• Andrew Kelly

Visit to an ashram



Visit to an ashram, Bengal, India c. 1765 Victoria and Albert Museum


Like the Jain statuette from two weeks ago, at the centre of this picture is an endurance standing, but this time clothed and by a woman. Standing on her tiger skin she is clearly one of the principals of her practice community. She is using a sling hanging from a tree to help her support herself. Through the window behind her hangs another sling, perhaps so she can stand through the night. The museum note labels her as a “yogini (ascetic)” which is problematic but points to to the long, complex interaction between yoga and asceticism, between gruelling and non-gruelling modes of practice. Although haṭha yoga appears to mean “yoga through force,” its texts repeatedly say practice should be done shanaih shanaih, “softly softly.”