New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today led thousands of people to observe the International Yoga Day at Rajpath as India broke two Guinness records for largest yoga assembly of 35,985 at a single venue and participation from 84 nationalities.
Modi said yoga was not a commodity for sale, but a way of life that cut across religions. His remarks came a day after the Congress described the PM’s yoga enthusiasm as a “public relations exercise”.
“India has a huge responsibility to popularise yoga in the language the world understands. However, we must remember that yoga is not a commodity or a brand that can be sold. Yoga is a state of mind, a medium that brings human life in harmony with nature. It cuts across castes, religions,” the PM said. The Congress had accused Modi of exploiting yoga for self-promotion and turning it into a divisive agenda.
The PM Modi led a 35,985-strong gathering at Rajpath by joining them in a 35-minute session that saw participants perform 21 “asanas”. For the first time, the PM was seen refusing the favour of selfies to admirers as he focused on balancing his body and mind.
The event evinced keen participation not only nationally, but even abroad. Enthusiasts were seen gathering for yoga sessions in Beijing (China), Times Square (New York), Eiffel Tower (Paris), Sydney, Seoul and several other countries. But in Pakistan, the event remained confined to the Indian High Commission.
This group activity at Rajpath was India’s claim for entry to the Guinness Book. Guinness experts were present at the venue today to validate the claim as people of all hues — from Delhi LG Najeeb Jung, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former police officer Kiran Bedi to bureaucrats and schoolchildren participated in yoga.
The Congress was absent at the event as the party’s youth wing held a mock yoga session titled “Lalitasan Yog Shivir” at Jantar Mantar. It was Congress’ reminder to PM that his “Lalit Modi” burden wasn’t yet over.
The PM personally hailed the day as “the beginning of a new era in world peace” as India stretched its soft power. Out of 193 nations, 192 (with the exception of Syria) marked the day, including 47 Muslim countries.
“No one would have imagined that Rajpath could transform into ‘Yog path’ and the world could come together to mark this Day. It’s the beginning of a new era of global peace,” PM said moments before leading the Rajpath celebrations which commenced with chants of “Om”.
Around 37,500 mats dotted the ceremonial road in revelry that matched the Republic Day fervour. Giant screens beamed the spectacle far and wide.
The participation was comprehensive with President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurating a yoga camp at Rashtrapati Bhawan and BJP top brass visiting states to mark the occasion.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in Lucknow, BJP chief Amit Shah in Patna and Smriti Irani in Shimla. Embroiled in the Lalit Modi row, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was in New York to lead the celebrations at New York while Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was captured striking a yogic pose in Jaipur. Siachen to deep seas, the Armed Forces also marked their presence on Yoga Day.
The PM, meanwhile, used the occasion to counter Congress’ charge of having appropriated yoga. “Yoga is our collective gift to humanity. It may have originated in India, but it draws its energies from the millions who practice it globally. International Yoga Day is not the brainchild of a government or the UN. It is a reflection of the largest knowledge-based people’s movement the world has ever seen,” he said, addressing the International Conference on Yoga later in the day.
The PM’s speech, that invoked Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda, drew a standing applause moments after he had released commemorative coins and a postal stamp to mark the first World Yoga Day, declared as such by the UN last year on a resolution moved by India, 177 nations co-sponsored the resolution, including China, and no one opposed it.
(Courtesy: The Tribune)