Yoga: The Art of Transformation
Bifolio from the Gulshan Album
Like today’s scrapbooks, Mughal albums contain images linked by subject matter without reference to texts. The albums of Emperor Jahangir (reigned 1605–27) and his son Shah Jahan sympathetically deploy the figure of the yogi to project their vision of a diverse and harmonious empire. Created for Jahangir’s renowned Gulshan Album, the bifolio is dazzling in its jewel-like colors, palpably present yogis, and atmospheric landscapes.
Impeccably assembled from paintings by different artists, this folio depicts, clockwise from top left, a yogic devotee of Rama with a peacock fan and a dramatically billowing saffron wrap, a black-robed Shaiva Nath with his brown dog, a group of ash-covered yogis gathered companionably in a banyan tree’s shade, and a mother cat with her kittens.
Albums were designed to invite reflection on the meaning of juxtapositions. The artist who assembled the pages from separate vignettes playfully drew attention to some seams through contrasts of scale. The combination of yogis from different lineages alongside animals nurturing their young portrays Hindu ascetics as members of an amicable collective.