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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

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Diwali: India’s Festival of Light

Celebrating the Art of Yoga

Saturday, October 26, 12–7 pm

Mark the opening of Yoga: The Art of Transformation and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights,with an afternoon of activities. Visitors can discover exhibition highlights through spotlight tours, play Asian games, try rangoli (rice powder) designs, and make their own yoga-inspired art in hands-on workshops. Indian musician K. Sridhar demonstrates musical meditation, and storyteller Louise Omoto Kessel shares tales of Indian deities. The day begins with a  traditional lamp-lighting ceremony, led by Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao, and ends with a sunset ceremony, led by Debra Diamond, Associate Curator of South and South East Asian Art, and an evening concert of North Indian classical music.

Download the event schedule (PDF, 1MB)


Opening Ceremony

Saturday, October 26, 12 pm
Freer courtyard

The Honorable Nirupama Rao, Indian ambassador to the United States, welcomes visitors and begins the celebration with a traditional lamp-lighting ceremony.


Woodblock prints

12– 5 pm
Sackler sublevel 2

Observe the creation of woodblock prints of the goddess Lakshmi, used to worship her on the night of Diwali (this year on November 4). Color copies of the prints with vegetable dyes. Take home the small colored version of the goddess and a peacock feather, and place them over your door to ensure Lakshmi visits your home and blesses your family with prosperity during the coming year.

Hands-on Activity

Origami lotuses

12–5 pm
Freer gallery 5

Create an origami lotus flower, a symbol of purity and good fortune

hands on activity

Yoga class

12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15, 4:15, 5:15 pm
International Gallery, Ripley Center, S3

Free yoga classes will be offered throughout the day. Preregistration for classes is now open. A limited number of walk-in spots will also be available. Yoga mats will be provided; visitors are encouraged to leave theirs at home in order to protect the artwork. All levels welcome.

Class descriptions & instructor bios


Rangoli: Indian Rice Powder Art

12–5 pm
Freer north entrance (National Mall)

Led by Gayatri Mohan-Iyengar, local Indian women demonstrate the rich tradition of creating complex images on the ground with rice powder. In India, women paint simpler designs on their doorstep each morning and create more complex varieties at weddings and other celebrations.

Hands-on Activity

Photo studio

12–5 pm
Freer level 2

Have your photo taken while striking your favorite yoga pose

Hands-on Activity

Asian board games

12–5 pm
Freer south corridor

Play traditional games such as Bagh Chal and Pachisi-Chaupat


Spotlight on Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Sackler sublevel  1

Gain enlightenment in Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the first major exhibition to explore the art of yoga. Assembled from collections around the world, these works date from the second to the early twentieth century and reveal yoga’s profound meanings, hidden histories, and evolution into a global phenomenon. Docents and staff members give spotlight talks on works throughout the exhibition. 


Yoga of Sound: K. Sridhar, sarod

1 and 3 pm
Freer conference room

Indian classical musician K. Sridhar explores how musical sounds, much like yoga postures, can bind oneself to the divine through singing, playing an instrument, or  listening. Born into a long lineage of temple musicians, Sridhar was trained from an early age in the music of South and North India. He later joined Ravi Shankar’s music orchestra, toured as a soloist with WOMAD (World Music and Dance), and recorded for Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld label. Presented in conjunction with Yoga: The Art of Transformation.


Storytelling: Sacred Rivers - Tales told by Louise Omoto Kessel

2 and 4 pm
Freer gallery 2

Stories about sacred rivers from the Mahabharata, India’s greatest epic, interweave with discussions of themes in Rina Banerjee’s installation and the Yoga exhibition. The central story is of a king who meditates in the Himalayas for a thousand years to persuade Shiva to release the goddess Ganga, manifested as the Ganges River, from an entanglement in his hair. This tale ties into Banerjee’s installation, which addresses the degradation of Asia’s rivers, and the Yoga exhibition, which features paintings of yogis making pilgrimages to the sources of the sacred rivers in India.


Perspectives: Rina Banerjee

3:30 pm
Sackler ground level

Join Carol Huh, Associate Curator of Contemporary Asian Art, as she discusses Rina Banerjee’s site-specific work A World Lost…, which refers to alchemy, commerce, the transience of life, and our place and purpose in the universe.


Lamp-lighting ceremony

6 pm
Freer courtyard

Debra Diamond, Associate Curator of South and South East Asian Art, leads a sunset lamp-lighting ceremony to celebrate the holiday of Diwali.


Arts of the South Asia and the Himalayas

6:45–7:15 pm
Freer galleries 1 and 2

Join a preconcert tour of the Freer Gallery’s permanent collection of the Arts of South Asia and the Himalayas


North Indian classical music concert*

K. Sridhar, sarod; Krishna Ramdas, tabla
7:30 pm
Free tickets distributed at 6:30 pm
Freer Meyer Auditorium

K. Sridhar performs classical ragas and discusses the history and practice of nada yoga (yoga of sound). Born into a long lineage of temple musicians, Sridhar was trained from an early age in South and North Indian classical music. He later became the youngest member of Ravi Shankar’s music orchestra and then toured as a soloist with WOMAD (World Music and Dance) and recorded for Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld label, among others. He has performed in fourteen countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, including featured appearances on British, Irish, and French television as well as American, Danish, Swedish, and Mexican radio. Presented in conjunction with Yoga: The Art of Transformation.


Admission information
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Download, print, and display the exhibition posters

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.