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'Indians need to recover their rich heritage'
Thursday January 8, 2015 4:40 PM, Shilpa Raina, IANS

Yoga originated in India but this spiritual and mental discipline has failed to resonate with the country's masses, who mostly seek its virtues of physical fitness. But filmmaker and art historian Benoy K. Behl feels the Indian government's emphasis on yoga and the UN celebrating World Yoga Day June 21 have set the pace for a long innings.

"Actually, it is we Indians who have lost sight of our own heritage and it is the world that is recognising these things (yoga). It is fortunate that the Indian government has recognised the importance of yoga and this will take it a long way," Behl told IANS in an interview.

"There is every reason for us to stand up and take ownership and also see it reaches more and more people," he added.

An expert in Indian art and sculpture, Delhi-based Behl screened his documentary "Yoga: An Ancient Vision of Life" that explored and presented the true meaning of yoga at the India International Centre Wednesday.

The 60-minute documentary, shot across India, Germany and the United States, also features interviews with leading practitioners and scholars of yoga, including yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar, who died last year, and prominent doctors, scientists and sociologists.

Even though Behl's career highlights, spanning over three decades, point to his close association with ancient Indian art and culture, including his love affair with the Ajanta Caves, on which he has penned the well-known book "The Ajanta Caves: Ancient Paintings of Buddhist India" - the documentary comes as a surprise.

"It is a natural outcome. The art of India and yoga are completely based in the Indian philosophical way of life. In fact, all faiths and spiritual traditions of India emanate from what we call yoga," the 58-year-old Behl told IANS.

"To me, personally, yoga is the thin edge of the wedge which is about the Indian vision of life and understanding. The whole world, the so-called modern world, is taking a lot of interest in it because of the physical side, but yoga is not limited to physical exercise and the 'asanas' are only a tiny fraction of it," he added.

And with this vision of engaging people in the spiritual aspect of yoga and making them aware of the connection of mind, body and soul, Behl approached the documentary to go beyond the ephemeral passing of reality surrounding us.

"It will take the audiences into something deeper. I have hoped to achieve the vision that would help us look within and inwards instead of just chasing petty pleasures that keep us busy," Behl said.

Behl started working on this project 15 months ago and shot around 100 hours - most of them alone during foreign shoots. Nevertheless the experience has been fulfilling and satisfactory, especially as the subject resonates with his personal philosophy of "enjoying the simple pleasures of life".

"What is the hurry, I have been asking people when they get so stressed about things that are a creation of so-called modern vision that urges you to go out and try to desperately earn money and desperately spend it on what corporations are creating and marketing," he said.

"It is important to have a healthy and positive attitude towards life. If you (the government) start teaching yoga in primary schools, children will get acquainted with it and imbibe it with an open mind. They would be able to inculcate this habit and it will be their way of life forever," he added.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at



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