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Tirumalai Krishnamacharya: India’s First modern Yoga Guru was also a Scholar and Healer

He is responsible for the preaching of yoga in today’s times

Yoga pose by Krishnmacharya source-
  • Tirumalai’s lineage has been traced back to Nammazhwar, one of the greatest of Vaishnavite saints
  • In his lifetime of 101 years, he trained BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi and Pattabhi Jois
  • He remains an authoritative reference point for anyone interested in fields such as yoga and philosophy

India has gifted the world with the power of Yoga. Now, it has become so popular due to the benefits attached to it that people are bending and stretching all over the world and mats are rolling out everywhere. But, not many are aware of the man who made Yoga popular in India. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the man who was a Scholar and Ayurvedic healer but most importantly, he was India’s first modern Yoga Guru.

Born on November 18, 1888, in Muchukundapura, the Chitradurga District of Karnataka to Tirumalai Srinivasa Tatachary (his father) and Ranganayakamma (his mother) who were devout Shri Vaishnavas. What is more interesting that, his lineage has been traced to Nammazhwar, one of the greatest of Vaishnavite saints.

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At the age of six, Krishnamacharya had his sacred thread ceremony performed. He was then taught Vedas, Sanskrit grammar, the Amarakosha and other ancient texts. When he was 12 years old, he went to Parakala Mutt in Mysore where he gained his education at the Mysore Patasala.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Image source:
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Image source:

As the legend goes, at the age of sixteen, he had a dream, Krishnamacharya travelled to the town of Alvar Tirunagari in Tamil Nadu. On his arrival in the town, he seemed to have slipped into a trance. In this trance, he was taught “Yoga Rahasya”, the famous treatise on yoga by three sages. After coming out of this trance, he was able to recite the treatise from memory alone.

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At eighteen years of age, Krishnamacharya went to Banaras. Under the guidance of Brahmasri Shiva Kumara Shastri, he learnt rare aspects of Sanskrit grammar. In Banaras, he continued his quest of gaining knowledge and learnt various branches of philosophy such as– Nyaya, Tarka, Mimamsa, Vaiseshika and so on.

Over the next decade, he learnt these systems exclusively in Banaras. He even went to areas of Bihar and Bengal to meet scholars and learned men and gain training in their guidance.

On the insistence of his one teacher, Krishnamacharya travelled to the Manasarovar in the Himalayas. There, he learnt Yoga, Yoga Sutras, therapy and Yoga practice from Shri Ramamohana Brahmachari. After seven years of training, he returned back to Banaras.

In 1926, Maharaja of Mysore, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar had come to the holy city for a visit. On gaining knowledge of young Krishnamacharya, the king invited him to teach him and his family yoga in Mysore.

He accepted the offer and shifted to Mysore. Krishnamacharya married and became the personal yoga trainer of the Maharaja. He taught many dignitaries, the elite and foreigners as well. The king started a yogashala in the Jaganmohan Palace. Krishnamacharya looked after its administration for nearly 2 decades.

Mysore Yogashala source-
Mysore Yogashala. Image source-

During the reign of Maharaja Nalwadi, Krishnamacharya wrote “Yoga Makaranda”, a two-volume encyclopaedia on yoga in 1934. All the principles of modern yoga can be traced back to these encyclopaedias.

However, after the death of Maharaja Nalwadi and due to political instability in the country owing to the fight for independence, the yogashala was closed. Krishnamacharya took up the post of a lecturer in Vivekananda College in Madras and spent the rest of his life there with his family.

In his lifetime of 101 years, he trained many students, including  BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi and Pattabhi Jois. He never taught the individual students in the same way. He believed that Yoga should be adapted to the individual, never the individual to Yoga.

Not much recognition has come his way. Still, he remains an authoritative reference point for anyone interested in fields such as yoga and philosophy. Krishnamacharya has left behind a legacy for all the future generations to follow.

-prepared by Devika Todi, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi


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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yoga is very effective for the body as well as the mind. No wonder Tirumalai Krishnamacharya lived for 101 long years

  • Aparna Gupta

    Yoga is a practice which is followed all over the world. This was the reason behind his long life.

  • Dhiraj Kumar Pandey

    organisations doing “good work” like Yoga guru’s http://www.yogabhawnamission dot com/One-week-Yoga-Tourism.html

Next Story

Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS