13th century rock carving of yogi in self-realization pose discovered in India
A team of historians has discovered a rare petroglyph or rock carving of a yogi in a self-realization posture dating to the 13 th century AD in a cave in Tamil Nadu State in India. This is the first such rock carving of a sadakan or yoga aspirant of its kind found in Tamil Nadu.
Below the yogi is a carving of an altar, according to an article in The New Indian Express News made available to Ancient Origins by T.L. Subash Chandira Bose, an archaeo-symbolist who was involved in the project. Others on the team were Balakrishnan of the Arivom-Arivipom Center, and researchers Kannan and Arun.
Kudakumalai Cave, where the petroglyph was found, is near Pudukottai. The cave is near Narthamalai Temple in Narthamalai village. The temple is a shrine to the Hindu God Shiva, considered the greatest ascetic of them all.
The Hindu God Shiva in a yoga pose ( Wikimedia Commons )
“The petroglyph with two symbols reveals the existence of an ancient temple which has been functioning as a school where Yoga was taught to spiritual aspirants to attain wisdom of self- realization in nearby area,” the article states. “The self-realization can be attained through eight stages of yoga (Astanga yoga) such as, Aasana (physical postures), Praanaayaama (breath control), Pratyaahaara (control of sensory perception), Dhyaana (fixed attention), samathi (absolute concentration), Yama (abstention), Niyama (observance) and Dhaarnaa (contemplation). The main object of the eight stages of yoga is realization of one’s own soul [and] is said to be ‘soul’s profit’, [Bose] added.
Bose describes just one type of yoga. Other types include the Bakhti yoga of love and devotion, the Karma yoga of selfless work, and the Jnana yoga of knowledge and discernment. These and other yoga disciplines or schools are considered paths to enlightenment. Yoga is employed by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
Yoga spread possibly from the Indus Valley to many parts of India, Tibet, Nepal and eventually to the entire world in more modern times. Here, a Tibetan painting of the 19 th century shows Karmapa Mikyo Dorje in Four Sessions meditation. ( Wikimedia Commons )
The HinduWebsite.com article on yoga calls it “the direct perception of the ultimate truth.” Religion, on the other hand, is a companion to yoga but is concerned with values, beliefs, cultures and rituals.
Historians believe some yoga depictions discovered in India may date back 6,000 or 7,000 years to the Indus Valley Civilization, says HinduWebsite.com. The earliest written material about yoga is in the Rig Veda , which was first written down between 1500 and 1200 BC. The Rig Veda, one of the oldest of Hindu scripture books, was transmitted orally for at least 1,000 years, the site says.
Another Hindu scripture that speaks of yoga is the Bhagavad Gita , in which the God Krishna says to Arjuna in Chapter 6:
When the yogi, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in transcendence—devoid of all material desires—he is said to be well established in yoga. As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent self.
Krishna.com says the word yoga, which mean union or a yoking, refers to “linking with God.”
Featured image: The yogi above the altar was found carved into a rock surface of Kudakumalai Cave near Pudukottai. (Photo courtesy of T.L. Subash Chandira Bose)
By Mark Miller