Bellur Krishnamachar Sundaraja Iyengar, was born in a small village called Bellur which is situated in Kolar district, Karnataka, India.
When he was five years old, his father Sri.krishnamachar moved his wife Sheshamma and children to Bangalore in order to improve his family’s situation. Unfortunately his father died when BKS Iyengar was eight leaving the family in very dire poverty.
At the age of 15 years, Iyengar was sent to his eldest sisters house and he became a student of his brother in law, Sri Tirimalai Krishnamacharya, the Director of the famous Shriyogashala at the Jagan Mohan palace in Mysore.
Iyengar considers his association with his brother in law, a turning point in his life. BKS Iyengar and other students gave many demonstrations to promote yoga in Karnataka.
“He (Krishnamacharya) only taught me directly for about ten or fifteen days, but those few days determined what I have become today!”
In 1937, Krishnamacharya sent Iyengar to Pune at the age of eighteen to spread the teaching of yoga.
BKS Iyengar is affectionately called Guruji by millions of devoted yoga students. Prior to Guruji’s teachings, yoga was taught among a few select people and at times ridiculed. Owing to his genius and dedicated work gradually all over the world yoga centres have sprung up and a cadre of dedicated teachers have emerged.
Today thousands of students from around the globe arrive at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute, to study Guruji’s unique concept of Yoga.
In 2004, BKS Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Awards and Achievement
The break that transformed Iyengar from a comparatively obscure Indian yoga teacher into an internationally acclaimed Yoga Guru came in 1952 when he met Yehudi Menuhin, the internally reputed violinist, in Bombay.
Menuhin was exhausted from his violin concerts and almost declined to meet Iyengar. BKS understood the state of Menuhin’s mind and persuaded him to lie in corpse pose. In that lying position Menuhin became so relaxed that he fell asleep! That five minute interview blossomed into a lifelong friendship.
Menuhin invited Iyengar first to Delhi and later to his residence in Gstaad, Switzerland. Through Menuhin, Iyengar was graced to meet many dignitaries in Delhi, including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India and his daughter Smt Indira Gandhi.
In Switzerland Iyengar met and taught celebrities such as Aldous and Julius Huxley and other talented musicians, philosophers, writers, and artists.
At the end of Iyengar’s visit in 1954, Menuhin gifted Iyengar a watch with the engraving, “to my best Violin teacher“. (Photo of Menuhin and Guruji ) Or Guruji and watch.
His method of Yoga became very popular after the publication of Light On Yoga (George Allen and Unwin, London 1966).
NOTE: Light On Yoga was instantly declared a classic by the Book Review, “it is rare for a book to become a classic at its inception”. More than 800,000 copies of English edition of “Light on Yoga” has been sold and it is available in 18 languages.
- The second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan by the President of India
- “Mother Teresa Sadbhavana Award” for outstanding achievements in the field of yoga by Indian Solidarity Council, New Delhi
- “Gurujan Gaurav Puraskar” by Ganesh Kridha Mandir, Pune
- Indian Merchants Chamber awarded Guruji with “IMC Juran Quality Medal- 2011 “
- Aditya Pratisthan, Pune awarded “Yoga Vidya bhushan- Laxmi Vasudeo Puraskar”
- “Gold Medal For India” by American Biographical Institute
- For outstanding achievements, the International Institute of Education & Management awarded “Rajdhani Rattan Gold Medal Award”
- Indian Solidarity Council, awarded “Rashtrya Gaurav Award” for outstanding achievements.
- Economic Growth & National Unity, Delhi awarded “Jewel of India Gold Award” and Gold Medal (Certificate of Excellence)
- International Institute of Education and Management honoured “Maha Yoga Guru Puraskar”
- “Life Time Achievement Award” by the second annual transformation festival, which was held in Hyderabad
- “Superior Achievement award” by University of California, Riverside for Guruji’s lifelong dedication to the philosophy, art and science of yoga
- “Yogiraj of the Millennium” by Institute of Education Research and Development in association with the Global Institutes
- International Penguin publishing House has chosen Guruji for “Rising personalities of India award and gold medal”
- “World Medal of Freedom” by American Biographical Institute or significant accomplishments in the field of World peace
- Sri. Sri. Ravi Shankar awarded Guruji with “Kasba Ganapati Award “
- The Indian Solidarity Council, New Delhi honoured”Indira Gandhi Excellence Award “
- International Institute of Education & Management, for Guruji’s outstanding achievement has honoured “Rajdhani Rattan Gold Medal Award”
- For Guruji’s work Industrial Technology Foundation, Delhi through Justice. P.C.Jain (Former Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court) has honoured “Golden Life Time Achievement Award “
- “Bharati Jeevan Sadhana Gaurav Puraskar” and cash award of Rs 51,000/- was awarded by the Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune
- Shri. Raghavendra Anugraha awarded Guruji “Yoga Shikshana Puraskar “and a cash of Rs 5000/- by H.H.Sri.Sri.Sri. Sushvendra Swamiji on his Amruta Jayanti Day Tivar, Pune
- Suryadatta Group of Institutes, Pune felicitated “Suryadatta Life Time Achievement Award”
- The Maharashtriya Mandal, Pune awarded Guruji “Late. Capt. Shivrampant Damle Puraskar” with Rs 10,000/- for outstanding achievement.
- Guruji was honoured by Industrial Technology Foundation for extra-ordinary achievement in chosen field of activity
- For Guruji’s work in Complimentary Medicine by the Medicina Alternativa Institute Open University for Complimentary Medicine Colombo SriLanka has honoured”Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians”
- International Institute of Education & Management Delhi, awarded “Jewel of India”
- National & International Compendium awarded “Life Time Achievement Award”
- Vidya Sahakari Bank Pune honoured “Vidya Vyas Award”
- Padmabhushan by the Government of India
- Mumbai citizens honoured “Yoga Ratna”
- Samskrita Academy Chennai awarded “Yoga Bhaskara Award”
- The International Penguin Publishing house awarded “Rising Personalities of India” along with a Gold Medal, for his outstanding services achievements and contributions
- The United Cultural Convention of the American Biographical Institute honoured “Noble Prize for outstanding Achievement and Contributions to Worldwide Humanity”
- Svasthya Seva Ratna by the International Institute of Health Sciences, Calcutta
- Guruji was honoured one among 10 eminent people who have crossed 80 years “Sharada Jnana Pitam award”
- “Rishi Award”
- “Priyadarshni Academy Award” for “Life Time Achievement” in the field of Yoga
- International Publishing Centre awarded “Hall of Fame Award”
- The International Institute of Success of Awareness awarded “Millennium Medal of Achiever 2001”
- Progressive Education Society, Pune awarded “Shri. Shankar Rao Kanitkar Puraskar”
- The World Yoga Society, Calcutta awarded “Yoga Dron Award-1999”
- Sri Murli Manohar Joshi HRD & S&T Minister, Govt, of India honoured Guruji”Gyan Kalyan Charitable Award” (This award is usually given for achievement in the areas of Sanskrit, Ayurveda and Yoga).
- Also for being the Greatest Yoga Exponent “Millennium Honour”
- The International Biographical Research Foundation of India awarded Gurujî “Eminent Personalities of India, 1999”
- The International Publishing House, New Delhi awarded “Best Citizen of India Award, 1999-2000”
- Acharya Kishore Vyas at the Gita Parivar Sangamner, in Pune felicitated Guruji with”Swami Vivekanand Puruskar Award “
- Rotary Club of Kothrud, Pune honoured Guruji for his contribution on the field of yoga “Rotary Excellence award “
- “Man of the Year 1998” awarded by The American Biographical Institute
- The International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England awarded”International Man of the Year 1998″
- “Twentieth Century Achievement Award” and included Guruji’s name in the International Directory of Distinguished Leadership of 1998
- “Twentieth Century Achievement Award” and included Guruji’s name in volumes 2000 Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century
- Guruji’s name was also included in volumes of “500 Leaders of Influence of the Twentieth Century as well as future generations”
- Health Care for 1996 Award, Top Management Club (India) Pune Chapter honoured him has honoured him with
- “Punya Bhushan” by Tridal
- All India Board of Alternative Medicine “Gem of Alternative Medicine “
- Indian board of Alternative Medicines awarded him with a Gold Medal
- Pune Pride awarded “Gold Medal”
- “Rajyotsava Award” by the Government of Karnataka
- All India Board of Alternative Medicine “All India Vasistha Award” and a gold medal for outstanding contribution in the field of yoga education
- 4th congress of the World Federation of Societies of Holistic Medicine (Italy) he was awarded the “Purna Swasthya Award”
- “Patanjali Award” from Government of Karnataka
- “Vasista Award” at the All India Physical Education Conference
- “Rajyotsava Award” by the Government of Karnataka
- Ministry of Federal Star Registration, U.S.A. announced that “a Star in the northern hemisphere has been named after Yogacharya B.K.S. lyengar”
- The Film and Television Institute of India produced a 22 minute film titled “Samãdhi” which won the Silver Lotus Award.
- The Best citizen of India by the International Publishing House
- International Biographical Centre, Cambridge includes him in the International Directory of distinguished leadership
- 2000 outstanding personality of the 20th century
- Doctor of Science conferred by University of Mysore
- International council of Ayurveda confers him with a Fellowship
- A Star in the Universe is registered after Guruji
- Daratuya Vidyabhavan honours him
- University of Pennsylvania honours him with an honorary doctorate
- The Mayor of Los Angeles honours Guruji
- The Mayor of Philadelphia honours Guruji
- Sculpture of Guruji’s Mandalasana installed in Philadelphia
- Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusadhana Samsthanam Deemed University honoured with “Doctor of Letters (Yoga)”
- Portuguese Yoga Federation honoured with the title “International Yoga Grand Master”
- International Biographical Centre of Cambridge considers B. K. S. Iyengar as “one of the top 100 Educators in 21st century”
- Kannada University of Hampi, Karnataka honoured the degree of “Nadoja”
- Out of 100 chosen personalities of India, Guruji ranked 33rd as the Yoga Guru and author in Readers digest 2010, “INDIA’S MOST TRUSTED-2009” honoured at Pune
- International Biographical of Cambridge honoured “2000 outstanding intellectuals of the 21st Century “
- Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka conferred “DEGREE OF SCIENCE”
- Friendship Forum of India has presented “Certificate of Excellence”outstanding and extra-ordinary achievements in his chosen fields of activity and services rendered to promote greater friendship.
- Friendship Forum of India has presented ““Economic Growth and National Unity” for outstanding contribution and praiseworthy achievements in his chosen field
- DNA honoured Guruji for top 50 ““The Influentials- People Who Impact India”
- Yogacharya B.K.S.IYENGAR is included in the list of “most powerful and influential people of the World” complied by the “American Time Magazine”
- Felicitated by the Karnataka Legislature Council, Bangalore
- Felicitated by Ajit Kumar Memorial Yoga Research Centre Students of Yoga Center, Bangalore
- Oxford English Dictionary included “Iyengar” for defining Yoga, publsihed by Oxford University Press
- Title “Doctorate of Letters (D.LITT)” honoured at Pune
- Title “Yoga Panchajanya Pithamaha ” honoured by villagers of Bellur, from birth place of Guriji
- Title “Sharada Jnana Pitam” honoured to 10 eminent people who have crossed 80 years
- Title “Rishi Award ” honoured to Guruji at Pune
- Title “Swasthya Seva Ratna” International Institute of Health Sciences in Calcutta conferred Guruji
- Title “Nominated for Torch for Global Inspiration ” Torchbearer of the American Biographical Institute (USA) for certified teachers throughout the World
- Title “Abhinava Patanjali Maharsh” Sri Chaitanya Vaishnava Vardhini Sabha conferred Guruji in Mysore.
- Title “Jeevan Sadhana Gaurav ” Pune University honoured for his life time achievement in the field of yoga
- Title “Doctorate of Science” University of Mysore conferred on him honorary Doctorate.
- Title “Vipra Ratna” The Karnataka Brahman Mahasabha honoured
- Pune Municipal Corporation felicitated him and presented him with a Scroll of Honours
- Title “Yoga Raja” conferred by Vishwa Yoga Sammelan
- Title “Yoganga Shikshana Chakravati” conferred by his Guru, T. Krishnamacharya
- Title “Yoga Raja” conferred by Swami Shivananda
BBC Television has equated him with one of the greatest artists ” Michaelangelo of Yoga”
Robert Engman, Chairman, Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, has created a monumental 15 foot sculpture named “After Iyengar” calling him “A Supreme Artist”
BKS Iyengar & The Spread of Yoga
BKS Iyengar was introduced to J Krishnamurthy, the greatest thinker of the twentieth century in 1946 in Pune. Krishnamurthy was keen to learn yoga and Iyengar taught him for almost twenty years.
Krishnamurthy paid Iyengar a very great compliment when he wrote, “You have taught me Yoga for twenty years- when someone asks me who is the greatest Yoga teacher, I always send them to you ( Iyengar)”.
Iyengar has taught from the common man to the Queen of Belgium. He has never differentiated between his students. To him they were all his children of Yoga.
Iyengar began with two students in the United Kingdom and the United States. By 2005, the American public were so appreciative of BKS Iyengar’s yoga that the people of San Fransisco declared October 3rd, 2005 to be BKS Iyengar day!
Iyengar was the first yogi to be received by a Pope at the Vatican in Rome. In 1966 Iyengar was blessed to have an audiences with his Holiness, Pope Paul VI. His holiness praised Iyengar with the words, ” You are a professor and director of Yoga. I bless you with all my heart and I am happy to have met you.”
Iyengar was first introduced to Russia in 1955. Marshall Bulganin, the then Premier of Russia and Nikita krushchev, the then First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR visited the National Defence Academy outside Pune. Iyengar performed an amazing demonstration for these distinguished guests.
Light on Yoga was the seed that spread the message of Yoga in Russia. When Iyengar visited Russia in 2009, he was delighted to discover that the then President Dmitry Medvevdev, was an ardent supporter of Yoga practiced by the Iyengar School of yoga.
In 2011, Iyengar was invited by the consul General of India in Guang Zhou to participate in the China -India Yoga summit. Nonagenarian Iyengar conducted master classes in China to an unbelievable overwhelming number of Chinese students.
The event was covered extensively by the Chinese media – so Yoga taught by Iyengar has reached out to millions of Chinese.
Today the wind of yoga is blowing everywhere. Iyengar made yoga popular by attracting all people, irrespective of gender, race or religion. Iyengar gave 15,000 lectures and demonstrations single handed and in doing so popularised yoga in the west and in India.