Byamacharya Bishnu Charan Ghosh, born in India on June 24, 1903, was the youngest of eight children (four girls and four boys). He and his siblings were raised by their father after their mother passed away when Bishnu Ghosh was just 10 months old.
Sources describe Bishnu Ghosh as a rather “frail” child. His health, however, is reported to have improved when, at age 14, he became one of the first students to attend the Ranchi School for Boys, which was founded by his famous brother, Paramahansa Yogananda.
Yogananda writes about Bishnu Ghosh’s enrollment in his school in Autobiography of a Yogi:
At Ranchi I organised an educational program for both grammar and high school grades. It included agricultural, industrial, commercial and academic subjects. The students were also taught yoga concentration and meditation, and a unique system of physical development, ‘Yogoda,’ whose principles I had discovered in 1916.
Realising that man’s body is like an electric battery, I reasoned that it could be recharged with energy through the direct agency of the human will. As no action, slight or large, is possible without willing, man can avail himself of his prime mover, will, to renew his bodily tissues without burdensome apparatus or mechanical exercises. I therefore taught the Ranchi students my simple “Yogoda” techniques by which the life force, centred in man’s medulla oblongata, can be consciously and instantly recharged from the unlimited supply of cosmic energy.
The boys responded wonderfully to this training, developing extraordinary ability to shift the life energy from one part of the body to another part, and to sit in perfect poise in difficult body postures. They performed feats of strength and endurance which many powerful adults could not equal. My youngest brother, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, joined the Ranchi school; he later became a leading physical culturist in Bengal.
After graduating from Ranchi, Bishnu Ghosh trained under Calcutta University’s director of physical education, R. N. Guha Thakurta. The results were incredible: Bishnu Ghosh added at least 32 pounds of weight to his 68-pound frame and nine inches to his chest in just three months. Developing his body physically was important; now, he could better put the yogic principle of muscle control, learned at his brother’s school, into practice.
Bishnu Ghosh believed that, by combining weightlifting/bodybuilding with Hatha Yoga, one could greatly improve the health and wellness of body and mind. This put him at the forefront of India’s “physical culture” movement – a term applied to new health and strength-training (i.e., exercise) regimes that originated in the 19th century. He demonstrated the effectiveness of his theory by performing incredible feats of strength: running a car across his chest, allowing a man to jump onto his abdomen from 12 feet above and twisting an iron bar into a coil.
While attending law school, Bishnu Ghosh teamed up with his college friend, Sen Gupta, to write a book called Muscle Control and Barbell Exercise, which includes various techniques for muscle development. Eventually, Bishnu Ghosh opened his own Ghosh College of Yoga and Physical Culture in Calcutta, where he taught his unique program, founded on the 84 Hatha Yoga postures codified by his brother, to thousands of practitioners.
Among several star pupils at the Ghosh College: Buddha Bose, who helped demonstrate the effectiveness of his teacher’s techniques by performing the yoga asanas (postures) during Bishnu Ghosh’s lectures in India, Japan and the U.S. Buddha Bose went on to found the Yoga Cure Institute and author a book about yoga entitled Key to the Kingdom of Health.
Bikram Choudhury is another famous student of Bishnu Ghosh. Bikram entered the Ghosh College when he was five, practising yoga for four to six hours daily. At 17, Bikram crushed his knee during a weightlifting accident and was told by doctors that he’d never walk again. But Bikram had himself carried back to Bishnu Ghosh’s school, where his guru healed the injury in just six months through yoga. Bikram was asked by Bishnu Ghosh to start several yoga schools in India; these were so successful that, at Bishnu Ghosh’s request, Bikram travelled to Japan and opened two more. Eventually, he founded his own Bikram Yoga College of India.
Bishnu Ghosh’s son, Biswanath Ghosh, was also an exceptional student at the Ghosh College. Biswanath Ghosh organized demonstrations in Japan and the U.S., where he performed such stunts as breaking iron chains and even supporting an elephant on top of chest. After Bishnu Ghosh passed away on July 9, 1970, Biswanath Ghosh took over his father’s school. Today, Biswanath Ghosh’s daughter, Muktamala, carries on the legacy of her father and grandfather, spreading the benefits of Hatha Yoga worldwide.