Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yoga Pilgrimage to Bellur

The Iyengar Yoga students of Hyderabad have got an opportunity to visit Bellur village of Karnataka where Guruji BKS Iyengar was born. Guruji has spent his childhood and teenage at this village. At the age of 18, destiny took Guruji to Pune to teach Yoga and take Yoga to greater heights internationally.

Though Guruji stayed away from Bellur, he never forgotten his village and always had a special concern for his birth place. With all the hard work Guruji earned place in the hearts of millions across the Globe by serving Yoga at his best and became so popular that he was named the 13th most influential Indian of the Century on the World map. But he never forgot his roots where he belongs to. Bellur always has a special importance in Guruji’s life. At first, Guruji took the name of the village on the internal map through his knowledge and wisdom on yoga and now he is taking the village on international map again by serving the village of his birth place. 

BKSSNT at a Glance:


Guruji established Bellur Krishnamachar and Sheshamma Smaraka Nidhi Trust (BKSSNT) with a vision to serve the Village Bellur with all the necessities. The prime motto of the Trust is to promote Rural Education, Social Welfare and Health as well as to safeguard the cultural activities of the village. 

BKSSNT is built up in an area of around 15 acres at a picturesque location of Bellur village surrounded by rocky hills across. Work is under progress in an area of around 18 acres where many prestigious projects are under taken.

Under the roof of BKSSNT Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar High School is built up providing pre university level education to the children of Bellur. A proposed college for higher studies is under construction at the new site. Complete care is taken to provide all sorts of facilities for the studying children in all aspects of study and sports. A Yoga hall is being constructed above the school building with all the necessary props and infrastructure.


The roots of Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar High School were laid on 27/01/2005. The plant has now grown and started yielding the fruits. The children of the school are not only excelling in the field of education but also gaining great recognition in the field of yoga at state level. We hadn’t got much opportunity to watch the students practicing yoga as they were preparing for their exams. But we had a glimpse of what they can do during our practice. A girl just came into the hall and we asked her to demonstrate a couple of asanas. She without any hesitation demonstrated Natrajasana and Chakrasana which I shot in my camera. She really amazed us with her grace and elegance.


Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Hospital is another institution under the roof of BKSSNT that is doing priceless service to the people of Bellur. There is hardly any hospital miles across Bellur Village. The other day of our visit we noticed an emergency case being admitted and treated in the hospital.


For the past couple of years BKSSNT has become a pilgrimage center for Iyengar Yogis. Students and teachers of Iyengar Yoga from different parts of the world are regularly visiting the place as a part of their heritage tour to the village of Guruji. It is learned that an accommodation capacity of 60 people is available at present in the premises. Arrangements are being made to increase the number as more people are supposed to come in the upcoming years. 

Journey to Bellur:


Unlike our previous trip to Pune in July 2011 for Guru Poornima, this trip was quite pleasant and comfortable as we boarded the train on time and no problems with trains this time. We boarded Garibh Rath at Secunderabad Station on 16th Feb’ 2012 at around 8-30 PM and safely arrived Yesvantpur Station at around 8-45 AM next morning. Bellur Village is around 85 kilometers away from Bangalore. All thanks to Guruji’s son-in-law and Managing Trustee of BKSSNT Sri B. Raghu who arranged a transport from Yesvantpur to Bellur. On reaching Bellur we had our breakfast at Kamat Restaurant which is the main source of food for visitors to Guruji’s institute at Bellur. BKSSNT is couple of kilometers away from Kamat. We reached BKSSNT at around 11-45 AM. Mr. Govindaraju the Manager of the Trust has received and provided some decent rooms of accommodation for all of us. The cottages are clean and neat with all the necessary facilities. We then had shower followed by Lunch. At around 3PM we had a walk to the village where Guruji was born. The moment we stepped into the village we were welcomed and followed by kids of the village shouting and yelling. English Lady Michelle was the star attraction for the kids amongst us. The kids had a great time talking to her and followed her all the way back to our cottage. This remind me of Guruji’s childhood where I read that Guruji was the only person who could speak little English and it is this reason he was sent to teach Yoga in Pune by his Guruji Sri. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Watching those village kids speak fluent English with Michelle, we realized that Guruji’s efforts began to payoff. 

Our Yoga Practice at BKSSNT:

The prime objective of our visit to Bellur was to pay homage to the birth place of Guruji and to understand the usage of yoga props in a better way. We initially decided to have 3 sessions of yoga each day. Morning and evening sessions to practice the asanas and pranayamas and the afternoon session is for Q&A on Yoga. Due to so many happenings in the village out there we ended up practicing extended sessions in the morning and evening leaving the afternoon session for other activities.

 Yoga Props:

When Guruji introduced Yoga Props in his early days many criticized him for using props in yoga. People even called the Iyengar method of Yoga as Furniture Yoga. But today the World has recognized Guruji’s idea of introducing props in Yoga and everyone is using the props irrespective of the style of yoga they are being practicing.


When we were in Pune last July’ 2011 on Guru Poornima; Guruji during his convention revealed the secret of introducing props for the first time. Guruji said, “People ask me why you introduced props? Some even called Furniture Yoga. I never revealed this before. I am telling it for the first time. Props are of tamas guna (The dark and restraining qualities). You might ask; in that case, why you recommend something that has tamas guna. It is because your body is of tamas guna too. Your body understands tamas guna better. I used these props to convert your tamas guna into rajas guna (the quality of mobility or activity) and finally transform into satva guna (the illuminating quality). Once the satva guna is achieved you don’t need any prop.”

Though it appeared as if I understood what Guruji has told on that day on the outset, but it is only after practicing with these props I realized and truly understood what Guruji expects us to achieve in a given posture.

For the last one year I have been studying yoga with my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan at Hyderabad. She has been continuously explaining each and every minute and subtle alignment and adjacent of the body in each and every given posture. Honestly, only after practicing with props in Bellur, I realized what extent of alignment and adjacent she was expecting from us. I realized why Guruji has said that our bodies are of tamas guna and how the props of tamas guna hold you from going into a wrong posture.

People basically understand that yoga props are used to support the people who cannot go into a given posture or to increase the strength and flexibility of an individual. But it is actually like a child who walks holding the finger of his father. He needs the finger of his father till he learns walking and once he starts walking on his own he do not need his father anymore. Similarly, you need props only till you understand and try and achieve the correct alignment of a given posture. Once you understand the technique and requirement of the asana you don’t need prop anymore.
We enjoyed all the three days of stay in BKSSNT practicing Yoga, going around the village and attending ceremonies etc.  

Lord Patanjali Temple:

It’s not only the Village; Guruji hasn’t failed to pay tribute to the Lord Patanjali. Guruji inaugurated the world’s first Patanjali Temple at Bellur Village on 31/10/2004. Sage Patanjali Temple is a part of the Temple Complex which consists of 800 year old Lord Hanuman and Sita-Ram Temple along with Lord Shiva Temple adjacent to it. The Temple Complex is located in a beautiful place surrounded by lush green trees and agricultural fields across and there is a lake adjacent to it.

The temple remained closed on day one as we have visited in the mid afternoon hours of the day. We revisited the temple on next morning after our breakfast at around 9-30AM. The village is around 15 minutes walk from BKSSNT. The temple remained open this time. A wonderfully carved, black stone Idol of Lord Patanjali was installed in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple. Sage Patanjali was beautifully decorated with flowers and garlands. We had Lord Patanjali’s darshan and offered prayers amidst the mantra chanting of the priest Ramanujam.  

Lord Shiva Temple:

After seeking the blessings of Patanjali we visited the adjacent temple which is said to be a 1000 year old Shiva Temple. The temple appeared to be in a deserted condition. Renovation work was at full swing on that day as they were preparing to reinstall the Shiva Linga before the auspicious day of Maha Shiva Ratri. As a part of cultural promotion BKSSNT has played a vital role in the renovation of the temple and reinstallation of the Shiva Linga in this 1000 year old heritage structure. Efforts are made to renovate and rebuild the remaining parts of the temple complex. One would not be surprised to see a complete new picture of the temple in the days to come.A day before Shiva Ratri they arranged a Homam (Hindu traditional ritual) at the temple premises. Guruji’s daughter and son-in-law Smt. Savita B Raghu and Sri B. Raghu cordially invited us to take part in the ceremony. 

Guruji’s House:

While returning from the temple we stopped at the place where Guruji was born and led his childhood. It is very near to the temple. We stopped there for a while and had some photographs at the place of his birth. By going through the village one could easily imagine the hardships Guruji has gone through during his initial days. He very well understands the problems of the villagers. Therefore he established BKSSNT with a sole purpose of uplifting the lives of rural people by providing assistance in education, health, sanitation, agriculture and handicrafts etc. There is plenty of talent in the rural areas of India. If a proper platform is provided they will definitely prosper in various fields. The students of Smt. Ramamani Sundararaja Iyengar High School have already started to prove this fact. Guruji is planting the trees of the future through various projects under BKSSNT. 

Festive Atmosphere:

Our trip to Bellur was coincided with Maha Shiva Ratri; as a result the atmosphere was quite festive all over. On 18/02/2012 we were invited to the Saraswati Puja ceremony (the deity of wisdom and knowledge) where Smt. and Sri B. Raghu were the chief guests. After the puja, the school authorities organized a cultural event where we got an opportunity to listen some of the kannada folk renditions of a very talented local folk singer called Ramchandran. He mesmerized one and all present in the auditorium with his Golden voice. Though we did not understand Kannada we couldn’t resist ourselves from applauding the talent of Ramchandran. Ramchandran was later honored by the chief guests present on the podium and the students who qualified the Pre University College (PUC) examinations were awarded certificates by the dignitaries. We later got the honor to have a joint lunch session with all the chief guests present on the occasion and got an opportunity to interact one on one with Mr. Ramchandran. He obliged our request by singing few songs for us which we recorded in our cameras with zeal. At the end of the session I just stood up and hugged that guy in appreciation. One of the videos is embedded here below. You can follow rest of the links on Youtube.

We were later invited by Smt. and Sri B. Raghu to take part in the Shiva Linga reinstallation ceremony to be held next morning at 11AM. We visited the temple on early hours of the next morning. The Shiva Linga was already reinstalled in the sanctum sanctorum. We were blessed with an opportunity to see the decoration and abhisehka of the Linga. The temple was beautifully decorated with flowers and banana leaves all over. People all over the village thronged into the temple on the occasion. Some of the VIP’s like the Local MLA, Chairman of Grama Panchayat and others were present on the occasion as chief guests apart from Smt. and Sri. B. Raghu.


We finally came at the end of our pilgrimage to Bellur. We reserved our return tickets on 20/02/2012 which was also the auspicious day of Shiv Ratri. All of us unanimously decided to pay a visit to the famous Manjunatha (Shiva) Kotilingeshwara (crore lingas) Temple which is situated 45 kilometers away from BKSSNT in kollar district of Karnataka. The temple has a fascinating view of a giant Linga at the outset of the temple compound and countless number of Lingas within the compound of the Temple. 

We finally ended our pilgrimage to Bellur with a final darshan of Lord Krishna at a very famous ISKON temple of Bangalore very close to Yesvantpur Railway Station. We boarded the same train back home and safely arrived Hyderabad in the next morning at 9AM. 



A special mention has to be made about the hospitality we received in BKSSNT. We are thankful to Smt. Savita B. Raghu and Sri. B. Raghu for their kind hospitality. They made our journey comfortable by arranging vehicle to and fro Bangalore. We got an honor of having lunch with them and also the opportunity of having traditional South Indian feast at the house of Gram Panchayat chairman along with them on the eve of Shiva Linga Punah Pratisthapana. How can we forget the hospitality of Mr. Govindaraju – the person in charge of BKSSNT? He took utmost care in providing the basic needs for us. I take this opportunity to thank one and all associated with BKSSNT on behalf my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan and all other students of Iyengar Yoga, Hyderabad.  

Special Regards: 

On behalf of all the students of Iyengar Yoga, Hyderabad, I take this opportunity to thank Guruji Sri BKS Iyengar and Smt. Zarna Mohan. Without the blessings of Guruji the trip wouldn’t have become possible and without the support, guidance and teaching of our madam Smt. Zarna Mohan the journey wouldn’t have become fruitful. The trip to Bellur was quite educative and informative for all the students of Hyderabad. We hope and wish for more such educative programs in future too. Thanks again for everything.

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