by composers on their respective

Guru Darshana is conceived on this theme. Guru has been portrayed by
different composers in different ways. This presentation comprises compositions
of Tyagaraja, Muttuswami Dikshitar, Mysore Vasudevacharya, Maharaja
Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, Meera Bai, Havina Haalakallaya, Chenna Basavanna and
Rajaram who have portrayed Guru in a unique style.

Date and Time: 25th August 2019, 10AM (please be seated by 9.45AM)

Venue: Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy

Shop No. 36,
9th Main, B V Karanth Road, Near Post Office,

9th Main Road,
Banashankari Stage II,

Karnataka 560070

Ph No: +91 98455 14661, +91 99867 99652


About Vanamala Center for Art and Culture

Vanamala Center for Art and Culture, the brainchild of Dr. Meera
Rajaram Pranesh, traces its origin to 1995 when it was first instituted as
Vanamala Art Foundation. Over the years it evolved into an organization for
promoting Indian art and culture. Vanamala Center for Art and Culture provides
an environment for learning, through expert guidance, to preserve, promote and
propagate Indian Art and Culture for posterity.

Our Publications:


  • Musical Composers during Wodeyar Dynasty (1638-1947 AD)– Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh- Rs.150/-
  • Harikeshanallur Dr L Mutthaih Bhagavatar- A Biography- Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh Rs:400/-
  • Journal- with 51 articles on various art forms authored by research scholars all over India, released during National Seminar on Katha Keertan conducted by the Center.
  • Kannada Suladis of Haridasas- Rs:250/-


  • DVD- Documentary Sri Chakra Darshana in English and Kannada through Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar’s Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis Script and Direction- Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh and Dr A Pranesh – Rs 400/-
  • Kannada Suladis of
    - Rs:250/-


  • Bhakti Yaana- Bhaktiyaana- Songs depicting the daily
    upacharas from Suprabhata to Laali to Lord Lakshmi Narayana –Rs 50/-
  • Sarvam Brahmamayam- Collection of devotional songs- Vidushi H K
    Kamala Balaji- Rs:100/-

The latest offering of Vanamala Center for Art and Culture includes
Bharatiya Samskriti Darshana a series of lecture demonstrations which touches
upon various facets of Indian art and culture. It has conducted more than 17
lecture demonstrations by scholars in various fields under this series.

For more details about the Center log on to

Yoga Classes

Private Classes
Therapy: One on one session 

Yoga therapy is derived from the Yoga tradition and refers to the application
of Yoga techniques and practice to help individuals facing health challenges
and manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance in their
The objective of the Private Yoga sessions is to provide therapy focusing on
certain disorders or it can be generic for the overall improvement of health
and maintaining fitness. The sessions are designed in such a way that they will
enable the person practicing to continue the same without the supervision of
the therapists in due time. 
The private sessions are individualized according to the requirements of the
client and it involves specialized techniques by the therapists. The Yoga
intervention designed by our therapists work on all five layers of the
individual – physical, pranic, mental, intellectual and bliss. The Yoga
therapists’ team in VCAC has specialization in different fields. The private
sessions are conducted at the convenience of the client. 

Yoga for Infertility 

Infertility is the inability to conceive a child after 2 years of unprotected
intercourse. Sindhoora, our therapist has a specialization in treating patients
with infertility and has treated many patients into positive outcome through
Yoga therapy. Yoga for Infertility offers a specific sequence of reclining,
inverted and standing postures, Pranayama and relaxation techniques. This
combination improves the blood circulation to the pelvis and reduces the stress
levels in couples undergoing either fertility treatment or trying to conceive
naturally. Asanas together with Pranayama have a positive impact on stress and
infertility. Yogasanas influence the chemical balance of the brain which in turn
improves the mental state of being. The Asanas activate glands and vital organs
by supplying blood to brain. 
The Yoga therapy for infertility has been designed with elements from Haṭha
Yoga, Patañjali Yoga and Garbhopaniṣad. Having a calm mind at the time of
conception has a huge impact on the development of baby. Yoga helps in
developing a positive environment for the conception and treatment. 

Pre-natal Yoga 

Having a positive environment is very important for the development of baby.
Pre-natal Yoga is a structured program for pregnant women. The sequence of
Asanas has been structured to accommodate to different trimesters. The sequence
also includes Pranayama and relaxation techniques which creates a positive
environment for the development of the baby. 

Yoga for Women 

There are three important milestones in a woman. They are menarche, pregnancy
and menopause. Practicing Yoga can help in preventing any ailments that affect
women during these phases. Yoga can help in correcting degeneration of bones.
It also helps in regulating menstrual disorders, osteoporosis and the side
effects of Menopause. We, at VCAC offer therapy and general classes exclusively
for women with different menstrual problems and problems related

Yoga Therapy for Orthopedic

Poor posture and lack of exercises leads to stiffness in the joints causing
different types of back pain, arthritis etc. Yoga therapy strengthens the
bones, improves co-ordination of the muscles, and reduces physical exhaustion
and fatigue. 

Yoga Therapy for
Cardiac Ailments 

Heart is a very important organ which pumps blood and the arteries, veins,
capillaries help in circulating blood throughout the body. The common ailments
related heart include blockage in arteries, Hypertension, varicose veins etc.
Yoga helps in improving circulation throughout the body. It increases
sensitivity to the circulation of the Prana. 

Yoga Therapy to reduce
Stress Related Issues 

Stress plays a very important role in our life and health. Stress is very
common these days with the change in lifestyle. Stress aggrevates the health
issues which is already present in us and they become what are called as the
psychosomatic ailments. Yoga is a boon for stress as it reduces the thought
process by reducing the stress levels. Headaches, Migraine and other Cognitive

Therapy classes are conducted on a one to one basis and they can be scheduled
based on your convenient time. All classes are conducted at our Center 

General classes: 

General classes are conducted in a group. They are mainly to help one to
maintain general health and well-being. The general Yoga classes are conducted
during week-days and weekends at convenient times that suit the busy schedules
of working professionals, home-makers and students. The classes are for both
men and women and involve Suryanamaskars, Vinyasa Kriyas, Shat-Kriyas,
Yogasanas, Pranayama, Relaxation techniques and Meditation. The Yogasanas act
as the stimulative exercises. Yogasanas penetrate each and every layer of the
body and keeps the body and mind in a relaxed state. Yogasanas involves
exertion equally on all parts of the body and does not put strain on one
particular part of the body. 

Yoga for Children 

Yoga can be practiced by everyone irrespective of the age. And that is why VCAC
offers Yoga for children. A program which incorporates different stages of Yoga
in a fun way with stories from different Puranas and Yoga helps to improve
concentration and memory power in children. 


General classes are conducted on all weekdays and weekends:

*Yoga Therapy/Yoga for Infertility schedule is a 1-on-1 session dependent on your convenience as per the schedule. However, Yoga need to be practiced with an empty stomach. Please contact the therapist for further details regarding convenient time slots, scheduling and availability of the therapists.

-Sindhoora S

Introduction to Yoga

Yoga comes from the root word Yuj meaning to
 or union. It means to unite the Jivātma with
the Paramātma – in other words the individual consciousness
with the supreme consciousness.

The union of the individual
consciousness with the supreme consciousness could be achieved through various
paths as suited to the practitioner or Sadhaka. The different paths of Yoga are
Jnāna (the path of knowledge), Bhakti (the path of worship), Karma (the path of
work), Laya (the path of music), Raja (the path of mind) and Haṭha Yoga (the
path of will power). The paths to approach Yoga could be different according to
the individual, but Yoga is one, just like India which is one with so much

There are many definitions of Yoga.
Patanjali defines Yoga as Yogaścitta vritti nirodhaḥ (Patanjali
Yoga Sūtrās 1.2) meaning Yoga is to remove the disturbances that occur in the
mind. The Haṭha Yoga Pradipikadefines Yoga as Prāṇa vritti
nirodha meaning Yoga is to still the fluctuations of the breath. Through
controlling the breath, one can gain control over the consciousness and by
controlling the consciousness, one can have the control over the breath. Thus,
there is no difference between the Haṭha Yoga and the Raja Yoga, Yoga is one.

The Raja Yoga is also called as the
Aṣtānga Yoga and Patanjali Yoga. The Aṣtānga Yoga is written by the great sage
Patanjali in the form of 196 aphorisms or sūtrās and is one of the Śat
Darṣanas. It is called so because it involves 8 limbs or steps to attain the
union with the supreme consciousness. Thus, by following these steps one can
unite the body, mind, and intellect with the soul.

Patanjali was amongst the greatest
sages of all time. He was believed to be the incarnation of Ᾱdiśeṣa. There is a
conflict of interest in regarding the time of Patanjali. He is believed to have
lived in 5th and 2nd century BC and some believe he was Govindapada who was the
guru of Śankaracārya. Patanjali was well versed in many fields. He chose to
write the commentary for Pānini’s Vyākarṇa Śāstra (Grammar), Caraka’s Śarira
Śāstra (Ᾱyurveda). He then wrote Yoga Śāstra for which he became very popular
among scholars. His last work focuses on human’s physical, mental and spiritual
evolution. Patanjali’s works collectively deals with the development of speech,
human body and mind. This is the reason, one salutes Patanjali before studying
the sūtrās written by him with the following prayer Manovākhya doṣnam hantre
adhipathiye namaḥa.

The eight limbs of Aṣtānga Yoga are
Yama, Niyama, Ᾱsana, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyahāra, Dhāraṇa, Dhyāna and Samādhi. These
eight limbs are further classified into three groups for better understanding.
The Yamas and Niyama are socio-ethical norms to be followed by the individual which
disciplines the individual and puts them into the right path towards Yoga. The
Ᾱsana, Prāṇāyāma and Pratyahāra makes the individual gain control over the
consciousness through body, breath and the sense organs. The Dhāraṇa, Dhyāna
and Samādhi put the individual in the spiritual path. Patanjali defines them as
the Samyama meaning the last three limbs are merged together and the difference
between are very minute.

The Yamas and Niyamas discipline the
individual control the emotions and makes the individual to bring a balance in
the emotions and passions. Ᾱsana helps the individual to be healthy and strong.
These three steps together form the Bahiranga Yoga. Prāṇāyāma and Pratyahāra
help the individual to control the mind by regulating the breath and to restraining
the sense organs from their objects of desire respectively. These two steps
together form the Antaranga Yoga. The Dhāraṇa, Dhyāna and Samādhi takes the
individual to the inner self which is the Antaratma and in this stage the
individual is in complete harmony with the supreme consciousness. These stages
are called as the Antarātma Sādhana. At this stage, the individual realises one
true nature and realises the supreme consciousness.

Yoga liberates the mind from the bondage of the body and unites with the soul. Once the mind reaches the soul, one is at peace; this is achieved through the eight steps.

Sindhoora S

Hatḥa Yoga

Hatḥa Yoga is a form of the Indian Serology which aims at salvation;
liberation; to achieve freedom for its practioners. Ha and Tḥa are the
combination of two Beeja mantras. In Hatḥa Yoga, Ha means he Prāṇa and Tḥa
means the mind. Hence, Hatḥa Yoga means the union of the Prāṇic and the mental
forces. These two forces are the most fundamental forces. On another level, Ha
means Sun and Tḥa means Moon; hence, Hatha Yoga means union of the Sun and the

On one level, Hatḥa Yoga is an
adjective for forceful, strenuous, aggressive and hence the literal meaning of
Hatḥa Yoga is Forceful Yoga. This is because; the discipline uses many
strenuous and difficult techniques.

There are many texts which have
contributed to the field of Hatḥa Yoga and they are Hatḥa Yoga Pradipika by
Swami Swatmarama, Ghoraksha Samhita by Ghorakha nath, Gheranda Samhita by sage
Gheranda, Hatḥaratnavali by Srinivasabhatta Mahayogindra and Śiva Samhita which
is considered to be given directly by Lord Śiva. All these texts must be
written between the 6th and the 15th century AD

There have been many references about
Hatha Yoga in various cultures such as Colombia in South America. There have
been references about Hatḥa Yoga in Upaniṣads and Śri Bhagwatam. But the sects
from India, Nepal and Tibet form the basis for Hatḥa Yoga.

The Hatḥa Yoga started developing
much later to Buddhism and Jainism. The Buddhism gave the eight fold path for
salvation which included meditation. They believed that one can start doing
meditation at any point of time. They also included the Yama and the Niyama
which are the morals and the ethics. The more stringent way was called as the
Hināyana and the liberal path was called as the Mahayāna. The Mahayāna path
included the tantric aspects which were misinterpreted by the orthodox people.

After about 500 years, sages like
Matsyendranath and Ghorakshanath structured the Hatḥa Yoga by separating the
Hatha Yoga and the Raja Yoga from the Tantra. They picked up the practices
useful from the Tantra.

Principles of Hatha Yoga:

Swami Swatmarama compiled Hatha Yoga
Pradipika, a text which illuminates the multitudes of physical, mental,
spiritual aspects of the aspirants. He has completely eliminated the Yama and
Niyama which forms the first steps in the Buddhism and even the Patanjali Yoga
Sutras. He believed that one has to have self-discipline, self control to
practice Yama and Niyama. He also believed that they were more a part of
religion than being spiritual.

Swatmarama starts Hatha Yoga
Pradipika by saying that one should purify the whole body first – neti, dhouti,
basti, trataka, kapalabhati and nauli. After this come the Asana and Prāṇayāma.
He said that self-control and self-discipline should start with the body. Be
disciplining the body first, the subtle elements, the energy channels within
the body get purified. The Prana, the nervous system and various other vital
organs get purified. The body will be properly maintained and harmonized.

The main objective of Hatha Yoga is
to create a balance of the interacting activities of the physical body, and
energy. When this balance is created, the impulses created stimulate the
Sushmana nadi which is responsible for the awakening of the Kundalini. The Ha
means Surya Nādi and Tha means the Chandra Nādi. Hatha Yoga is to bring harmony
between the two as they are one. When this union takes place, the Mūlādhāra
Chakra is awakened at the base of the spine. This awakens the Kundalini which
manisfests itself in the higher forms and finally gets established in the
Sahasrara Chakra.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

It is important to understand the
theory of Hatha Yoga, but it is the practical aspect which has been emphasized
in the Hatḥa treatises.

Haṭḥa Yoga was to be practiced solely
to awaken the kundalini and to reach the highest state of Raja Yoga i.e. the
Samadhi. As one practices Haṭḥa Yoga techniques, one’s physical and mental
potentials begin to unfold. This is regarded as the grand achievement by some
practitioners but they are only temporary manifestations and hinder the further
spiritual progress.

Śriādināthāya namo’stu tasmai
yenopadiṣṭā haṭhayogavidyā /
Vibhrājate pronnatarājayogam āroḍhum icchor adhirohiṇiva //

Salutation to Ᾱdinātha (Śiva) who
expounded the knowledge of Haṭha Yoga, which is like a staircase leading the
aspirant to the high pinnacle Rāja Yoga.

Aśeṣatāpataptānāṁ samāśrayamaṭho
haṭhah /
Aśeṣayogayuktānām ādhārakamaṭho haṭhah //

Like a house protecting from the heat
of the sun, Haṭḥa Yoga protects it’s practitioners from the burning heat of the
three types of suffering; and similarly, it is the supporting tortoise, as if
it were for those who are constantly devoted to the practice of Yoga.

The three types of suffering are:
Ᾱdhyātmika – it is the spiritual suffering meaning this is the one which passes
on from the previous lives. Ᾱdhidaivika – it is the natural/environmental
suffering and it is caused because of the environmental conditions such as the
earthquake, hurricanes etc which cannot be avoided. Ᾱdhibhautika – it is the
physical suffering which happens to the body because of the diseases which
cannot be avoided caused due to bacteria, viruses etc.

Haṭhavidyā paraṁ gopyā yoginā siddhim
Bhaved viryavati guptā nirviryā tu prakāśita //

A Haṭha Yogi should keep the
knowledge of Haṭḥa Yoga a secret who is desirous of success; for it becomes
potent when it is kept a secret and when revealed, it becomes powerless.

Most of the great saints and Siddhas
who had great powers rarely revealed them. Only the people who lived very close
to them knew their greatness. The main reason for this to do is not to develop
Ahamkārā or the ego in the Siddhas/Practitioners.

Surājye dhārmike deśe subhikṣe
Dhanuḥ pramāṇaparyantaṁ śilāgnijanavarjite/
Ekānte maṭhikāmadhye sthātavyaṁ haṭhayoginā//

A Yogi should practice Haṭḥa Yoga in
a small room situated in a solitary place, measuring four cubic squares and
free from stones, fire, water, disturbances of all kinds, and in a country
where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be
obtained easily and plentiful.

It is recommended in the śloka to
practice in an area of one and a half meters, where there are no surrounding
objects which may cause physical affliction. One should also practice in the
same place every day in order to build up the spiritual vibrations. These are
the various recommendations stated by the Yogis.

Alpadvāram arandhragartavivraṁ
Samyoggamayasāndraliptam amalaṁ niḥśeṣajaṁtūjjhitam//
Bāhye maṇḍapavedikūparuciraṁ prākārasaṁveṣtitam/
Proktaṁ yogamaṭhasya lakṣaṇam idaṁ siddhair haṭhābhyāsibhiḥ//

The room should have a small door, be
free from holes, hallows, room should be situated on neither too high nor too
low platform, well plastered with cow dung and free from dirt, filth and
insects. On its outside there should be a raised compound. These are the
characteristics of the room in which Haṭḥa Yoga has to be practiced as it is
described by the adepts in the practice of Haṭḥa Yoga.

These recommendations have been given
to give a structure to the Sādhaka. The mind has to be protected from outside
influenced and the body should have a good defense mechanism. If the mind and
body are kept pure, simple and modest; then they will cultivate spiritual
vibrations, and conditions will be conducive for the soul (Ᾱtma) to manifest
itself. The Sādhaka’s possessions should be kept to a minimum and the
surroundings should always remain clean. This has to be carried out so that
there will be fewer mental distractions and worries and therefore all the
energy can be directed towards spiritual development.

Utsāhāt sāhasād dhariyāt tattvajnānāc
ca niścayāt/
janasaṅgaparityāgāt ṣaḍbhir yogaḥ prasiddhyati//

The following six bring success faster for a Haṭha Yogi and they are enthusiasm, courage/daring, perseverance, correct understanding, determination and aloofness from company of people.

-Sindhoora S

Aṣtānga Yoga Part 3

In the previous article on Aṣtānga
Yoga, the importance of Ᾱsanas was understood. Prāṇāyāma is like the leaves in
a tree, which nourishes the tree; Prāṇāyāma nourishes the cells, organs,
intelligence and even consciousness.

It is very difficult to define or describe Prāṇa. It can only be understood by
the Sādhaka. It is the energy through which the entire universe upholds. It is
in different forms and is used to fullest extent when required. 
According to Praśnopaniṣad, Prāṇa is considered to be the principle of life and

Prāṇasyedam vaśe sarvam Tridiveyat
Māteva pūtrān rakśasva Śrica prajnān ca videhina iti. (Praśnopaniṣad)

According to the mantra, Oh Prāṇa,
who govern the entire universe; please protect us like how a mother protects
her child.

Prāṇa is broadly understood as breath
but it is just one of the many manifestations. It is co-related as breath
because once there is no Prāṇa, there is no life as one stops breathing, one
stops living.

The Prāṇa and the citta are in
constant association. The relationship between Prāṇa and citta is understood
breathing. When the breathing is controlled, relaxed then the desires are controlled
and the senses are in the right path and the mind is like a calm ocean.
Similarly, if the desire is forced, the breathing is uneven and the mind is
agitated like an ocean with waves.

Prāṇa classifies itself into five
categories: Prāṇa, Apāna, Udāna, Samāna and Vyāna. They are classified so just
for the better understanding of the functions of Prāṇa. Prāṇa prevails in the
respiratory system and is responsible for respiration. Apāna moves in lower
abdomen and is responsible for excretion. Samāna is responsible for digestion
by invoking the gastric juices. Udāna moves in upward direction and is
responsible for vocal cords and intake of food and air. Vyāna moves throughout
the body and is responsible for circulation and the sthāna of Vyāna is said to
be Hrudaya.

Prāṇa then further sub categorises as
Upa Prāṇas. They are Nāga, Kūrma, Kṛikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya. Nāga is
responsible for relieving of pressure from abdomen through belching. Kūrma is
responsible for preventing foreign matter enter the body through the movement
of eye-lids. Kṛikara is responsible for prevention of unwanted substances
entering the body through sneezing and coughing. Devadatta is responsible for
inducing sleep through yawning. Dhananjaya is responsible for production of phlegm
and nourishment of the body.

Prāṇāyāma: Prāṇa is the life force
and āyāma means expansion, extension, stretch, length, restraint or even
control. Hence, Prāṇāyāma means expansion or restraining of Prāṇa. B.K.S.
Iyengar describes Prāṇāyāma as the science of breath, which leads to the
creation, distribution and maintenance of vital energy.

Patanjali in his sūtras describe
Prāṇāyāma as –

śvāsapraśvāsayorgativicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ (Patanjali Yoga Sūtrās 2.49)

The above sūtra means: Prāṇāyāma is
the controlled intake and outflow of Prāṇa with retention in a firmly
established posture.

Before starting Prāṇāyāma, the
practitioner has to understand the process of breathing. Breathing is an
involuntary process which takes place in every living form from a single celled
organism to humans. By Prāṇāyāma, the practitioner can increase the rate and
depth of breathing. The process of breathing consists of three facets namely
inhalation (pūraka), exhalation (recaka) and retention of breath (kumbhaka). In
Prāṇāyāma, there are no sudden movements during inhalation and exhalation but
complete awareness of gradual expansion of the lungs. During exhalation, when
done gradually, there is sufficient time for the cells to reabsorb the Prāṇa
for the maximum extent. The retention of breath should not be done initially,
instead one should master the breathing smoothly. Once this is established, one
should attempt at Kumbhaka and this can be practiced by counts which can be
increased gradually.

The retention of breath is again
divided into 2 types namely the Antar Kumbhaka and Bahya
 depending on when one is holding the breath. In Antar
Kumbhaka, one holds the breath after inhalation and in Bahya Kumbhaka, one
holds the breath after exhalation. There is another type called as the Kevala
Kumbhaka. This is the objective of performing Prānayāma. This type of Kumbhaka
happens automatically after the Prānayāma is performed for a few seconds and
the time duration of the Kumbhaka should be increased during regular practice. In
Kumbhaka, the self is united with body and this is achieved because of the
union of body and mind in inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath.
Inhalation is receiving energy in the form of breath and exhalation is removal
of toxins from the system.

Prānayāma is a bridge between the physical and spiritual. Prānayāma can be mastered only through practice and when Prānayāma is effortless. Patanjali describes the benefits of Prānayāma in the sūtra tataḥ kṣiyate prakāśa āvaraṇam (PYS 2.52) according to which the practice of Prānayāma destroys illusion, ignorance desire, and delusion and allows the inner light of wisdom to shine.

- Sindhoora S

Aṣtānga Yoga Part 2

In a tree, roots and the trunk form
the foundation. Similarly, in the path of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas form the
foundation. Further, the trunk divides itself into branches, likewise in the
Aṣtānga Yoga, Asana is the branches.

Ᾱsana simply means posture. A posture becomes a āsana when one is comfortable,
stable and in the posture for a long time.

Patanjali never really emphasis much
on the Ᾱsanas; Patanjali defines Ᾱsana as Sthiramsukhamāsanam (PYS 2.46)
meaning Ᾱsana is a posture in which one is comfortable, stable for a long time.
In Haṭha Yoga, before performing or practicing postures, one has worship to
Ᾱdinath (he instructs the knowledge of Yoga). Ᾱsanas are majorly described in
the Haṭha Yoga Pradipika, Śiva Samhita and Gheranda Samhita.

Ᾱsanas are not merely gymnastic
exercises. They are specific postures which open up the energy levels and
produces mental equilibrium. When Ᾱsanas are practiced, steadiness is developed
ensuring the free flow of the Prāṇa. When Prāṇa flows freely in the body, there
are no blockages and toxins are removed from the body.

Ᾱsanas are very important as they
make the body fit for the practitioner in the path of Sādhana. By practicing
Ᾱsanas, the mind is also activated as one has to keep the body in alignment and
this can be achieved only when the practitioner concentrates on the posture,
body alignment and the breathing all at once. Any Ᾱsana before performing
should be studied in the different aspects like distribution of weight, the
geometry and this should be presented in the posture. The whole body, senses,
mind and even consciousness are i nvolved in the process hence, ensuring the
union of body with mind.

Ᾱsanas are an imitation of the
nature. There is a saying that the number of Ᾱsanas is equivalent to the forms
of life. Some of the Asanas are named after the plant kingdom, such as
vrkśāsana and Padmāsana; named after tree and the flower respectively. Asanas
are also named after animal kingdom; they include Asanas such as Makarāsana and
Bhujangāsana named after the animals crocodile and cobra respectively. Ᾱsanas
have also been inspired by great sages who have attained liberation in specific
postures; they include Asanas such as Bhardwajāsana named after the sage
Baradwaj and Ardha Matsyendrāsana named after Mastyendranath. Asanas are also
named after gods e.g. Hanumāsana named after the lord Hanuma. Not all Ᾱsanas
are described in Haṭha Yoga. Swami Swatmarama (the author of Haṭha Yoga
Pradipika) carefully picks and describes a few of the Ᾱsanas which gives
maximum effect in bringing a balance and preventing the fickleness of the mind.
Ᾱsanas have also been inspired by great sages who have attained liberation in
specific postures.

Lord Krishna gives a clear description
in Bhagwad Gita about the way a Ᾱsana should be performed:

Śucou deśe pratiṣṭhāpya
Nātyucitam nātinicam cylājinakuṣottaram. (Bhagwad Gita)

The meaning of the above verse is
“the place to perform a Ᾱsana has to be clean, the seat neither too low nor too
high. Then spread a white cotton cloth on kuśa grass and this becomes the
preparation for Ᾱsana”. After the preparation is done, the Ᾱsana should be
performed with ease and comfort but without any movement in the pose.

Patanjali says how one can master a
Ᾱsana in the sūtra “Prayatnaśaithilyām anantasamāpattibhyām (PYS 2.47).
According to which, the effort to perform the Ᾱsana becomes effortless, then
one can perfect the Ᾱsana and one unite with the Supreme Being. Patanjali also
gives the importance of Ᾱsanas by saying that when a Ᾱsana is correctly
performed, the dualities of nature of body and mind, mind and soul seize to
exist. When the Ᾱsanas are performed in this manner, the body cells are kept
healthy and the physiological body is brought closer to the soul.

Ᾱsanas have immense therapeutic
benefits. They tone the muscles, tissues, ligaments, joints and nerves and
maintain a smooth functioning of all systems in the body. They bring a balance
between sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems. They increase the
metabolism and bring harmony in the endocrine system. They improve blood and
lymphatic circulation.

Lastly, Ᾱsanas should be performed with Bhakti and not as just mere form of exercise to attain a fit body, as this nurtures and tunes our body in turn our mind in the path of Yoga and as B.K.S Iyengar quotes “True Ᾱsana is that in which the thought of Brahman flows effortlessly and instantly through the mind of a Sādhaka”.

-Sindhoora S