A manuscript album on yoga

[Yoga]. A series of illustrations produced for a high minister in the Rana period in Nepal, including 85 illustrations of Hathayogic postures.

Nepal, ca. 1850-1860 CE.

Small folio (190 x 307 mm). 183 ff. on laid paper, watermarked "Moinier's 1850". The characters of the miniatures are identified with captions written in a formal Nepalese Devanagari of the 19th century. Bound in a tooled leather binding.


A professionally executed album presumably intended for an unidentified minister in the Rana administration. In all likelihood this patron is depicted on the left in the miniature on folio 17v (caption: minishtara) as paying homage to a twenty-armed form of the Goddess Durga riding a white snow-lion (caption: bhagavati). The minister is unusually taller than the deity and his detailed costume is evidently more than mere stereotype. His elaborate headgear further suggests his high status; more research could lead to this patron's identification. The fact that the minister looks down on the deity suggests, firstly, that the Goddess Durga is not his tutelary deity (istadevata), and secondly that she represents the kingdom in the manner that Rajyalakshmi normally does. The image therefore depicts the minister reverentially protecting the personified kingdom, and in so doing uses the conventional representational stereotypes of husband and wife. The immediately preceding miniature (f. 16) shows the minister's mother (sriministaramahatari) worshipping the infant Krishna.

The series illustrates Vaishnava themes, episodes from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, cameos showing famous Indian and Nepalese religious teachers, and deities in discourse (the setting of many sectarian works). Unusual are a royal lineage and a series of 85 yogic postures. The royal lineage combines well-known epic stories, mythological events and Buddhist Jataka literature into a Vaisnava flame-story. The last King mentioned by name is Gopicandra.

The quality of the miniatures is very high, and the talented artist uses a full palette of colours, including copious gold highlighting. A list of all illustrations contained in the manuscript is available upon request.

Provenance: U.S. private collection, acquired before 1999.

Cat. no.: 50 Catalogue: Sharjah International Book Fair