From the Himalayan region of Ladakh to the deck of an aircraft carrier, tens of thousands reportedly joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to celebrate the fourth International Day of Yoga, with a few wearing masks to highlight poor air quality.
Modi pushed for the annual event to be held worldwide after winning power in 2014, with the lifestyle industry centered on the ancient physical and spiritual discipline estimated to be worth around $80 billion. Pictures on social media showed participants braving rising mercury levels and unhealthy air quality in some places to spotlight yoga. Countries such as Afghanistan, Japan and Peru held yoga sessions, while Australia and South Africa celebrated on Monday.
THE WEEK reporters from different parts of the country give us an idea of the magnitude of celebrations.
Inspite of the instability that has gripped the state, International Yoga Day was celebrated in earnest in Kashmir. Writes Tariq Bhat from Srinagar: International Yoga Day was celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir today with people from all walks of life taking part in several events. The main event was held at Sher-e-Kashmir Indoor Stadium which was also attended by Governor N.N. Vohra. The event was also attended by CRPF, police, their families and some students. The event continued for one hour. The CRPF also held a separate event at Humhama camp near Srinagar airport .
They performed various asanas in the camp premises. Around 100 BJP leaders and workers assembled in the morning to celebrate the Yoga Day at the residence at senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta at Church Lane in Srinagar. The event was participated by senior BJP leaders like Avinash Rai Khanna, Sat Sharma, Priya Sethi, Rajiv Jastrotia and Altaf Thakur. '' We assembled today at Church Lane and did yoga for one hour from 7 am,'' Thakur said.'' More than a 100 people participated in the event, including some students. He said the participants performed various asanas under the guidance of guru Deepak Gupta.
Writes Rabi Banerjee from Kolkata, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remains PM Modi's prime critic: With the prime minister observing Yoga Day in Dehradun, his party colleagues would not stay away. BJP leaders in West Bengal, led by the party's Kailash Vijayvarghaba, landed in Kolkata maidan across Jawharlal Nehru Road, at the heart of the city, and practised yoga for couple of hours. But then, rains hit the city and the practice had to be called off.
In Kolkata Maidan, known as the lungs of the city, there were BJP leaders, including Dilip Ghosh , hitting the Army ground. Mamata Banerjee government refrained from celebrating Yoga Day and state government extended the summer vacation in school. Yoga Day, however, was celebrated in different central government offices like BSF, CRPF and even in army headquarters of eastern command. In various places of worship, Yoga Day was celebrated. In temples in Nabadwip, including ISKCON, festivities were the norm.
Writes Prathima Nandakumar from Bengaluru, where Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy recently had a witty rebuttal in store for PM Modi's fitness challenge: Kumaraswamy skipped the 4th International Yoga Day event in Bengaluru and instead chose to hold "Janata Darshan" at his residence, to address the grievances of the common man. Kumaraswamy, in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's fitness challenge recently had tweeted back saying yoga and treadmill were part of his routine, but he would rather focus on the development fitness of his state. The chief minister, who has had two heart surgeries, attended the Yoga Day celebration last year.
Interestingly, Modi's challenge was accepted by the chief minister's father and former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda. On Thursday, Devegowda (86), clad in white, struck impressive yoga postures with ease. The enthusiasm of the octogenarian seemed infectious as politicians cutting across party lines exhibited their yoga prowess at public events. Devegowda who has been training under yoga expert Karthik surprised all by striking complex postures like sarvaangaasana, halaasana and veeraasana.
Yoga is essential for the health of the mind and body, said Kumaraswamy, who greeted the people of Karnataka on the eve of the Yoga Day. The chief minister said yoga was a spiritual discipline that focuses on achieving harmony between the body, mind and soul. "It helps to keep both the mind and body fresh and active in today's competitive and stressful world. It enlightens the spirit while eliminating the tamas or darkness in our soul. Yoga is dear to me. My family has been practicing yoga for decades. My father and my wife too are ardent followers of yoga and practice it daily," said Kumaraswamy, recalling Swami Vivekananda who professed yoga for knowledge, love and bliss.
"I hope everyone will practice yoga every day and not just on Yoga Day," he added. Sharing his secret to good health, JDS patriarch Deve Gowda said, "I started as a contractor at 23, and have been a hard worker. I have a fitness regime. I eat a lot of vegetables and Ragi mudde, and a cup of coffee twice a day. This is the secret of my good health." Mysuru, which entered the Guinness Book of world records for the largest yoga demonstration with 55,506 people, last year, was a little disappointed as the heritage city lost out to Dehradun; Modi chose to celebrate the country's main event in the Uttarakand town.
Writes Nandini Oza from Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Over 750 differently abled people performed silent yoga in Ahmedabad on Thursday, on the occasion of International Yoga Day, even as Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani led the celebrations at city's Sardar Patel Stadium.
According to government spokespersons, over 75 lakh people, from various walks of life, performed yoga at various places in Gujarat on Thursday. At a programme held at Gujarat University Convention Centre, over 750 differently abled people wore headphones and were connected through bluetooth devices as they exhibited silent yoga. Rupani was also present. The government spokesperson said that a team from The Guinness Book of World Records was also present to see the yoga presentation by the differently-abled.
Rupani asked the people to practice yoga on a daily basis instead of making it a one day affair. Governor O. P. Kohli, a large number of IAS and IPS officers and, and members of the civil society were also present at the Stadium along with cabinet ministers. In Surat, participants created India's map while performing yoga. Gujarat being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a large number of people came out to do yoga. Modi's efforts were instrumental in June 21 being celebrated the world over as International Yoga Day.
Inputs from PTI