A SONIC TOUR OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE'S YOGA: THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION EXHIBIT
Sound is everywhere in this stunning art exhibit tracing the history of hatha yoga — you just need to know what to look for to hear it.. See how many sonic signs you can find. Things to look for are include:
• Malas. Virtually every other yogi in the exhibit is depicted with a mala, or rosary, used as a tool for chanting. Yogis hold their mala in the right hand when chanting and frequently wear them around their neck or wrist when not in use. Count how many malas you see in this exhibition — they are all confirming the practice of Sound Yoga.
(You may see a yogi holding a mala, but his mouth is closed — this does not mean he is not chanting! Mantra japa, is eventually performed mentally, yet it is still considered sound — the subtle sound of one’s thoughts!)
• Conch Shell. Often held by Vishnu, the conch is a symbol of the primordial sound.
• Ram’s Horn. Also used to sound.
• Damaru Drum A hand-held, two-sided drum played by Siva who is described as drumming (and dancing!) the world into existence. The sounds of Siva’s drum are referred to as Maheshvara Sutra Bija Mantras, and pointed to as the building blocks of the Sanskrit language.
• Whistling goddess. There is a stunning statue of a whistling woman in the exhibit credited in the museum text simply as a yogini. She could easily be, however, the goddess Ambe, “The One Who Sounds” (who brings the world into existence.)
• Vina. A string instrument customarily held by Saraswati, the goddess of Sound and Music. Sometimes by Siva, as well. Again, a reference to sonic origins. In addition to the vina you will see other string instruments held by yogis, as well as bells and cymbals.
• Chant emanating from the mouth. There is one painting in the exhibit that is in which a puff of breath is seen coming out of Siva’s mouth, thought to be an indication of him chanting.
• Music. Many of the paintings in this exhibit are brimming with sound and music. There are countless depictions of gods, goddesses, yogis, yoginis, royalty and common folk playing instruments, often with other yogis nearby engaging in other practices.