World celebrates International Yoga Day; Rajpath event creates Guinness World record

The Rajpath event made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest yoga demonstration at a single venue with 35,985 people participating.

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World celebrates International Yoga Day; Rajpath event creates Guinness World record
Participants during a mass yoga session on the International Day of Yoga 2015 at GMDC ground in Ahmedabad on Sunday.


Amid chants of 'Om' and recitation of 'Mantras' for universal peace, millions across the globe on Sunday joined in spectacular celebrations to mark the inaugural International Day of Yoga, in a tribute to the ancient Indian spiritual and exercise discipline known to balance mind, body and spirit.

From glaciers of Siachen to the troubled waters of the South China Sea, from Sydney's popular Bondi beach to the banks of the Thames in London, from obscure parks to the barracks of Tihar Jail, people stretched and bent and sat in quiet meditation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the occasion as the "dawn of a new era of peace".

Army personnel at a Yoga Session on International Yoga Day at Siachen Glacier on Sunday.  PTI

The largest of spectacles unfolded early morning on the imposing Rajpath, where Modi, whose call led to declaration of June 21 as International Day of Yoga by the UN, sprang a surprise as he performed various asanas and pranayams with over 35,000 people, an eclectic mix of top-ranking commanders of defence forces, frontline politicians and the hoi polloi.

The Rajpath event made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest yoga demonstration at a single venue with 35,985 people participating. It also set a new record for the largest number of people of various nationalities--84, performing yoga at one place.

Narendra Modi practising alom-vilom on during the Rajpath event on Sunday  PTI

An avid yoga practitioner for many years, 64-year-old Modi, who was not scheduled to perform the 'asanas' climbed down the podium after his address to the gathering and joined others seated or sprawling on mats along the boulevard, one of Delhi's iconic landmarks.

The entire two-km stretch from Rafi Marg crossing near Vijay Chowk to India Gate was lined with blue and red mats over green carpets with people of all ages twisting, bending and stretching on the Rajpath, the venue of the famous Republic Day parade, performing various yoga exercises.

Attired in a loose white shirt and trousers and a tricolour scarf wrapped around his neck, Modi did most of the 21 'asanas' along with thousands of participants as part of the common yoga protocol, following simultaneous instructions in Hindi and English also beamed live on giant digital screens.

Kashmiri school students perform Yoga on the occasion of the first International Day of Yoga in Anantnag. PTI

Modi expressed his gratitude to the United Nations and 193 countries for their "unprecedented support" in passing an India-sponsored resolution to declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga and said a "new era" has begun to train the human mind to scale new heights of peace and harmony. Modi also cautioned against commodifying yoga. 

US Ambassador to India Richard Verma was among scores of diplomats who attended the mega event. Several top bureaucrats, including secretaries to union ministries and officials from the PMO were also present. So were Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung. Locked in a bitter turf war, they were, however, seated in separate enclosures.

Later, addressing a two-day international conference on yoga for holistic health, Modi said, "If we make yoga a commodity, then maximum damage to it will be done by us. Yoga is not a commodity, yoga is not a brand which has to be sold." Drawing attention to boards of 'pure ghee' shops in the market, Modi said 50 years back these were never seen but on Sunday they exist because money is there.

A woman shelters herself from the rain before practicing yoga in Times Square in New York     Reuters

"This should never happen in relation to yoga. Never should a time come when we hear that only my yoga is true and all the rest are uselessly holding their nose and spending dollars. This is not a trade or organisation but a state of mind (vyapaar ya vyavastha nahin avastha hai)." Under attack from Congress for "usurping" the traditional discipline, Modi said yoga is "not the brainchild of a government" or the United Nations but a gift from many generations and many traditions from across the world.

The Prime Minister cautioned against oneupmanship on the ancient practice, saying it belongs to all countries and all communities. Though several Muslim organisations had complained about chanting of Hindu Mantra 'Om' and said 'Surya Namaskar' (Sun Salutation), a group of asanas, were against the tenets of Islam, quite a few from the community were present at the Rajpath event. The government had scrapped Surya Namaskar from the protocol and said Muslims could chant 'Allah' instead of 'Om' during the exercise.

Modi and his team has been insisting on the importance of "soft power" India could wield through yoga. Yoga is a US $27 billion industry in the US where over 20 million people practise it. As Indian soldiers dressed in special weather clothing practised yoga at the frozen heights of Siachen, the highest battlefield in the world at 18,800 ft above the sea level, tens of thousands took out their mats on foreign shores and performed complex yogic postures.

People perform yoga to mark the first observance of the International Day of Yoga.  PTI

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appreciated yoga's universal appeal, saying,"For thousands of years, yoga has provided its followers with a guide to bringing their minds, bodies and spirits into balance."

Melbourne saw over 500 people gather at the Springers Leisure Centre to kick off the day with 'Surya Namaskar' and bending and twisting their bodies in complex postures. Yoga events were also held on Sydney's popular Bondi beach and in the Australian capital Canberra. In the UK, the day began with the main event on the banks of Thames as hundreds gathered across cities to celebrate the ancient Indian exercise.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in his message: "The UK is pleased to support International Yoga Day. We were one of 177 countries to vote in favour of Prime Minister Modi's proposal and we are pleased to see the enthusiasm with which it is being embraced, both in UK and around the world." However, in Pakistan the celebration was muted as it remained confined to the premises of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, with the staff of the mission along with other foreign diplomats in the country performing 'asanas'.

In China, events were organised at the prestigious Peking University and Geely University where people from different walks of life took part in the exercises. An event was held in Paris, where people dressed in white sat on mats under the Eiffel Tower and practised yoga.

Reports of celebrations came in from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Malayasia and the Philippines June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the UN in December last year after Modi's call in his first address to the General Assembly in September 2014. In an unprecedented move, 177 of the 193 member states of the UN had co-sponsored the India-backed resolution. 

Also Read: International Yoga Day: Rajpath event creates new Guinness World record

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