19 February 2019
Dr James Mallinson has recently returned from a month-long trip to India. The first two weeks were spent in Delhi and Rajasthan visiting manuscript libraries and speaking at the Jaipur Literary Festival (together with SOAS colleague Dr Daniela Bevilacqua). In between talks at the festival Dr Mallinson made visits to the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in the City Palace to consult its manuscript collection, which is overseen by Dr Giles Tillotson, formerly Reader in History of Art at SOAS, now occupant of a beautiful office in the heart of one of India’s most visited tourist attractions. The collection has not been formally catalogued but there is a digitised list of over 10000 manuscripts. Among various interesting works Dr Mallinson was delighted to find an entry for the Yogabhāskara, an important medieval yoga text which was thought to have been lost. Dr Tillotson located the manuscript and Dr Mallinson was able to confirm that it is indeed the Yogabhāskara cited in other Sanskrit works on yoga. He will now write an essay on this manuscript for a forthcoming book on treasures of the palace collection and plans subsequently to edit and translate the text.
After Jaipur, Dr Mallinson spent ten days at the Kumbh Mela festival together with his colleague on the Hatha Yoga Project, Dr Daniela Bevilacqua. Staying in the heart of the camps of the traditional ascetics, they caught up with old yogi friends and made several interesting new ones. Among many fresh insights, a highlight was witnessing for the first time the ancient jal-dhārā austerity, in which an ascetic has 108 pots of cold water poured over him at 4am every day for the four winter months.