14th December has a special place in the hearts of Iyengar yogis all over the world. It is on this day the 14th of December 1918, the legendary yogaacharya Sri. B.K.S. (Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja) Iyengar was born in a remote village of Bellur in Karnataka, India.
He had a very difficult childhood as he suffered from many diseases and disorders like influenza, malaria and tuberculosis etc. He was then introduced to yoga by his guru and brother-in-law Sri. T. Krishnamacharya in order to improve his health. He has come long way in this journey of yoga from his initial days of struggle. Today Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar and Iyengar yoga has transcended geographical boundaries and is arguably the most popular form of yoga in the world. He played a pivotal role in taking yoga to all the six continents of the world.
95th Birthday Celebrations:
This was my second opportunity to participate in Guruji’s birthday after his 94th birthday last year at his birth place of Bellur in Karnataka. His birthday celebrations are getting bigger and bigger every year. By the time I could forget the grand event in Bellur last year, a grander event was organized this year to celebrate his birthday. It was an amazing and colourful event, where all the Iyengar yogis across the World have attended.
Guruji’s birthday is like a festival for Iyengar yogis living all over the world. Iyengar yogis all over the world have reached Pune well in advance to participate in the celebrations. There was a huge attendance of Iyengar yogis that gathered at Govinda Garden, the venue for the event in Pune. As Guruji said in his speech, he doesn't remember to have ever celebrated his birthday before his 60th birth anniversary. Since then the celebrations are getting bigger and bigger. Off course, he deserves all this love and affection and even more for the work he has done over the years. He not only popularized Iyengar yoga across the world but also has revolutionized the practice of yoga in many ways.
Highlights of the Event:
1. 14th of December 2013 was the day when Guruji turned 95. It is amazing to see Guruji prepare himself for bigger events in such a terrific way. Even at this age of 95 he is unbelievably electrifying. He might have attended many rituals from early in the morning and had spent 3 hours at a stretch attending the program organized for him. Sometimes, I feel it is too much for him but we all love him so much that we can’t resist ourselves from troubling him. There was a huge crowd in the auditorium and it was requested to pay reverence all together at once from their seats in order to avoid any trouble to Guruji. Guruji himself had to stand up and speak in this regards. In spite of this, people were thronging at Guruji to touch his feet and Guruji was patiently attending them. My teacher in the past; used to say not to trouble Guruji but I never understood that until I observed Guruji from close during my stay at RIMYI for one month in August 2013. I realized that he never stops you but we must respect his age and give some space for him to live with some peace. He is a master! You need not pay reverence personally. His presence itself is a blessing for all.
2. Guruji is the gigantic Ocean of Iyengar yoga and his students teaching Iyengar Yoga are the rivers flowing in different parts of the World and the students who are learning Iyengar yoga are the small stream of water joining the rivers flowing towards the Ocean. 14th December 2013 has witnessed the communion of these rivers and streams with the Ocean at Govinda Garden in Pune.
3. All the famous and infamous Iyengar yoga teachers and students all over the World have gathered on the occasion to wish Guruji and seek his blessings. All the big names from India and abroad were present on the occasion. Jawar Bangera, Birju Mehta, Rajvi Mehta, Firooza, Zubeen, Rajiv Chanchani, Manouso Manos, John Schumacher, Patricia Walden, Gabriella Gubilliero and many others were part of the celebrations.
4. Iyengar yoga is now like a kalpataru – a gigantic tree (like the one we saw in Hollywood movie Avatar) rooted deep and wide in soil with branches reaching sky high and wide across the World. It was a great feeling to see all those Iyengar yogis from all over the world under one roof of Iyengar yoga in Pune. The presence of Guruji and the entire Iyengar yoga family from all over the World has made the atmosphere vibrant and electrifying at the Govinda Garden of Pune.
5. Guruji addressed the gathering in his signature style by saying, “My dear children, grand children and great grand children in the field of yoga. I do not know how to thank my children and grand children; though we know how to thank our parents. I am touched by your love and affection that so many people and so many students are here today to celebrate my 95th birthday.” Guruji addresses his direct students as children, their students as grand children and their students as great grand children and therefore he is associated with one and all that practices Iyengar yoga. He is therefore the dearest father, grandfather and great grandfather of this big Iyengar yoga family.
6. Guruji has influenced the lives of millions of people across the World with or without his knowledge. Few such students from different countries have got the opportunity to express their gratitude to Guruji on the occasion. Many of them broke out in tears while speaking. That shows how deeply Guruji has influenced their lives.
7. Speaking on the Occasion Guruji said, “What amazed me today was that my students who are even sincere and practicing yoga from 1950’s used to address “B.K.S.” as the one who beats, kicks and shouts.” The moment he said this, entire auditorium busted in laughter. He then added, “I have heard the same people and new generation practitioners from different countries saying, “B.K.S.” stands for Beauty…! Knowledge…! And Serenity...! What a transformation! Even the media in those days used to project “B.K.S.” as beat, kick and shout and the same media is appreciating my work now for transforming and transcending millions of people across the World.” The entire auditorium broke out its silence with huge claps applauding Guruji.
8. He gone on to say that he took yoga to improve his physical health in childhood. He was not sure, this practice implanted by his Guru Sri. T. Krishnamacharya would make him the missionary of yoga in taking yoga to all the 6 continents of the World. He is grateful to all his students who are responsible for making yoga popular all over the World.”
9. In spite of his popularity, name and fame you can’t find a modest man than Guruji today. During his speech he said, “At this age, admiration and appreciation do not have any weight on me. I am still a yoga student. God has made me reach a certain stage in the field of yoga and that has kept me alive, alert and active.”
10. Guruji further said, “Those who say Iyengar yoga is only physical yoga, they are only observers who know nothing about the depth of yoga or the bhavana or the feel of a practitioner. We can see the death but we cannot experience death, we can see the time but we cannot experience the time. Similarly those who call my system as physical yoga, do not know anything because they do not know or experienced the time or seen the totality of death.”
11. Guruji was suffering from upper respiratory infection for some time now. He was seriously ill during last summer and was coughing frequently during our stay at Pune in the month of August 2013. Throughout the evening on his birthday Guruji appeared perfectly fit and he wasn't seen coughing at all. This shows a great sign of improvement in his health. But only factor that worried me was his losing weight. Guruji has lost lot of flesh from his body and has become very thin ever since we left him in August’13. Color of his skin also turned dark. However, it is very difficult to judge the level of Guruji’s health by his appearance. As my teacher once told us that his upper respiratory infection is quite old from his 60’s which he is coping it well.
12. Another heartening thing was the presence of Geetaji in the event. I hadn't seen for some time Geetaji participating in the events even at the institute due to her sickness. Geetaji has recovered well from what we have seen her in August.
13. I thank Guruji from the bottom of my heart for letting me shoot him once again through my camera. I really enjoy filming Guruji because he offers you so many moods and emotions in quick succession. I really enjoy his smile and I am glad to capture those wonderful moments in my camera.
14. Apart from Guruji’s birthday, it was like a reunion with some of our old friends and teachers from RIMYI. We had great time talking to our teachers like Abhay Ji, Kishore Ji, Devki Ji and Panduji, Mandharji, Parvez ji and ever smiling Zareenji from RIMYI and other teachers like Manouso Manos, Rita and Eric whom we met at Kumbh Mela 2013 in Allahabad, Ushaji and Rudra Ji from Rishikesh etc.
The event ended after dinner that was served to all the visitors who have attended from different parts of the World. All the Iyengar yogis flew back to their homes with a hope to see another such grand event next year; wishing Guruji for his long life so that he showers some more light on us with is knowledge and wisdom.