New Delhi, India (BBN)-As the first rays of a nascent Sunday sun pierced the darkness, all roads led to Delhi’s Rajpath where the stage was set for the first-ever International Yoga Day celebrations.
Several big names of Indian politics thronged the venue and then sat on yoga mats to perform asanas at an event that was closely followed by officials of the Guinness World Records. For, it was to be decided whether the event — with 37,000-odd participants — made a new world record, reports the Hindustan Times.
There was Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung. And then there was Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who said: “Yoga is very essential, but it isn’t something to do politics with.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Rajpath around 6:40am. “Did anybody ever think that this Rajpath will become a yogpath?” he asked the participants.
“This is a programme for ‘manav kalyan (welfare of humans)’, a tension-free world and a programme to spread the message of sadbhavana (goodwill),” he said, adding ‘yoga is more than physical fitness’.
“I thank the UN and the nations of the world who sponsored the resolution to mark this day (June 21) as International Day of Yoga,” he said.
The Yoga Day initiative will see events in India as well as in 192 other countries. The UN declared June 21 as the Yoga Day after PM Modi’s strong pitch for it at the UN General Assembly last September.
At Rajpath, after a short speech the PM left the dais and joined people. He took off his spectacles and mingled with the crowd, barefooted.
Before performing asanas with ease, he was spotted instructing young people about the correct postures. The event at Rajpath ended around 7:40am, and Modi left the venue.
Not only Rajpath, the festival of yoga was observed elsewhere in India as well.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, embroiled in a controversy for allegedly helping controversial ex-IPL chief Lalit Modi, performed yoga asanas in Jaipur.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani and Union minister Smriti Irani participated at yoga camps held in Himachal Pradesh.
In Patna, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah said: “I am sure that yoga, which brings mind, body and soul in sync, will also unite the entire world.
And there was support from across the world. Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country was delighted to be part of the Yoga Day celebrations.
“For thousands of years, yoga has provided its followers with a guide to bringing their mind, body and spirit into balance. The International Day of Yoga is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the benefits of yoga,” said a message from Abbott.
In New York, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said he was excited at the first Yoga Yoga, at his meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday evening.
“Yoga is a state of mind. It brings harmony,” spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar told NDTV.
Commenting on the opposition to the event, he said, “Criticism is part of life. Please keep yoga above politics. It is one thing that can bring peace. I honour critics, but keep yoga in its pristine state.”
PM Modi’s push for an International Yoga Day had triggered its share of controversy after several Muslim groups opposed the idea — ‘surya namaskar’ had to be dropped from the plans altogether — and a section of Christian religious leaders protested over the event being held on a Sunday.