NEW DELHI: The United Nations has declared today, June 21, as the International Yoga Day. As many as 192 countries
usher this day with some deep breathing and coordinated movements. Last year, United Nations General Assembly,
accepting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal of holding an international yoga day, declared June 21 International
Yoga Day, recognising the ancient Indian science’s “holistic approach to health and well-being.”
The first International Yoga Day is being celebrated across the world on Sunday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to preside over a record gathering of officials, students and others who will perform asanas at a ceremonial road in Delhi. Thousands of people on Sunday morning thronged the Rajpath to participate in the grand celebration of the International Day of Yoga in the national capital. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived for the event shortly after 6.40 am. The event was conducted amid heavy security in the wake of a terror threat.
PM Modi tweeted early this morning: “Greetings to people around the world on 1st International Day of Yoga! Lets pledge to make Yoga an integral part of our daily lives #YogaDay.”
PM Modi has made Yoga Day a key initiative of his government since he took office 13 months ago. “Yoga has the power to bring the entire humankind together!” Mr Modi tweeted last year after pitching the idea during his speech to the UN General Assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted people on International Yoga Day, asking for a pledge to make it an integral part of life.Minutes before the mega event commenced at Rajpath, the Prime Minister tweeted, “Greetings to people around the world on first International Day of Yoga! “Lets pledge to make yoga an integral part of our daily lives,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who was expected to only address the gathering, surprised everyone by participating in the yoga exercises along with thousands of people, including children.
Yoga guru Ramdev shared the dais with Modi along with heads of some other religious and yoga institutions. Modi later joined the participants on the ground as he practised the ‘asanas’ during the 30-minute programme.
Kicking off the event, the Prime Minister said the programme is aimed at benefiting the people by making them both physically and mentally healthy.
It seeks to make a tension-free world and spread the message of ‘Sadbhavana’ (harmony), the Prime Minister said, adding that yoga is “more than only physical fitness”.
“For most of the people, yoga is just a physical exercise. This is the biggest mistake…. Had this been the case, children working in circuses could have been called ‘yogis’. Hence yoga is not only about making the body flexible,” he said, while addressing the participants. The Prime Minister expressed hope that the atmosphere built in favour of yoga in the country will continue in future as well.
He also said that it is not important for him where this ancient technique originated and where all it has reached. “We are not only celebrating a day but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace – Sadbhavana…This is a programme for the benefit of mankind, a tension-free world and a programme to spread the message of Sadbhavana,” Modi said.
Modi, while addressing the crowd at Rajpath, said, “Did anyone ever imagine that Rajpath can be a ‘Yoga-path’?” The Prime Minister also said that this was the beginning of a new era. “I bow down to the sages who encouraged Yoga through centuries,” he said. “Everything is moving forward. We don’t want a situation where humans are lagging behind.”
He also said that yoga was much more than just physical exercise. “Just making a body flexible, turning body into shapes is not Yoga. Otherwise, everyone in a circus would be a yogi…Mann (heart), buddhi (mind), shareer (body) and aatma (spirit) have to be in sync,” he said.
Diplomats from 152 foreign missions were invited to take part in the event which started at 7 am. Apart from PM Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh was also seen practising yoga with the participants. President Pranab Mukherjee also addressed the people practising yoga and said, “I wish that everyone finds peace and happiness through yoga.”
Even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took part in the practising yoga. He also said that yoga is not something to be politicised. “Yoga is very essential, but it isn’t something to do politics over,” he said. Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, who has been involved in a political row with Kejriwal, was also seen doing yoga along with the others.
A sea of yoga mats has covered Rajpath, the venue of Republic Day celebrations, where more than 35,000 participants are set to perform yoga in the presence of PM Modi.
Union ministers, bureaucrats, soldiers and diplomats are also participating in the event, which will be monitored by the Guinness World Records as the government aims at a record for “largest yoga demonstration or class at a single venue”.
2,000 huge digital ‘cinema screens’ are streaming the event at Rajpath, where security arrangements rival Republic Day celebrations. Over 8,000 security personnel are guarding the avenue; traffic restrictions have been in place since June 14.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was in New York to participate in the Yoga Day celebrations at the United Nations. Indian Missions abroad were also organising special programmes for the day. In his welcome address, Minister of AYUSH, Shripad Naik said that the world is embracing Yoga in a big way.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has expressed his excitement at the first International Day of Yoga during his meeting with External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, saying the day has garnered “unprecedented” enthusiasm from people around the world.
Ban called on Swaraj in the evening here on Saturday at the Manhattan hotel where the Indian leader is staying. He warmly greeted her with a “Namaste, kya haal chaal hain” as he shook her hands. Ban, accompanied by senior UN officials, congratulated Swaraj on the commemoration of the first International Day of Yoga.
“I am also very much excited,” he said. “(There is) a lot of enthusiasm. We have been observing many international days on something but this one (yoga day) is unprecedented, most exciting,” he said. Ban said he had been told that nearly two billion people would have participated in the yoga day across the world by the end of June 21
CRPF personnel in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir took part in a yoga session on International Yoga Day. Security personnel on the INS Virat also celebrated Yoga Day.
People in Mumbai took part in a yoga session at Marine Drive along with BJP leaders Piyush Goyal and Shaina NC. “The power that yoga has towards strengthening body and mind is incomparable,” said Piyush Goyal.
The day will be observed in over 251 cities in 191 countries across the world; in Britain, mats will be rolled out along the banks of the River Thames. State-run Air India will promote the event mid-air; the staff of budget carrier SpiceJet will even conduct mid-air yoga sessions on some of its Boeing flights.
The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of making “brazen and shameless attempts at usurping” the ancient
Indian heritage of yoga and turning it into a “propaganda and public relation exercise.”
As the massive yoga session led by PM Modi got over, Modi interacted with the children present at Rajpath. In a record-breaking attempt, an estimated 37,000 people took part in a yoga session at Rajpath. The Guinness record is currently held by Vivekananda Kendra which organised a yoga event in which 29,973 people participated in Gwalior on 19 November, 2005.