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An Indian person of high rank in a yogic posture (the bow pose, or dhanurāsana). Gouache painting by an Indian painter.

[between 1800 and 1899?]

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view An Indian person of high rank in a yogic posture (the bow pose, or dhanurāsana). Gouache painting by an Indian painter.


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Credit: An Indian person of high rank in a yogic posture (the bow pose, or dhanurāsana). Gouache painting by an Indian painter. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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'It depicts a man performing a yogic posture (āsana) outdoors on a mat of antelope skin. … The form of the posture matches the description of an unnamed āsana (no. 51) in the prone (nyubja) section of an 18th-century yoga text called the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati. The description of this āsana is as follows: "Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati 51. hastadvayena pādadvayāgre gṛhītvā ekaikaṃ pādāṅguṣṭhaṃ karṇayoḥ spṛśet (51). (Grasping the toes of the feet with both hands, [the yogin] should touch the big toes, one at a time, on the ears.)" Although the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati doesn't provide a name for this āsana, the artists of the Mysore Palace, who skilfully illustrated the chapter on āsana in the Śrītattvanidhi (19th century), borrowed the description from the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati … and named it the bow pose (dhanurāsana).'—Hargreaves and Birch, op. cit. The same authors also provide evidence that the dhanurāsana had more than one meaning.

Previously known as Dhanurasana (Śrītattvanidhi manuscript, 19th century), this pose is identified in modern yoga as Ākarna Dhanurāsana (Archer pose or Shooting Bow pose). The modern name was introduced by B. K. S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga, 1966. ‘Karna means the ear. The prefix ā expresses the sense of near to, towards. Dhanu means a bow. In this posture, the left foot is pulled up till the heel touches the ear as an archer the bow-string, while the other hand holds the right big toe, this leg lying straight on the floor. In the second movement the raised leg is straightened up until it is almost perpendicular, the big toe being held throughout by the hand like an extended bow.’ B. K. S. Iyengar, op. cit.


[India], [between 1800 and 1899?]

Physical description

1 painting : gouache ; image 15 x 24 cm


Appu [?] Sahib Patumkar [?] performing jogh, awaiting inspiration preparatory to turning devotee.

Publications note

Jacqueline Hargreaves and Jason Birch, 'Dhanurāsana: two versions of Bow Pose', The luminescent, 20 November 2017 (
Iyengar, B. K. S., Light on yoga: Yoga dipika. Foreword by Yehudi Menuhin. Revised edition, New York: Schocken Books, 1977, pp. 177-179.

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in “Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine” at Wellcome Collection, 16 November 2017 – 8 April 2018 UkLW


Wellcome Library no. 574888i

Lettering note

The lettering describes the subject as a man performing this act to please the gods and waiting for his wish to be granted, which in this case is to gain inspiration to turn into a devotee



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