Michael Rabe mrabe at ARTIC.EDU
Fri Jun 12 13:27:28 UTC 1998

My thanks to Rolf Heiner Koch,  Devakkonda Venkata Narayana Sarma, Ashok
Aklujkar, and Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian for their helpful leads,
numbered below.  But first, if I may  reframe the query:

Given the centrality of yoga in South Asian religious practice--with ample
visual evidence for its practice already in the IVC, a full millenium
before Patanjali's sutras--isn't it curious that the yoga-paTTa doesn't
appear more frequently than it does in Indian art?  With the single
exception of the north torana at Sanchi, I don't believe it occurs anywhere
in Buddhist or Jain contexts, for example, despite the ubiquity of
glorified meditator icons in both traditions.

For the record, that one exception is a depiction of the future Buddha as
the tapasvin father of the _unicorn boy_ Rishi-Shringa.  Unfortunately
(Rolf Koch), the corresponding text, Alambusaa-jataka No. 523, does not
mention the yoga-patta.  As translated by E.B. Cowell (1869, vol _ [?], p.
79), this is all that's said:
        _Once upon a time in the reign of Brahmadatta in Benares, the
Bodhisatta was born of a brahmin family in the kingdom of Kaasi, and when
of age he became proficient in all liberal arts, and adopted the ascetic
life he lived on wild berries and roots in a forest home.  Now a certain
doe in the brahmin's mingeling-place ate grass and drank water mingled with
his semen, and was so much enamoured of him that she became pregnant and
henceforth ever resorted to the spot near the  hermitage....  By and bye
the doe gave birth to a man child..._

With thanks to Prof. Aklujkar, here's the M.rcchaka.tika's opening lines (a
la van Buitenen):
        May Siva's Meditation favor thee,
        When doubling up the snake that spans his knees
        He folds His legs in the Paryanka Seat--...

And yes, Gopinatha Rao does supply agamic descriptions (and photographs) of
Siva-Dakshinamurti, complete with a yogapatta, thank you, Rama.
Yoga-Narasimha images, also concentrated in South India, were better known
to me, ever since I realized they are alluded to in a mid-7th c. visual
charade [an _antaraalaapa-prahelikaa_ according to the alamkaarika's] at
the lower center of the Great Tapas Relief at Mamallapuram. [cf. p. 229 of
my recently published article, _The Mamallapuram Prasasti: a Panegyric in
Figures_, _Artibus Asiae_ vol. 57,3/4 (1997): 189-241].  In other words, I
argue, that the now-headless tapasvin seated with the aid of a yoga-pata
before the Visnu-vimaana, was intended to be a portrait of Pallava king
Narasimhavarman I, his identity coded by an attribute already a commonplace
association with his name-sake deity.

Finally, there is the case of Ayyappa, and again, thank you Sharma-ji, for
a reminder of an image I already possessed examples of but hadn't thought
of in this context.

So, in brief--here's my query once again, risking overstatement for the
sake of eliciting further speculation and textual leads, hopefully.  Given
the contexts cited above, might the yoga-patta be, in effect, a visual
equivalent of the black-belt in the further Eastern martial arts
traditions?  Siva, Narasimha, and Ayyappa are demon-destroyers, now
pacified.  Thus, might the yoga-patta be a token of necessity for
restraint?  And likewise, in the context of heroic continence called for in
the face of an apsaras Alambusaa's seductive wiles?

Thus, the yoga-patta seems to be more than simply an aid for protracted
sitting in the lotus position.  Like the black-belt of a judo master, it
proclaims capacity for great exertion of violent or sexual prowess, but
held in check.  That's why I'm wondering if there's a much more prosaic
explanation I'm ignorant of, as a non-practioner of martial-yoga/tapas,

Hoping others shares of you share my interest in this thread,
Michael Rabe
Saint Xavier University
SAIC, Chicago
[Go Bulls!]

1. >To a great part the stories of Sanchi and Bharhut
>are already identified: they reflect certain
>Jatakas and similar Buddhist tales. There you will
>find the literal description of what you call
2. >If you can get hold of a calender depicting Lord Ayyappa you
>can easily know what it is.
3. >I believe in a naandii verse of the play M.rcchaka.tika there is a
>reference to yoga-pa.tta. If that is not the case, I will write again. I do
>not have the text handy. -- ashok aklujkar
4. >I missed the original question, there are also sculptures of Narasimha
>and Dakshinamurti with the yogapaTTa, though rare. There is a brief
>discussion of the Elements of Hindu Iconography, by T. A. Gopinatha Rao
>Vol II, Part I about dakshinamurti with yogapaTTa (page 284-286). I
>believe Vol I, part I has all the relevant Sanskrit sources. You may
>want to look at all 4 volumes
>to see if he has one about Narasimha also.
[& my original query]
>>A fellow-instructor at The School of the Art
>Institute of Chicago--someone
>>who has been practicing ashtangi-yoga far longer
>than Madonna, I might
>>add--is currently researching the iconography of
>yoga-straps in Indian art
>>and contemporary meditational practice.  Though I
>am able to direct him to
>>numerous visual occurences instances of the motif
>[from the North torana at
>>Sanchi to the 16th c.Caurapanchashika mss.
>illuminations] neither of us
>>have been able to locate any textual references
>to this accouterment.
>>Here is Monier-Williams's citation:
>yoga-paTTa[ka] (HarSa-carita, PadmaP):
>>m. the cloth thrown over the back and knees of a
>devotee during meditation.
>>And the obvious query: if any one can direct us
>to a chapter and verse in
>>either cited work, or elsewhere, we'd be much
>>Much Thanks,
>>Michael Rabe
>>Assoc. Prof. of Art History
>>Saint Xavier University
>>The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list