World Sanskrit Conference (WSC) (17th : 2018)

Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta : A Teaching Experiment and Its Outcome Mahadevan, Jayaraman 2019

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 Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta: A Teaching Experiment and Its 
Outcome Jayaraman Mahadevan Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, Vancouver, Canada, July 9-13, 2018, Section 17: Sanskrit Pedagogy.  Section Convenor: Sadananda Das
General Editor: Adheesh Sathaye Published by the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, on behalf of the International Association for Sanskrit Studies. DOI: 10.14288/1.0390880.
URI:  Suggested Citation Format: MLA:
Mahadevan, Jayaraman. “Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta: A Teaching Experiment and Its Outcome.” Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, Vancouver, Canada, July 9-13, 2018, Section 17: Sanskrit Pedagogy. Edited by Sadananda Das, 2019. DOI: 10.14288/1.0390880. APA:
Mahadevan, J. (2019). Imparting Yoga texts in Saṃskṛta: A teaching experiment and its outcome. In S. Das (Ed.) Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, Vancouver, Canada, July 9-13, 2018, Section 17: Sanskrit Pedagogy. DOI: 10.14288/1.0390880. Chicago:
Mahadevan, Jayaraman. 2019. “Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta: A Teaching Experiment and Its Outcome.” In Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, Vancouver, Canada, July 9-13, 2018, Section 17: Sanskrit Pedagogy, edited by Sadananda Das. DOI: 10.14288/1.0390880. Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, July 9-13, 2018 University of British Columbia, Vancouver, CanadaCopyright © 2019 by the author. Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).वैधुसव ्मकबुंटुकअ ारा यसं तृा यनसमवायःINTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SANSKRIT STUDIESTHE   17TH    WORLD   SANSKRIT  CONFERENCEVANCOUVER, CANADA • JULY 9-13, 2018 THE 17TH WORLD SANSKRIT CONFERENCE, VANCOUVER, CANADA, JULY 9-13, 2018 Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta: 
A Teaching Experiment and Its Outcome Jayaraman Mahadevan Research Department, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Abstract Currently, Yoga texts in the Saṃskṛta language are taught worldwide through the medium of other languages. Scholars and teachers would agree that knowl-edge of Saṃskṛta is essential for better appreciation of yogic wisdom. In such a situation, can an attempt be made to teach Yoga texts in a time-bound manner, with maximum possible usage of Saṃskṛta, without getting into the nitty-gritty of Saṃskṛta grammar, even for a learner without Saṃskṛta background? A two-day international workshop on the Haṭhayogapradīpikā was organized at the Kr-ishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in August 2017 to attempt an answer to the above proposition. There were 97 registered participants in the workshop (India,89; other countries, 8). This paper, which is about this experiment, is in two parts: A) The description of the teaching experiment, and B) its outcome as re-vealed by the analysis of the written feedback forms.  Part A. The workshop content consisted of 34 Saṃskṛta verses belonging to the first chapter of the Haṭhayogapradīpikā on fifteen āsanas. At the outset, core words in these verses that had been identified and categorized earlier were prac-ticed interactively. With this syntactical basis, verses were analyzed and para-phrased. The verses were chanted to increase textual familiarity. Participants saw “texts in action” with the demonstration of the āsanas as per the text. Part B. 79 participants offered their input through structured feedback forms contain-ing qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative responses. Apart from encouraging response to this workshop, analysis of the descriptive responses offers useful insights and themes for further exploration regarding utilizing Saṃskṛta in Yoga textual teaching. The paper concludes that, in an era where knowledge of Saṃskṛta and the study of Yoga texts seem like islands apart, experiments such as this should be attempted to bridge this gap and also to arrive at methods lead-ing to an immersive teaching learning experience of Yoga texts. Keywords: Yoga Texts, Teaching, Methodology, Saṃskṛta (Sanskrit). Proceedings of the 17th World Sanskrit Conference, Vancouver, Canada, July 9-13 2018, Section 17: Sanskrit Pedagogy, edited by Sadananda Das. General editor: Adheesh Sathaye, 2019. DOI: 10.14288/1.0390880. MAHADEVAN 2Structure of the Paper This paper has four parts:  1. The Desideratum  2. The Experiment  3. The Outcome  4. Discussion and Conclusion 1. The Desideratum Yoga is taught and practiced worldwide. It is a Śāstra. Ancient and fundamental texts of Yoga, like the Yogasūtras and the Haṭhayogapradīpikā, are written in the Saṃskṛta language. But it can be seen that in the teaching and learning process-es of Yoga texts, Saṃskṛta is not adopted across the globe. It is not the case even in its birthplace, India. The teaching of Yoga texts everywhere is in English or various other languages. This is the situation, despite everyone being aware of the limitations of translations. There is an expression even – “lost in translation.” On the other hand, reading the texts in Saṃskṛta gives access to the originals. It also empowers a person to consult the source and insulates him from being mis-led. Hence there is a natural need to introduce the study of Saṃskṛta during yoga studies. Three examples of the limitations of translations  Three examples are presented below to show the limitations or loss of meaning due to excessive use of translations of in place of Samskrta originals.  Example 1. Vīrabhadrāsana is a popular āsana. It is translated as “warrior pose.” A simple search in the worldwide web will reveal it. The following comment of Sri Krishna-macharya on Vīrabhadrāsana is to be noted in this context:  As you do the Vīrabhadrāsana vinyāsa, keep in mind that you are in the service of the Divine. As you extend your arms and look down, bring the feeling that you are above the world and its various concerns but close to the Divine. (Mohan & Mohan 2018).  Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 3On this A. G. Mohan comments that This is an example of an āsana name that suggests the psychological feel-ing that can accompany the practice. Virabhadrasana is an assertive stance that can produce an energetic feeling. While doing the warrior vinyasa, Krishnamacharya recommended that we bring into our mind a feeling like that of a bird. This is particularly appropriate in the devo-tional tradition of Vaishnavism, in which a principal devotee of the Di-vine, in the form of Lord Narayana, is depicted as an eagle named Garu-da. The eagle Garuda also functions as a vehicle, bearing Narayana on his back. (Mohan & Mohan 2018). Such import might be lost by mere usage of the translation, “warrior pose.” Further, in certain societies, words associated with war and warrior bring to mind not so pleasant memories. On the other hand, if the āsana’s name is re-tained as Vīrabhadrāsana, there is every possibility of an enquiry into the mean-ing and the associated intricate aspects of Yoga practice. Example 2.  In the same lines, Bhagīrathāsana is translated as “tree pose.” Let us consider the view of Sri Krishnamacharya on Bhagīrathāsana:  When doing Bhagirathāsana, keep the great Bhagiratha in mind. Bring tireless perseverance and steadfast concentration to your practice. (Mohan & Mohan 2018). On this statement we find the following comment from AG Mohan:  Bhagiratāsana is another. It is widely known as “tree pose” (vrkshāsana). My guru, the legendary Yogi of the last century, T. Krishnamacharya used to call the tree pose Bhagiratāsana. Bhagirata was supposed to have meditated for several years standing on one leg!” He further adds “Some āsanas are named after ancient sages or derive from mythology, with uplifting stories behind them. (Mohan & Mohan 2018). Such “uplifting” ideas are missed out from merely translating Bhagīrathāsana as “tree pose.” Example 3. Is Hanumadāsana the “monkey pose?” This is the popular translation of this āsana. From a yogic perspective, it is a commonplace knowledge that monkey  MAHADEVAN 4stands for fickleness. Expressions such as !दयकिपम()चपलम ् “The mind which is extremely fickle, like a monkey …” (िशवान1लहरी 2.20) are very well known. In di-rect contrast to this, āsana is defined in the Yogasūtras as being ि5रसखुमासनम ् (2.46) - “firm and comfortable.” Moreover, the Jyotsnā commentary on the Haṭha-yogapradīpikā states, आसनने रजो हि) (1.17) – “the āsana mitigates rajas.” By trans-lating this as “monkey pose,” what kind of cittavṛttis are intended to be kindled in the mind of the practitioner?  If, as these examples indicate, by merely retaining Saṃskṛta terms one might get such insights on the practices, then one can imagine the effects of in-troducing the learning of Saṃskṛta in the context of understanding Yoga texts.  Difficulties in Integrating Saṃskṛta with Yoga  When an attempt is made to integrate Saṃskṛta with Yoga there might be some practical difficulties. Yoga training with a reasonable level of depth requires a solid investment of time and effort. Saṃskṛta also requires time and effort. In such a situation a question may arise as to how to surmount this difficult propo-sition of teaching Yoga through Saṃskṛta.  While it is true that nothing worthwhile is achieved without putting in the effort that is required, attempts should also be made to facilitate the coming to-gether of Yoga and Saṃskṛta. Attempts should aim at creating interest and evoking respect regarding the depth of understanding that one can gain by learning Saṃskṛta in the context of Yoga. It is to address this desideratum that the experiment to teach a Yoga text through Saṃskṛta was attempted.  2. The Experiment Objectives of the Teaching Experiment  Keeping in view the above desideratum, a teaching experiment was envisaged with the following objectives: Yoga texts are to be taught through Saṃskṛta, Without getting into the grammatical nitty gritty, In a time-bound and interesting manner, Without diluting the content, Even for the uninitiated in the language.  Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 5Details of the Teaching Experiment  The following are the details of the experiment. It was conducted in the form of a workshop:  It was titled “Textual Immersion: An International Workshop on Haṭhayogapradīpikā, with Focus on Āsanas.”  The dates of the workshop were August 4-5, 2017 (9.30 am - 4.30 pm). It was held at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai. Ninety-seven participants registered for the workshop (Indian and international)  1Stages of the Experiment  The teaching experiment had three stages: a) Planning, b) Preparation, and c) Execution.  Planning  Thirty-four verses of the Haṭhayogapradīpikā that describe the procedure of per-forming āsanas (1.17-54) were selected for this workshop. Other verses from this chapter that detail prerequisites and other such general matters were not consid-ered in order to maintain homogeneity of the subject matter for the workshop). The fifteen āsanas covered in this workshop are: Svastikāsana, Gomukhāsana, Vīrāsana, Kūrmāsana, Kukkuṭāsana, Uttānakūrmakāsana, Dhanurāsana, Mat-syendrāsana, Paścimatānāsana, Mayūrāsana, Śavāsana, four variations of Sid-dhāsana, three variations of Padmāsana, Siṃhāsana, and Bhadrāsana. The number of Sessions and the nature of the handouts were also planned. Apart from the introduction, valediction, and two yoga practice sessions (one per day), 8 textual immersion sessions were planned.   Preparation  The teaching materials, prepared in the form of a structured handout, had two stages. Stage one was the Padasaṅgraha (collection of words), in which the words from the target verses were analyzed and segregated. There were three major types of terms in connection with āsana practice. The words connected to a) the limbs of the body, b) the sides and directions, and c) the words indicating actions.   It was also web-streamed. See: MAHADEVAN 6Table 1. The Padasaṅgraha table from the handout.  1A) Upper part of the Body sīvanī “perineum"bhrūḥ   “eye brow” meḍhra “genital region” nirudhya “pressing”rājadanta  “front teeth” guda “anus” niveśya “inserting”nāsāgra “tip of nose” vṛṣaṇa “scrotum” sambadhya “connecting”cibuka “chin” pṛṣṭha “back” gṛhītvā / pragṛhya “holding”kandhara “neck” 2)Directions/sides prasārya /samprasārya “spreading”vakṣaḥ / hṛdaya “chest” dakṣiṇa / dakṣa “right” avaṣṭabhya “supporting”dos “shoulder” savya / vāma “left” dhṛtvā “holding”kūrpara “elbow” antaḥ “inside” uttambhya “locking”kara / hasta / pāṇi “hand” bahiḥ “outside” utthāpya “arousing”aṅguli “finger” antare “in between” baddhvā “assuming, binding”aṅguṣṭha “thumb” upari “above” 3B) Whilekaṭi “waist” pārśva “side” protsārayan “pulling up”1B) Lower part of the Body uttāna “on the back / facing upwards” nyañcan“pulling down"pāda / caraṇa / aṅghri “foot” 3C) Shouldpādāṅguṣṭha "big toe” 3) Actions niyojayet }“place”pādatala “sole” 3A) After vinyasetgulpha “ankle” kṛtvā “doing” bhavet “be”pārṣṇi “heel” nikṣipya}“placing”kuryāt “do”jānu “knee” vinyasya  vaset “stay”jaṅgha "shin region” saṃsthāpya paśyet / ālokayet “see”ūru – thigh nidhāya Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 7Let us consider an example from the text: वामो=पिर दि>णं च चरणं स5ंाA … (1.44). In this portion of the verse, Ūru and caraṇa are words connected to the limbs of the body. Vāma and dakṣiṇa indicate the sides. Saṃsthāpya is a word associated with actions.  All such words from the earmarked portion were collected, and they were organized into a table (Table 1). Their meanings in English were also given. With regard to the words connected with the actions , the usage of the words with  ktvā, śatṛ, and the vidhiliṅ forms were noted in the selected portion of the Haṭhayo-gapradīpikā, and they were categorized separately but without mentioning their grammatical aspects or nomenclature in the handout. This was done to avoid jar-gon. As can be noted from the table above, the sub-headings of these action-indi-cating words simply read “After” (ktvā), “While” (śatṛ) and “Should” (vidhiliṅ).  The second stage of preparation was anvaya-racanā – paraphrasing – of all the 34 target ślokas, which were prepared with blank spaces opposite them so that the students can fill up the meanings during the interactive sessions.   Execution  It was mentioned that this textual immersion spanned eight sessions. These eight sessions were further divided into two parts, pada-paricaya (introducing the words) and the study of the verses of the text.  Pada-paricaya: In the two pada-paricaya sessions, the padasaṅgraha portion of the handout was extensively used. The two sessions were aimed at acquaint-ing the participants with the terms in the target verses. It was done in an inter-active manner. The words in the list were pronounced. The participants were made to recite the words and touch their own limbs to connect the Saṃskṛta word with meaning. Various word-based games were also used to joyfully intro-duce the terms. The translations of the terms were also given to each of the terms thus interactively learnt to facilitate future reference.  Study of the verses of the text: The textual study sessions were conducted in five parts:  1. Reciting and repeating the verses.
The teacher recited the verses, part by part and gradually the full verses. The students followed and repeated. By this the students be-came acquainted with the verses.  MAHADEVAN 82. Splitting the words of the verses. 
The teacher introduced the individual words from the verses by splitting the conjunctions. The students practiced splitting the words with the teacher. This facilitated the recognition of the words that they already learnt under pada-paricaya activity.  3. Anvaya (paraphrased text). 
This already existed in the handout. The students were now asked to fill up the meanings of the terms that they know based on their pada-paricaya practice and also with the help of the padasaṅgraha which formed part of the handout with the English translations. Wherever new words existed the faculty facilitated. 4. Inputs from the commentary. 
The teacher presented insights and inputs from the Jyotsnā com-mentary of the Haṭhayogapradīpikā. This helped the students to grasp the technical and intricate details regarding yogic practices. 5. Demonstration segment (text in action). 
An adept yoga practitioner was at hand to do the āsana. While the āsana was being performed the participants recited the verse bit by bit as if they were giving instructions in Saṃskṛta to the āsana demonstrator. This really evoked a lot of enthusiasm in the partici-pants that they were able to give instructions already in Saṃskṛta.  For example, in the case of Paścimatanāsana, the corresponding verse from the Haṭhayogapradīpikā (1.28: Bसाय C पादौ भिुव दFड=पौ) was chanted when as the prac-titioner spread his leg straight. Then दोHाI पदाJिKतयं गहृीOा – when this was chanted the demonstrator held the big toes.  Thus most of the thirty-four verses that were targeted for this workshop was covered in these five steps, which saw enthusiastic participation. In this process, there was a minimum intervention of other language and maximum participation from the participants with facilitation from the faculty.  3. Outcome  An attempt was made to understand the impact of the experiment through a feedback form. From the ninety-seven participants, seventy-nine completed feedback forms were obtained. Responses to three questions from the feedback form are presented and analyzed hereunder. The three questions were given to  Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 9elicit objective type and descriptive responses about the workshop. Other ques-tions were about the infrastructure, etc.  Questions for objective type response:  1) The relevance of the attempt (This had three options:  Highly relevant, Relevant, Not at all relevant)  2) Would you like to attend such a workshop in future? (This had three options:  Definitely, Possibly, Not likely) Questions for descriptive response:  How has this workshop been useful to you? Objective Type Response Regarding the objective type response from the objective question, the following is the result:  1. On the relevance of the workshop of the 79 responses:  59 stated this to be highly relevant and twenty as relevant. It is to be noted that none has stated this attempt to teach Yoga through Saṃskṛta as irrelevant.  Figure 1. Responses on the relevance of the workshop. Relevance of the Workshop 2059Highly Relevant Relevant Not at all relevant  MAHADEVAN 102. The responses to the second question: Of the 79 responses, 56 stated that they would definitely like to attend such workshops in the future, while 21 have stated that it is likely that they would attend. This question was not re-sponded to by two respondents. No one said it is not likely that they attend such a workshop in future.  Figure 2. The future likeliness of the participants in attending such a workshop. This response goes to show that the participants perceive that there is a good future for such an attempt.  Descriptive Response (Q.: “How has this workshop been useful to you?”) The following is the analysis of the data on descriptive feedback: Of the 79 filled-in feedback forms, four did not have any data on this question. 44 respondents had simply given general comments and words of encouragement, like “Really very useful” (63),  “Very useful” (9, 18, 23), “Useful” (72), “Good and informative” (26), “Ex2 - The numbers in paranthesis indicate the serial numbers of the respondent in the data2 -base.“Would you like to attend such a workshop in the future ?”22156Definitely Likely No Response  Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 11cellent work” (34), etc. This may be taken as an indication of the enthusiasm gener-ated by the workshop. Only 32 gave specific responses that gave qualitative data to analyze. These responses can be organized in three sets: Twenty two had written about learner outcomes (adhyetṛ[ā])  Five had written about methodology and tools (adhyayana)  Five others had written about the content/text (adhyeya) The tripuṭī of learning – adhyetā, adhyayanam, and adhyeya – were covered by these 32 responses. This was just like the dhyātṛ (meditator), dhyānam, (process of meditation), and dhyeyam (object of meditation).  Adhyetṛ(ā) (learner) related or the outcomes: The 22 learner outcomes can be organized in six sets: 1. Four respondents had expressed that their confidence increased in the study of Saṃskṛta texts. (7, 14, 19, 50) 2. Four other respondents had stated that now their approach to the text has become easy. (1, 3, 76, 47) 3. Six respondents stated that their interest has been kindled to study more such texts. (8, 12, 58, 56, 65, 74) 4. Five respondents had stated that they felt empowered that now they have access to the original text. (20, 25, 27, 43, 66) 5. Two respondents stated that the sessions were enjoyable. (28, 31) 6. One respondent stated that it gave positive energy. (37)  Feedback on methodology / adhyayana (process of learning): The five responses on this include: 1. Immersive / well-thought-out approach / research based strategic teaching and learning procedures. (41, 15, 38) 2. A research based approach which helped the participants decode the meaning of the verses themselves. (16) 3. Handout  … well designed and presented. (68)  MAHADEVAN 12 Feedback on textual knowledge – adhyeya (the subject being learnt) –  The five responses in this regard were as follows:   1. Practical information was gained. (69) 2.  Helped understanding intricacies of āsanas. (6) 3. Got more insights about āsanas and their benefits. (17) 4. Correct placement of limbs / precision of details. (36, 33) 4. Discussion and Conclusion  From the above objective type and descriptive feedback, it is apparent that this teaching experiment has been received favourably. It has increased confidence levels in the learners and also instilled a sense of joy in learning. The efficacy of the methodology has been noted and the text has been made more accessible.  But the above experiment has its limitations. Just one portion of the Haṭhayoga-pradīpikā was covered: the āsanas. Portions on prāṇāyāma,  mudrās and nādānu3 -sandhāna were not covered. This experiment has to be tried with other portions of the text and difficulties are to be identified. Based on that, the methodology has to be refined. And just one type of text was tested. Other types of Yoga texts should also be taken up especially the Yogasūtras, which are in the form of short statements. A methodology to read the Saṃskṛta commentaries should also be attempted.   However, In the context of this experiment, the following observation of Prof. Ashok Aklujkar is worth noting-  Because of poor teaching materials and procedures, it has come to be believed by some that Sanskrit is a difficult language to learn. Actually, Sanskrit is not more difficult than any other language that has been a vehicle of advanced culture. If proper methods are followed, Sanskrit is, in fact, an easy language to interpret because of its perspicuity, the regu-larity of its fundamental features (agreement of noun and adjective,  At the time of completing the article, the workshop on prāṇāyāma was also conducted at 3Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (February 16-17, 2019), following the same method-ology with 91 participants from India and abroad. The prāṇāyāma workshop also re-ceived the same encouraging response. Imparting Yoga Texts in Saṃskṛta 13agreement of subject and verb, case usage) and the systematization it has received at the hands of gifted grammarians. (Aklujkar 2005: xviii). It is because of these “poor teaching materials and procedures” that preju-dices have been created in the minds of Yoga teachers and practitioners with regard to Saṃskṛta. Probably due to exposure to unsystematic teaching methods adopted in teaching Saṃskṛta, some Yoga teachers even go to the extent to state that “Practicing the true aim of yoga — to calm and control the mind — does not require a knowledge of Sanskrit” (Mohan & Mohan 2018). The fact that experiments such as the one discussed seem to be the way ahead is reflected from the following quote: Samskritam should not be forced down the throat of each and everyone who wants to learn Yoga. However, prejudice or bias should not be creat-ed against Samskritam. Gradually, teaching methods should be evolved in the field of Yoga that is Samskrita friendly, for the benefit of the prac-titioner to guide him towards the true aim of yoga. (Janih 2018). Thus, if such teaching experiments are conducted more often with various kinds of audience and texts of Yoga, then a well-rounded methodology can be developed to teach Yoga texts which will help overcome the current unfortunate divorce between Saṃskṛta and Yoga and lead towards immersive comprehen-sion of Yoga texts.  Bibliography  Primary Sources  Yogasūtras of Patañjali (PYS). Edited by T.K.V Desikachar, Chennai, Krishnama-charya Yoga Mandiram, 2014. Revised Edition. The Haṭhayogapradīpikā of Svatmarama. Chennai, The Adyar Library and Re-search Centre, 2000. Reprint.  Śivānandalaharī: The Works of Sri Sankaracharya. Volume 17. Srirangam: Sri Vani Vilas Press, 1910. Secondary Sources  Aklujkar, Ashok. Sanskrit: An Easy Introduction to an Enchanting Language.  Rich-mond: Svādhyāya Publications, 2005.    MAHADEVAN 14Janih, Sowmya. 2018. “‘Practicing Yoga Does Not Need Saṃskṛta’ – Is that so?”, May 11, 2018,ṃskṛta-is-that-so/. Mohan, A. G., and Ganesh Mohan. 2018. “What’s in a name?” The Hindu, May 3, 2018.


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