1600 was when Queen Elizabeth had agreed to grant a charter to "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies'. Little did the 200 people present in the Freemason Hall that day know that in time, this would account for half o the worlds trade and be the foundation stone of the largest empire the world has ever seen.
Initially the charters intention was to continue the lucrative spice trade with Indonesia, but the Dutch who had backed their merchants with the Navy, made it much riskier for British ships. So they ended up on the Indian coasts only to realise more riches await them here than in Indonesia.
By the 18th century, as trade was flourishing and as imperial dominance was being established in India, a small number of people coming in to India were not merchants but intellectuals and scholars. They had an insatiable scientific and anthropological curiosity to study the non European world ; its habitat, religion and customs. They were called Orientalists.
The succesful building of the new Empire was based on the imposition of English medium education and inculcation of the Western scientific attitude. A new breed of colonial administration, the Anglicisers, was employed to erect each structure.
Their first duty was oust the Orientalist sympathy towards Indian civilisation. In the process, they viewed Indian native traditions and cultures with an attitude of disgust. This had a devastatingly corrosive effect on Indian self confidence.
A glimpse of this attitude can be seen in what the Governor General of Bengal, Marquis of Hastings, had written in his private journal.
The Hindu appears a being nearly limited to a mere animal functions and even in them indifferent. Their proficiency and skill in the several lines of occupation to which they are restricted, are little more than the dexterity with which any animal with similar conformation but with no higher intellect than a dog, an elephant or a monkey might be supposed to be capable of attaining. It is enough to see this in order to have full conviction that such people can at no period have been more advanced in civil ability.
India's frustration with the wright of British colonial yoke finally erupted in 1835 in the 'Sepoy Mutiny' of 1857 - so called by the British, now often referred to as the First Indian War of Independence.
In India, this led to a new policy to prevent any such rebellion again : educated Indians were to be groomed in the colonial model as loyal subjects, in an attempt to make them effectively non-Indian. The aspiration would be "Westernised Oriental Gentleman", that reinforced the idea that educated Indians should have a hearty disdain for her own cultural roots and practices.
'Muscular Christianity' - an idea that true morality lay in the practice of Christian virtues combined with a vigorous and energetic masculinity, was another thing that was being peddled to Indians parallely because the British thought Indians were small and physically refined. The most common adjective used in contemporary descriptions of Hindus was 'effeminate'.
Sports was a path to moral education especially in English boarding schools. Anarchic lawlessness of rioting that had raged in different schools as adolescent energy had been channelled into rigorous exercise on the playing fields, mostly rugby. What worked in boarding schools, was rapidly applied to the 'white mans burden' being shouldered by so many of its alumni, especially after the first war. Sport was to be the glue that held the Empire together, a way to inculcate British values and Christian morality.
In India, rather than Rugby, the slower less physical game of cricket would be better suited to the physique, climate and temperament of the subcontinent. But cricket could only help the educated Indian elite via colleges and schools. The rest of India needed something else, they needed to acquiesce the youth in cities that were growing ever crowded due to industrialisation. The answer was found in the English schools system : Gymnastics. This was the perfect because it didn't require as much space and equipment.
It also blended very well with yoga, which had familiarity with the locals. But whatever is the benefit of body yoga, had to be separated from the religious stuff for the British. This basically where the asanas seperated from the meditation and other limbs of yoga.