The government has directed officials to attend a public event to be held at Rajpath next month to mark Yoga Day, during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will perform yoga as part of his drive to popularise the ancient discipline around the world.
Modi will practice physical poses and breathing control at the 35-minute event on the country's main ceremonial avenue on June 21, government and Bharatiya Janata Party officials said.
The UN declared June 21 the first International Day of Yoga after adopting a measure proposed by the NDA government. Modi used his first speech at the UN General Assembly last September to call for such a day to be recognised.
The government is trying to ensure a decent turnout for the Yoga Day celebrations, to be led by Modi. The health ministry has issued a circular asking all officers of the rank of under-secretary and above to attend the function starting at 7am on that day, The Indian Express reported.
The Ayush ministry, which promotes Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani , Siddha and homoeopathy, said it had asked all ministries to issue similar circulars, the report said.
“All officers of the rank of under-secretary and above are requested to participate in the event on the specified date and time,” said the health ministry circular signed by under secretary Manoj Kumar that was issued on May 26.
The circular also gave the URL at which the “common protocol of yoga asanas to be performed during mass yoga demonstration” on Yoga Day is available.
“We have written to all ministries asking them to issue a circular for their staff. The idea is that all within the government should benefit, especially those interested in yoga,” a source in the Ayush ministry told The Indian Express.
“It is not just about attendance but also about performing the asanas and meditation. They should come after practising and after watching our DVD, reading the booklet. Rank should not be an issue.”
The circular has left health ministry officials flummoxed as many of them are not regular yoga practitioners. It would mean “reporting for work” very early on a Sunday morning to practise postures that require considerable degrees of physical fitness.
Among the asanas featured on the government’s National Health Profile website under the Yoga Day head are Surya Namaskar, Chakrasana, Natrajasana, Vatayanasana, Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajarasana, Halasana, Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana and Shalabhasana. It was not immediately clear which of these will be performed by Modi.
Police are drawing up security plans to manage the crowd at the event.
The government is targeting a turnout of 45,000 for the event being organised by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga under the Ayush ministry.
While speaking at the UN General Assembly last year, Modi had said that yoga lets people "discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature".
Modi, an enthusiastic practitioner of yoga, performs yoga exercises every day and credits them with giving him energy so he only needs a few hours sleep each night.
In November, Modi appointed the first Ayush minister to promote yoga and traditional medicines as he embarked on a mission to increase awareness about home-grown health treatments. He also introduced a plan to allow government officials to practice yoga at work.
Senior leaders, including home minister Rajnath Singh, are expected to join Modi in practicing yoga, a BJP official said.
Yoga is one of India most successful cultural exports. About 20 million people are estimated to regularly perform the exercises in the US. They spend an annual $10 billion on classes and related products, a 2012 study by yogajournal.com found.
Former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi sparked an uproar in February when he said yoga could help reduce the number of rapes.