The previous day's rain did not quite dampen spirits on early morning on Tuesday as Chandigarh played host to India's second edition of celebrating June 21 as International Yoga Day. While Ayush ministry officials say the city was chosen among a list of others such as Bhopal and Ahmedabad, others speculated it might be because elections are due in Punjab early next year.
Punjab and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar were among the chief guests at the function presided over by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The crowd of participants started trickling in to the city's Capital Complex as early as 3am and taking their positions. In the run up to the arrival of the PM, recorded clippings of film and sports personalities extolling the virtues of yoga played in a loop on the large LED screens placed across the venue, which soon filled up with over 30,000 people.
The phrase 'one two three' used for mike testing was replaced by 'Om check'. The sculptures decorating the front of the dais, depicting 24 asanas of yoga protocol, had been created by Anuj Saini, the son of the world famous creator of Chandigarh's rock garden, Nek Chand. A gift version of this was presented to the PM, who chose not to wear the tricolor scarf, as he had done last year at Rajpath on the first edition of Yoga Day. The PM began his address by calling upon yoga as a unifying force among the people of India and other countries. He explained the reason for June 21 as the chosen day because it's the longest day of the year and the earth is said to be the closest to the sun, symbolic for the practice of surya namaskar (sun salutation) in yoga. "The world celebrates world cancer day, world mental health day, world AIDS day. Yoga is linked to our mental and physical health. Sometimes I feel yoga is like a life manual. Many people might not understand the complete beneficial extent of yoga," he said, going on to add the spiritual aspect. "Yoga is not about what I can get, it's about what I can give. It's a way of being free, not being bound. Most religious prayers talk about how you will be free after you die. Yoga isn't a way to get to heaven. It's not religious or about the after life. It's about being healthy in this life itself, through a synchronisation between mind, body and soul. Yoga is for the atheists, agnostics and believers alike. It helps the individual connect to and find himself." He explained how the human body can be anything—active or lazy, tired or energetic—but the mind is never still. "Yoga teaches the mind to be calm and body to be energetic. If this balance is found, the body becomes everything." The PM also said "For a developing country like India, preventive health care should be emphasised. The ancient Indian exercise could provide livelihoods to many, especially the youth, and become a booming business." The PM also announced two awards specially instituted to be given away on the occasion, to individuals—one nationally and one internationally—who work to promote the cause of yoga. He ended his speech with speculation if he would repeat last year's performance of doing yoga with the participants. The focus this year was on the differently-abled population, with a section of them seated in the front. Like last year, the PM again walked ahead of his security and mingled with the crowd as the compere started the 45-minute routine at 7am. The PM performed several supine, sitting and breathing exercises such as makar aasana, kapalbhati etc seated in the middle of the crowd after which several surrounded him to take selfies.