The Chibchas were a race of Red Indians who once inhabited the plain now known as the city of Bogotá, Colombia. Their light of worship was the sun and what they believed to be its reflection on earth - burnished gold! Esteeming gold as a sacred element, they created magnificent emerald-encrusted jewellery which they kept in their temples. Legend has it that during each full moon, the Zaque, Chief of the Chibcha Empire, in homage to the goddess of the moon, Chia, covered his body with gold dust, emeralds and other precious stones, and submerged himself in the cold waters of the Guatavita lake. When the Spanish adventurers came thirsting after material wealth to line foreign coffers, the Indians hid their precious treasure. One of the hiding places is said to be at the bottom of the Guatavita lake, on top of a dead volcano, in the village of Guatavita, near Bogotá. Many have searched for the lost cornucopia of Eldorado but have found the lake to have no bottom, and some report having seen a strange animal, like a small dragon, which has special vibrations of peace and tranquillity.
Bogotá is shortly to become the ignition point, not for the quest of gold, but for the golden quest of spiritual illumination and peace, for a vast and spontaneous upsurge in the international yogic movement. The 1980's is a landmark in a new age of spiritual awakening and the International Yoga Festival, to be held in Bogotá from 10th to 13th October 1980, will be a blessed occasion indeed. Inspired and guided by the dynamic presence of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, it will draw thousands of spiritual aspirants from all parts of the globe, including a large party from India. Special reduced flights are being arranged in Bogotá right now, all the international hotels and guest houses are being booked, and the city promises to be aglow with Swamiji's divine vibration. After the convention there will be organised tours to various places of cultural interest.
An international yoga convention is not just a joyous occasion and grand gathering of devotees. As well as an uplifting experience, it is a time for practical discussion and clarification about the science of yoga and its current progress throughout the world. For the world is desperately in need of some unifying and pacifying force and, the quicker and more efficiently yoga is spread across all nations, the quicker this unification will become a reality. All those taking part in the convention will have the opportunity of learning consciousness expanding techniques and enriching their daily lives (and consequently the lives of those around them) through a clearer understanding of yoga practices and philosophy.
Yoga did not originate exclusively in India. At one time it was a world-wide science practised by all the spiritually orientated cultures and civilisations now lost in the mist of antiquity. Transcendental knowledge is not the product of any one culture - universal truth has no nationality. Yoga has always existed, and is the spiritual right of every individual.
A civilisation which has yoga as its basis is a balanced, harmonious and liberated one. A nation's culture is its very soul. Just imagine what a race of super-conscious souls will burst forth to illuminate the world when thousands enrich their lives with self control, inner vision and enlightenment - when yoga once again manifests itself as a universal power!
Bogotá has been the chosen spot for many spiritual conventions, including the first South American Yoga Convention of 1975, which was also inspired and presided over by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Swamiji's 1975 visit sparked off an increased interest in yoga among people of all ages and from all walks of life. The young from all over South America have organised many conventions in the past two decades in their desire to find a purpose, inner peace; God. Their literature reflects this intense longing. One integrated system is necessary to fuse their individual energies into a positive and concentrated force directed towards the enlightenment of all. The government has incorporated yoga into its education program and many priests and nuns have found it to be a useful adjunct to their work. Adan Londonio, a Jesuit priest who introduced yoga into the Colombian Working Youth Movement, has the following to say concerning it: 'Because of its simplicity, progressiveness and coherence, I am now convinced that yoga is a great science, I would never have thought that at the age of 55, I could obtain such favourable results after only a few months practice. I find myself better able to carry out the work of a priest. Now I believe that spreading yoga is an apostolic mission, and I consider yoga to be very helpful for religious communities.'
The geographical location of Bogotá is ideal for an international event because of its accessibility to the rest of the world. Colombia forms an important link between Central and South America, and is the only country bordering the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Colombia is an agricultural country, coffee being the main source of income. Maize, bananas, potatoes, rice, beans, sugar, cocoa and tobacco are also grown. The textile industry plays an important part while pure wool products, mostly in the form of ruanas (ponchos) are in great demand in European countries. The gold mines are now almost depleted but emeralds are still plentiful especially in Muzo near Bogotá. Situated just above the Equator line, the climate is tropical. Only its capital, Bogotá, located 1,600 meters above sea level, is permanently cold, the temperature varying from 16°F to 20°F maximum. It may drop to 10°F especially in the early morning. Exotic fruits such as pineapples, papaya, avocados, criollas, mandarines, limes etc., and brightly coloured flowers grow in abundance. Violet orquideia is the national flower.
Near Bogotá is the unique church, La Cathedral de Zipaquira, which is built inside a salt mine. High up in the mountains is the beautiful 'Monserrate' church from where one has a wonderful view over the international chain of mountains - Los Andes, where many famous cultures flourished. Superb lakes are to be seen in the area while in the town itself there is much interesting 15th century architecture, and the largest library and planetarium in South America as well as many art galleries.
Bogotá is ringed by 12 mountains, each possessing its own god, according to aboriginal mythology. In one of these mountains is a waterfall called the Salto del Tenquendama. Legend has it that in the town of Santandesito (about 45 minutes drive from Bogotá) there lived a Chibcha tribe who had no guru. They prayed for guidance and then one day the beautiful Bachue emerged from the Bogotá river carrying her son Bochica in her arms. They lived with the tribe until Bochica was 18, and then Bachue disappeared back into the river leaving her son behind as guide and prophet to the people. There came a drought and the people went to him for help. He climbed the mountain and raising his staff, struck the side of a cliff. Water gushed out and it is now called the Salto del Tenquendama waterfall which has been flowing ever since.
There was a great similarity between the culture of the South American Indians and the people of India. The aboriginals have strange rituals as in tantra, esoteric knowledge comparable to ancient oriental wisdom, and geometrical patterns forming yantras or mandalas very similar to those found in India. There is an amazing parallel between yogic asanas and the positions adopted by early Mayas, Aztecs and Incas. Many great civilisations flourished in South America before the arrival of the Spaniards. Now only ruins remain to attest to these once spiritual cultures, in which social structure was balanced with the divine.
In Colombia the most important of the ancient sites is that of San Agustin, a huge open air museum, 550 kilometres south of Bogotá. More than 500 mysterious monolithic statues and different works of art have been found there and many are in the vast Museum of Gold in Bogotá. This museum is considered to be the most outstanding of its type in the world. The quantity, quality and variety of the pieces held in trust there is ample evidence that the legend of Eldorado has its basis in truth, and that the primitive inhabitants of Colombia had in their craftsmen the greatest exponents of a truly autochthonous art.
This art is full of symbolism - eagles, monkeys, snakes, salamanders, women giving birth and men worshipping the sun. They obviously had a very clear knowledge of yogasanas, pranayama and neti. The monoliths represent human figures performing different asanas such as sirshasana, siddhasana, padmasana, dhanurasana etc., as well as figures clearly performing kumbhaka. Most mysterious of all are tombs situated on top of hills, protected by guardian deities. Representations of the changing planes of existence are everywhere visible. One of the more important statues shows the universal nature of tantric symbolism with its inverted triangle of mooladhara chakra, out of which arise the three main nadis - ida, pingala, and sushumna. The enigmatic aborigines who left behind these strange and incredible samples of their culture have taken their secrets with them beyond the vale but they appear to have travelled all around the South American continent practising yoga.
In a way reminiscent of Hindu tradition, the San Agustinians located their civilisations near to where the Andes branch into three new cordilleras and where the three most important rivers (Magdalena, Cauca, and Patia) begin. San Agustin is flanked by the Magdalena river which runs all the way to the Northwest Caribbean sea of Colombia and could be compared with the Ganga in India, The two latter could be compared with the Yamuna and Saraswati. Legend claims that the place where these rivers begin and the Andes divide is a sacred place where the forces of life gather to be dispersed to the four cardinal points.
Tribes which practise pre-Colombian yoga still exist in forest areas, notably the Arhuacos, who live on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and in the villages, beautiful paintings of mandalas and yantras are still produced for meditation. The real Indian culture has disappeared, but it can be revived and reformed with the wider use of yoga: with a message of divine and spiritual life. For South America is still full of spiritual vibrations and is becoming a haven for seekers today, just as the orient has been in the past.