"Yoga is the golden key which unlocks the door to peace,tranquility and joy"
The Iyengar Yoga Center of Honolulu logo depicts the illustrious sage, Visvamitra, and the Coconut Palm, which is Polynesian-introduced to Hawaii. In Indian mythology, Visvamitra created the Coco Palm.
Visvamitra distinguishes himself in the pantheon of sages by the supreme tapas he embodied in his endeavors toward yogic perfection. Tapas is a burning effort which involves purification, self-discipline and austerity. So, for us at the Manoa Yoga Center, Visvamitra symbolizes the devotion, love and commitment that one experiences as one learns and practices yoga.
The Legend of Visvamitra
According to BKS Iyengar, in Light on Yoga, the story of Visvamitra is
Visvamitra was originally a member of the warrior caste, ksatriya,
and was the King of Kanyakubja. While hunting one day, he visited
the hermitage of the sage Vasistha. There he saw Kamadhenu (the Cow
of Plenty), and offered Vasistha bountiful treasures in exchange for
her. Vasistha refused to give her to Visvamitra and so the King attempted
to take her by force. After a long duel, the King lost. Though he
was quite miffed at his defeat, he was also duly impressed with the
power inherent in Brahmanism.
BKS Iyengar in Visvamitrasana, the pose dedicated to the sage, Visvamitra, ca. 1966, about 47 years of age
Visvamitra the King then devoted himself to the utmost of rigorous practices and austerities until he achieved the status and titles of Rajarsi ( a royal sage), Risi (a sage or seer), Maharsi (a patriarch of mankind), and lastly Brahmarsi (a Brahmanical sage).
Visvamitra Creates the Coconut Palm
In Indian mythology, Visvamitra is credited with creating the Coconut
Palm. The story goes like this:
Visvamitra practiced severe austerities and gained super-human powers.
King Satyavrata was exiled from his kingdom by his father because
he seduced a citizen's wife. Then, while Visvamitra was away, there
ensued an extreme 12-year famine. Satyavrata took care of Visvamitra's
family in his absence. He provided the family with flesh of deer,
hanging it from a fig tree on the banks of the River Ganga so that
they did not have to suffer the indignity of receiving food from an
Satyavrata desired to enter heaven in his mortal body, so when Visvamitra returned he granted him his wish. The sages and gods, however, strenuously objected. Indra said with great consternation, "How can a mortal reside in my domain." The King of the Celestials said, "Only souls are permitted."
Annoyed at Visvamitra's audacity, Indra hurled Satyavrata out of
the heavens. This enraged Visvamitra. If Satyavrata were to come back
to earth, this would mean not only an insult to him, but also acceptance
of defeat by Indra.
With his magical powers, Visvamitra halted Satyavrata from falling
to earth and he remained suspended in air. To prop him up, Visvamitra
put a pole under him and over time, it became the Coconut Palm. Hence
the trunk of the coco palm is straight and unbranched like the pole
that saved Satyavrata.
In our logo, Visvamitra is seen after having created the Coconut
The Coco Palm
The Coconut Palm is known as The Tree of Life in the Pacific because it
provides everything needed to sustain life. The coco palm originated in
Southeast Asia, probably Malaysia, and was transported throughout the
Pacific, either by migrating Indonesians and Polynesians or the coconuts
drifted on ocean currents.
Called Niu in the Hawaiian language, the palm provided drink,
food, shade, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing,
charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers,
implements, and oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more. The tree
can live as long as 100 years. For many, the image of the graceful Coconut
Palm epitomizes Hawaii.
In India, the fruit of the Coconut Palm is considered highly
auspicious and is offered to various deities. On special occasions, the
coconut is offered to guests. Symbolically, the coconut is seen as Shiva's
head. The three round holes at the end of the shell are regarded as his
eyes and the fibrous covering as his matted hair.
BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Schocken Books: New York,
Shakti M. Gupta, Plants in Indian Temple Art,