The second most famous Mysorean in the world

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Like all of us, he too is playing host to age. But age, in his case, seems to be a casual cousin who just dropped by. Not a long staying relative who bears upon you the burden of his visit’s upkeep.

He’s more like a sun kissed flower. Vibrant, colourful, joyous and bright. Age alights upon him like a bee and buzzes off in an instant.

K. Pattabhi Jois has seen 91 summers. Or winters, if you like. But… But the eyes still flash bright hues. The smile is friendly and full. It doesn’t matter that it is denture assisted. The skin is taut and blemishless.

So much like his resolve to do what he has been doing in stages almost every waking moment for 77 of his 91 years. Learning, lecturing and teaching yoga. His has been a journey. Long, timeless, poignant, exciting, frustrating, fulfilling and in a sense, eternal.

Perhaps the greatest living guru of ashtanga yoga in the world, Jois lives in Gokulam, Mysore. If he is not teaching in London or Paris or Melbourne or New York or San Francisco, that is. His is the life of a man whose soul has been satiated by the sheer attainment of a life’s ambition; the fulfilling of a karmic yearning; the continuing of a tradition that is steeped in his very being.

To him life is yoga. And yoga is life. There is nothing beyond it. Not anything that he has tried seeking. He ran away from his home in the village of Kowshika near Hassan as a 14-year-old boy. Getting into the train to Mysore from the station at Ambuga, a neighbouring village, four miles away, because he didn’t want any one to notice him or even recognize him.

The mind had been made up. To answer some strange otherworldly calling.

Watching guru S.T. Krishnamacharya demonstrate yoga at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan one 1928 evening, stirring in him some irresistible awakening. “It’s the shaping of the soul over many lives,” he says. His answer to why he got so irrevocably drawn to the pursuit of yoga. Long years of ‘tapas’. At the Sanskrit College in Mysore.

In the early days, the meals were frugal but the insults to the heart were substantial. Poverty snapped at his heels like a persistent dog. He could only glare back and keep going. His resolve was cast in solid iron and his mind wavered only as much as a mountain would against a mild breezy waft.

The numbing sacrifices in life. The honing of his very internal rhythms to suit the lifestyle of a yogi. From an unearthly young age. Waking up at 4 in the morning. When the rest of the world remained snugly curled up in the folds of a hazy dream. Pushing his limbs to do the mind’s bidding. Yoga practice. And more of it until the sun was high up in the sky. Day after day. Week after week. Years went by.

There is to him the visage of a yogi. The mellow glow of knowledge and achievement. But there is not even a hint of the ego. Quite surrealistically humble. He doesn’t speak the English language beyond the customary ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.

Yet there’s some unbelievable communion happening all the time between him and his tens of hundreds of western students. They call him guruji. And in return they get a soulful of benediction. Or so it seems going by the way they fawn over his presence.

I have seen him walk the long cavernous halls of airports in the west amidst the gloss, the glitter, the lights and the shrill crescendo of revved up jet engines taxiing for take off. But he is his own self. In his white dhoti and shirt and pump shoes.

He neither understands the thousand reasons his co-passengers have to be on the same plane nor does he want to know why else the world moves. To him he is on his way to Los Angeles or Encinitas or Hawaii because a student has invited him to be there.

Only the boy from Kowshika has touched 91 years of age!

Also see: The World’s Most Famous Mysoreans

18 Responses to “The second most famous Mysorean in the world”

  1. Mysore Huduga Says:

    Pattabhi Jois, BVK Iyengar and other famed yoga gurus have commercialised yoga to such a level that these days it is becoming difficult for average foreigners (not those famed hollywood stars, business leaders, etc.,) to learn from these gurus (and their associates) let alone poor indians. These poor people search for yoga gurus who are lesser known and economical.

    Until last few decades yoga was taught for free and was hidden in someway. The famed gurus modified the asanas and claimed it as their own invention/discoveries while introducing to the west.

    Thanks to Jois and other gurus who are bringing the new breed of westerners to Mysore and helping the local economy to grow.

  2. Bhamy V Shenoy Says:

    It would have been good to hear what Sri Jois did to improve the living conditions of Mysore directly. It is true his western disciples who come here have added to our wealth. It is also true because of him Mysore is on tourist map adding to Mysore’s tourism business. I am sure many have got jobs indirectly thanks to his students.

    Just like we demand of Infosys or other industries what they do for Mysore, can we humbly ask what Sri Jois has done directly for Mysore?

  3. Yashovardhana Says:

    The fact that Iyengar, Jois and others have reminded the west that Yoga is Indian is I think a good enough contribution. There is nonsense called “Christian Yoga” that goes on here in the US. And most people who do practice Yoga don’t know it is Indian, or that it is a spiritual practice. All they are interested in is the “Yoga butt” that is supposedly a great benefit of this practice.

  4. Gouri Satya Says:

    Good piece Sunad! Pattabhi Jois and Iyengar have contributed to the world’s health. I know both Indians, including Mysoreas, and foreigners who have practised Yogasanas (I would prefer to call it Yogasanas, because there is a difference between Yoga and Yogasanas) and benefitted, healthwise. Regular practice of Yogasanas taught by Pattabhi has helped to overcome or control problems like Ashtma, helped improve their overall health. These people include oridnary persons in Mysore to international fame pop singer Madona. Besides, Pattabhi Jois has taken Mysore to international fame through his Yoga. The fact that is he still going strong at the age of 91 should be a guiding factor to us, who want to keep our body and mind in good shape. Go to even a small country like New Zealand, you find at least a dozen places where his students are teaching ‘Pattabhi Yoga’ in Auckland. The authoritative books written by Iyengar are world famous. These are their contributions, while some so called Yoga masters are misleading people with their own ‘Yoga’ brands! His guru Krishnamacharya taught Yoga in Mysore, at the Jaganmohan Palace, and trained great Yoga masters like Pattabhi. Unfortunately, he is not remembered today and very few seem to know about him and his contribution to Yoga in Mysore.

  5. Prakash Says:

    ನಾನು ಮ್ಯಸೂರಿಗೆ ಬಂದಾಗ ಹೋಗಿ ಕಲಿಯಬೇಕು .ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಅಡ್ರ್ರೆಸ್ಸು ಕೊಡ್ತಿರಾ.
    ಬಾರೀ ದುಬಾರಿನ ಇವರು??

  6. Quizman Says:

    Coincidentally, I had recently come across a few blogs written by Americans who had been to Mysore to learn from Shri. Jois. Like this one and this one.

  7. Prakash Says:

    ‘Many animals roam the streets of Mysore: cows, horses, pigs, burros, and dogs. It’s not clear to whom these animals belong, if anyone; it seems they’ve been left on their own to forage for food and return home, wherever that is, at the end of the day. Many wind up feasting on the garbage and plastic bags they find in the cement garbage pits; others keep the grassy roadside nicely mowed while still others go begging. Many of the cows wear halters made of rope and a few of the dogs have collars (no nametag), but ownership is something of a mystery – to me anyway.’

    ಆ ಬ್ಲಾಗಿನಲ್ಲಿ ನಾನು ಓದಿದ್ಧು…ಎನೋ…ಈ ಜನ ಬರೋದು ಸಾಕು ಹೀಗೆ ಬರೆಯುವುದು ಸಾಕು

  8. Prasad Says:

    Good post by Sunaad. It feels nice to know about Mysoreans that make the city proud.
    Nice links QM. I think I had read a post with very similar information sometime ago. What is interesting is that this link talks about the lady’s time spent in Mysore, not just at the yoga center. And it describes her experience at the Apollo hospital (about which there was a post yesterday).

  9. erram Says:

    Very Nice article, Raghuram!Jois does not have to do anything more to improve quality of life for us in Mysore. He is already doing it.Those who are interested, learn, practise and take it as part of their routine without giving it up would have gained immensely. Our medicines in both Allopathy , Ayurveda and Homeopathy have problems galore such as lack of qualIty procedures, overprescription by ruthless practioners;people are scared to go to hospitals even when they fall sick ,are scared to take the costly drugs which could worsen the patients condition and may either end up in ICU/CCU or operation table! If that is the scenario of our healthcare system, preventive care is far better. That is where Iyengar, Jois score over all systems INTERNATIONALLY.


    Hey ! the list is getting bigger… Don’t forget Sabu Dastagir…the elephant boy from Karapura. Me thinks he was the first (literally) Mysorean who became “world famous” reigned supreme in Hollywood long before Aishwarya Rai et al got a second look and starred in movies like The Thief of Baghdad, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and died a premature death in the early 1960s..

    And No ! Sabu was no Brahmin (as someone mentioned early during the discussion) but was the impoverished son of a badly paid mahout and was discovered by Robert Flaherty, a Hollywood Director who cast Sabu in “Elephant Boy”. ….. If Mysoreans are ignorant about him it is time you did something to salvage his place in public consciousness…

  11. imahotgal Says:

    Define FAMOUS- I live in England and trust me outside the Corporate and IT world (Even that is restricted isnt it)- nobody knows Mr Narayana Murthy. Well these are well known people in their feilds but to call them the most and actually rank them- pure dumbing down like the video countdowns on the several music channels. A sensible system would possibly be to call them the Mysoreans you know most- A list like this is alwas invites heartburn and doesnt inform the reader- bad journalism huh- but where is good journalism.
    Btw would people like Marimallapa (yes is indirectly famous through the education institution he founded- rather like a forerunner of Yale), Tataiah (Shouldnt you journalists acknowledge him- at least- if not the foolish people of a forgetful nation), MP Shankar (Remember Panchavati) qualify here or is it the stupid IT guys who define fame (sorry IT guys but boo hoo this makes me want to cry)

  12. Prakash Says:

    ನಾರಯಣ ಮೂರ್ತಿ ಯಾರಿಗೂ ಗೊತಿಲ್ಲಿಯರಿಗೆ ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಇತರರಿಗೆ ಯಾರಿಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತು ಹೇಳಿ??

    ಯೋಗ ಹೇಳಿ ಕೊಡತಾರೆ ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ಫ಼್ಮ್ಸ್ಸು ಆಗಿರಬಹುದು .ನಾನು ಇವರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಒದಿದ್ದೆ

  13. Amrit Yegnanarayan Says:

    Mysore has a long list of people who has excelled in their fields and a long list of people who have done a lot for the city itself. I dont see a problem in acknowledging the contributions of all of them.

  14. Guru Says:

    Those were days when Pattabhi Jois would come out of his rented two three room house( ?) at the corner of our road, and walk briskly to hisdestination- the large dark hall in Maharajs’s Sanskrit College where my friends whisper that men sit it poses that they thought anatomically impossible. Then there was no ‘hype’ about yoga. It was not a fad then. But there was no IT either.
    When I was about to join the bunch sitting with strange postures in that large rdark of that College, came the bad news that the numbers of these characters were dwindling and the class would close. When I caught up with Mr Jois the next time he left the house(?), he was not sure where would be going next week and asked me check with him again. The next week arrived and my neighbour said to me that Mr Jois and family vacated the place. That was the last I saw him. But a few years ago, I saw a familiar figure alighting from a caband walked away with a pace that triggered my neurons into action. It cannot be Pattabhi Jois, here in Regents Park in London?!!!

  15. russell Says:

    Thanks so much for your exquisite post. In answer to one of your commentators, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois still teaches yoga, even at age 91, to local Indians every day, not only at his yogashala in Gokalum, but also at the old shala in Lakshmipuram, for peanuts. He lives simply, and all of his extra wealth goes to the Sri K. Patthabhi Jois Charitable Trust, which is devoted to helping the poor in Mysore.

  16. YOGA GURU K. PATTABHI JOIS IS NO MORE. RIP. « churumuri Says:

    […] SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Like all of us, he too is playing host to age. But age, in his case, seems to be a casual cousin who just dropped by. Not a long staying relative who bears upon you the burden of his visit’s upkeep. […]

  17. At the pearly gates in dhoti, vibhuti, pump shoes « churumuri Says:

    […] The second-most famous Mysorean in the world […]

  18. Ram Says:

    In 1960, my brother & his friend used to learn Yoga from Pattabi Jois (PJ) at his house on the road opposite to Lakshmipuram police station. There were hardly 10-15 students. The fee at that time was Rs.20/- per month. PJ used to charge $ 500 PM for foreigners. It was expensive for locals. Good health can be maintained with regular work, exercise,diet ,habits & thinking at no charge. The best things in this world are free, Most people are not thinking right & blindly follow masses.

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