Around 2 billion people are expected to roll out their yoga mats on International Day of Yoga this Sunday, celebrating the ancient Indian discipline at places as admired as the art itself -- the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower and Times Square.
Spiritual guru Shri Shri Ravi Shankar will launch the official event in New York with an asana at the UN’s new compound, to be beamed live at the iconic Times Square where 30,000 people are expected to strike a collective pose.
UN secretary-general Ban-Ki-moon, president of the UN general assembly, Uganda’s Sam Kutesa, and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to attend both events.
Asoke Kumar Mukerji, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said 256 cities in 192 counties, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia will be celebrating the first annual day of yoga.
It is estimated that “2 billion people will have participated by the end of June 21” across the world with the only exception of conflict-hit Yemen, he said.
In Washington DC, hundreds will perform yoga at the outdoor Sylvan theatre close to the White House.
Up north in Canada, home to the world’s largest yoga-wear retailer Lululemon Athletica, the official focus is on capital Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. But don’t be surprised if enthusiasts turn up in Lululemon yoga pants in the woody, icy north.
“The receptivity has been very high,” high commissioner Vishnu Prakash said.
Not surprising for a country where yoga has many versions, such as the one based on the Jewish spiritual system of Kaballah and a Toronto studio where asanas are performed exclusively to Canadian pop star Justin Beiber’s numbers.
The yoga day showpiece in continental Europe will be at the foot of the Eiffel Tower set to the tune of a live electric harp rendition and 100 instructors doing asanas on an hour-long boat cruise down the Seine, travelling along some of the most beautiful Parisian monuments.
Other cities in France, which has nearly 3 million yoga followers, will hold sessions at their hot spots. Marseille is expecting 2,500 people on a beach, Plage du Prado. In neighbouring Monaco, the Monte Carlo casino rooftop will host an event.
“Given the French admiration for India’s culture, we have been getting extremely enthusiastic response for yoga day,” said ambassador Mohan Kumar.
Across the English Channel, London’s India House will lead the celebrations in Britain where the exercise routine was imported along with Indian spices and silk hundreds of years ago.
Most of the events are concentrated in London — one even at the House of Lords — but yoga day will be celebrated as enthusiastically in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Leicester, Coventry, Manchester and Birmingham as well.
Minister of state for defence production Rao Inderjit Singh is likely to attend the official function in London, while ecologist-philosopher Satish Kumar will give a lecture.
Hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs yoga in a public event at India Gate in Delhi, the Chinese will greet his international drive to increase participation in the age-old exercise and meditation routine that has facets similar to martial arts practiced in China. All because China is two-and-a-half hours ahead of Indian Standard Time!
Indian embassy officials expect more than 20,000 people to attend a series of events in cities across China, where about 20 million people practice the art in some form.
The buildup to Sunday’s show began much earlier with Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang, who dubbed for Aamir Khan in the hugely-successful Chinese version of PK, releasing a promotional video and a mass demonstration organised at the picturesque city of Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, on Wednesday.