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SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Fabrizio Speziale – The Rāwal: a sect of Muslim yogis in Colonial India

About this Event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies was delighted to host Fabrizio Speziale, Professor at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and a member of the Center for South Asian and Himalayan Studies (CESAH), Paris-Marseille, for a lecture entitled “The Rāwal: a sect of Muslim yogis in Colonial India.” This is a recording of the lecture that took place online on the 24th April 2024.

In early modern and colonial India, Muslims’ assimilation of knowledge and practices from the yogis was a layered phenomenon where different approaches, which reflected the needs of different groups of Muslim society, coexisted. This lecture looks at the emergence of Muslim branches of Nāth yogis and presents the first stage of an ongoing research on one of them, the Rāwal, which are referred to as a group of ascetics, astrologers and itinerant healers. Their members were renowned for treating cataracts, and according to colonial sources, some regularly visited Europe in the early 20th century to perform this operation. This lecture explores how Muslim yogis were perceived in the Indian society of the colonial period and the professional features of the Rāwal sect, where family played a key role, and women managed family properties when men travelled to perform their itinerant profession.

About the Speaker

Fabrizio Speziale is Professor at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and a member of the Center for South Asian and Himalayan Studies, Paris-Marseille. His research interests focus on the history of sciences in Persianate South Asia and the interactions between Persian and Indic textual cultures. His last book, Culture persane et médecine ayurvédique en Asie du Sud (Leiden, 2018), presents a detailed study of the translation process of Ayurvedic sources into Persian, which took place in India between the 14th and the 19thcenturies. In one recent article, he examines the accounts of the alchemical techniques associated with yogis in Persian texts (“Beyond the “wonders of India” (‘ajā’ib al-hind): Yogis in Persian medico-alchemical writings in South Asia.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 85, 3, 2022). He is currently editing the proceedings of a conference on Yoga and Muslim societies, which was held in Marseille in 2023.

Yogi with eyes closed, leaning on one arm, and draped in a pink and blue shawl.
Courtesy British Library (J.6,13).
SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Jason Birch – The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga

About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies was honoured to host a book launch for The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga by Jason Birch (University of Oxford). This is a recording of the lecture, which took place on Monday, 19th February, 2024.

This book introduces, critically edits, and translates one of the earliest texts of the Haṭhayoga tradition, namely the Amaraugha of Gorakṣanātha.

In this talk, Dr Birch will discuss the historical importance of the Amaraugha (12th century), the earliest known work to teach a paradigm that combined Haṭha and Rājayoga. These two yogas represent the basic dichotomy of physical and mental praxis that became a salient feature of medieval yoga traditions and is still something of a touchstone for many practitioners of modern yoga. A close reading of certain passages reveals how physical methods of yoga from a tantric Buddhist tradition were adapted for Śaivas and shifted the emphasis from celibacy to moving kuṇḍalinī.

The Amaraugha was one of the main sources of the Haṭhapradīpikā, which created a template for Haṭhayoga that was widely accepted after the fifteenth century. By looking through the lens of the Haṭhapradīpikā, it is possible to see how the practice of Haṭhayoga evolved after the Amaraugha, and to appreciate the contribution of this early work to traditions of Haṭhayoga in the early modern period.

Speaker

Jason Birch was awarded his doctorate at the University of Oxford and is a Senior Research Fellow of the Light on Hatha project, hosted at University of Oxford and the University of Marburg, which recently published an online critical edition of the Haṭhapradīpikā (2024). He is co-Director of the Yogacintāmaṇi project at the University of Massachusetts Boston and an Associate Researcher of the Suśruta project at the University of Alberta. His publications include The Amaraugha and the Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga (2024), a co-authored book on plastic surgery in the Nepalese version of the Suśrutasaṃhitā (2023), and numerous articles in academic journals on the history of Haṭha and Rājayoga. From 2015 to 2020, he was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow of the ERC-funded Haṭha Yoga Project at SOAS University of London. He is a founding member of the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies and the peer-reviewed Journal of Yoga Studies.

The Amaraugha and Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga

The Amaraugha and Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga is available for purchase via the EFEO Pondicherry. (Collection: Collection Indologie, Collection’s number: 157, Edition: EFEO, Institut français de Pondichéry (IFP), Publication date: 2024, Language: English and Sanskrit, Print length: 175 pages.)

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Ayesha A. Irani – Yoga for the Bengali Darveś: Prescriptions of the Jñāna Pradīpa, A Seventeenth-Century Sufi Practice Manual

January 29, 2024

19:00 UTC – 20:30 UTC

Location

Online webinar

Join the Event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies is pleased to host Ayesha A. Irani, Associate Professor of Asian Studies at University of Massachusetts-Boston, for a lecture entitled “Yoga for the Bengali Darveś: Prescriptions of the Jñāna Pradīpa, A Seventeenth-Century Sufi Practice Manual.”

This paper focuses upon the Jñāna Pradīpa (“Lamp of Knowlege”), ascribed to Saiyad Sultān (fl. 1615–1645), the author of the Nabīvaṃśa (“The Prophet’s Lineage”). This Sufi practice manual provides insight into the devotional imaginaire and esoteric practices of the Bengali darveś. Reading the text in the context of other similar Islamic Bangla works suggests that the Sufis of Bengal employed various technologies of haṭha yoga and immortality practices that they recast within an Islamic framework.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

https://soas-ac-uk.zoom.us/j/93839193380?pwd=L002ejV1dE5nbzNCaHRaYVF4S1hVUT09

Passcode: WnhbGGa9tf

We look forward to seeing you online!

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Dominik A. Haas – The Gāyatrī between the Vedic Age and Modern Yoga

About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies was honoured to host Dominik A. Haas of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna, who is author of Gāyatrī: Mantra and Mother of the Vedas (2023). Prof. Ulrich Pagel, Chair of the CYS, hosted the event along with Jacqueline Hargreaves, CYS Programme Manager. This is a recording of the lecture, which took place via an online webinar on Monday, 18th December, 2023.

The mantra known as Gāyatrī or Sāvitrī (Ṛgveda III 62.10) is one of the most frequently recited texts of mankind. Over the course of time it has not only been personified as the mother of the Vedas – the oldest religious literature of South Asia –, but has even come to be venerated as a goddess. It plays an important role in contemporary Hinduism as well as in modern yoga and alternative spiritual currents around the globe. Many consider it the most important, most efficacious, or holiest mantra of all. In this lecture, Dr Haas will present the results of his recently completed book project on the Gāyatrī-Mantra. He will talk about its history between the Vedic Age and modern yoga, focussing on the period between 1000 BCE and 1000 CE, the period in which the mantra rose to become a shibboleth of Brahmanical Hinduism and its deified form was fleshed out. 

Speaker

Dominik A. Haas completed his doctorate in South Asian Studies at the University of Vienna in 2022 with a dissertation on the Gāyatrī mantra. His publications and lectures deal with Hinduism, the Vedic religion, mantras, deification and yoga. Following an interdisciplinary approach, he combines philological and historical research with methods and perspectives from a wide range of disciplines, including text linguistics and religious studies. As a co-founder of the Initiative for Fair Open Access Publishing in South Asian Studies (FOASAS), Haas also advocates for modern forms of scholarly communication and fair working conditions in the academic and publishing sectors. He is currently a Post-Doc fellow and has published a monograph based on his dissertation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Contributions to the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia. In Gāyatrī: Mantra and Mother of the Vedas, Haas reconstructs for the first time the history of the Gāyatrī mantra, which, as the most important initiatory mantra of Brahmanical Hinduism, has played a central role in the formation of social and religious identity for over 2,000 years. Over time, the mantra was not only personified as the mother of the Vedas, the oldest religious literature in South Asia, but was even worshiped as a goddess. In addition to working on his book, Haas is also preparing a new research project that will examine the cultural history of mantras and their recitation. He also leads courses on the topics of mantras and religious history at the University of Vienna.

Gāyatrī: Mantra and Mother of the Vedas

Gāyatrī: Mantra and Mother of the Vedas is available open access by: Open Access Fonds der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. (Pages: 359 pages, Format: 29,7x21cm, Language: English.)

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