How India bent it right with PM Modi and his ministers on Yoga Day
Millions across India woke up early on Sunday to join the first International Yoga Day celebrations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the beginning of a new era of peace and goodwill as he led thousands in a mega event at Delhi's Rajpath.
Enthusiasm was visible in states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, where people performed asanas as part of the government’s push to popularise the ancient discipline.
Showers in some parts of the country could not cast a pall on the celebrations as India sought to break the world record for the biggest yoga gathering with the event at Rajpath.
Here are the highlights of the Yoga Day celebrations from across the country. Read on to find out how India bent it on a lazy Sunday.
PM Modi performs yoga at Rajpath (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT Photo)
Modi kicked off the proceedings at the mega event at Rajpath, where he said: "Yoga is more than only physical fitness...We are not only celebrating a day but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace.”
Many big names of politics, top bureaucrats, diplomats, students and security personnel sat on mats to perform asanas at the event that was closely followed by officials of the Guinness World Records.
In the crowd were Delhi's lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who studiously avoided each other.
NCC Cadets perform yoga in Mumbai. (Vijayanand Gupta/ HT Photo)
Despite rain in some parts of the financial hub, Mumbaiites responded enthusiastically to the celebrations. Several yoga institutes and housing societies organised their own events.
Elderly people, children, adults and celebrities participated in different programmes.
The Mumbai Dabbawala Education Centre organised Yoga Day celebrations for more than 100 dabbawalas and their families at Tagore Nagar in Vikhroli (East). "A documentary was shown to them, followed by yoga for about half an hour," trust founder Pawan Aggarwal said.
Jiten Shah, a resident of Ekta Cooperative Housing Society in Malad (East), said, "Today it felt like Republic Day as we tuned in to watch the mega event (in Delhi on TV). Inspired, even we got out mats and performed some asanas at home with family."
All controversies surrounding the Yoga Day were put to rest as Hindus chanted “Om” while Muslims alongside them said “Allah” at the KD Singh Babu Stadium, where Union home minister Rajnath Singh led a 35-minute yoga drill.
Nearly 12,000 people, including personnel from central police forces and border security forces, performed asanas at the event. The line of conflict blurred quickly as people from both religions looked relaxed and got their moves right.
For Jumma Khan, who was fasting for the holy month of Ramzan, it was a different Sunday morning. Usually after Sehri, he goes to sleep. "I decided not to sleep today. Instead of offering morning namaz, I came straight to KD Singh Babu Stadium."
Rajnath Singh, in his address, summed up the atmosphere as he said: "Yoga connects people with people, religion with religion and culture with culture. Yoga purifies one’s heart and it has no boundaries."
In Meerut, defence minister Manohar Parrikar performed yoga with army personnel and their family members at RVC Polo ground. In his brief address, Parrikar talked about how yoga can be beneficial for health.
Thousands of youth, including hijab-wearing girls, participated in army-organised events in the Kashmir Valley.
Over 4,700 NCC members performed yoga asanas at eight venues of Srinagar, Baramulla, Uri, Bandipura Tangdhar, Anantnag, Kargil and Leh of Kashmir region.
“These NCC cadets had undergone structured training by trained yoga instructors,” said a Srinagar-based army spokesperson.
Brig SS Ratnaparkhi, NCC group commander in Srinagar, said, “The event was a phenomenal success and the credit goes to the cadets for their willing participation."
However, students in Kashmir University (KU) opposed any move to organise yoga on the campus. Most government schools and colleges gave a miss to yoga in the Muslim-majority Valley.
“Yoga is not a simple exercise but a religious exercise-cum-prayer of a particular community,” alleged Jamaat spokesperson and advocate Zahid Ali.
A clear Sunday morning set the tone for the Yoga Day in the Madhya Pradesh capital. While for many it was a usual weekend, others, including central and state government employees, came out of their homes to practise yoga.
Students from schools and colleges, NCC cadets and activists from different organisations gathered at Lal Parade ground, the main venue, much before a 35-minute yoga session began at 7am.
Large LED screens were installed at the ground to beam instructions and there was a live telecast of the Rajpath event.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan delivered a speech on the importance of yoga and later performed asanas alongside others.
Talking to HT, public relationa commissioner Anupam Rajan said, "A yoga practice was held all across state. People took part in it enthusiastically. Weather was perfect. There was no untoward incident reported from any part of the state."
In Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram, health minister VS Sivakumar inaugurated a session that attracted 3,000 students and government employees. Similar functions were held in other parts of the state.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu was among the hundreds of enthusiastic people who participated in a yoga session in Kochi. Congress legislator Hibi Eden attended the 40-minute yoga session at an indoor stadium.
In north Kerala's Malabar, the CPI-M observed the day after making certain modifications to the exercise module to make the event more “secular”.
The Muslim League, the second biggest partner in the ruling UDF, and the Catholic Church had earlier expressed reservations over Yoga Day. However, believers of the Malankara Marthoma church participated in the celebrations after a Holy Communion.
National Cadet Corps organised a special programme on International Day of Yoga at The Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata. (HT Photo)
Thousands participated in Yoga Day celebrations in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal. Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Ravi Shankar Prasad flagged off the proceedings marking the day in this non-BJP ruled state.
Prasad, the communications and IT minister, launched celebrations at the Sports Authority of India complex in Kolkata's suburban Salt Lake in sync with the Rajpath event. Vardhan, the science and technology minister, launched an event in Kharagpur.
Union minister of state for urban development Babul Supriyo performed asanas in Asansol with residents and BJP members.
Yoga mats were rolled out across educational establishments with the young and the old, suitably attired in tracksuits, joining in.
Members of faculty and students at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur performed yoga at the institute's gymkhana.
In north Bengal's Siliguri, Coochbehar and Hooghly areas, men and women eagerly joined in the mass celebration of yoga.
Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty performs yoga in Bengaluru. (AFP Photo)
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty participated in a state-level event in the capital and more than 10,000 people performed asanas.
"Yoga is for peace, yoga is for health and yoga is for harmony," Siddaramaiah told the enthusiasts at Kanteerava stadium.
Children from many schools, nurses from hospitals and policemen from the Karnataka State Reserve Police Force attended the event.
The major function of the day was inaugurated by Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu at YMCA grounds, which saw the participation of Jaggi Vasudev, a spiritualist, yoga exponent and preacher popularly known as 'Sadhguru'.
Inaugurating the event, Naidu said Yoga had nothing to do with religion and expressed happiness that 47 Muslim countries had endorsed the UN proposal for International Yoga Day.
“This is not a government programme, but one that is motivated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants yoga to be a national movement...,” Naidu said, adding “yoga, brings in people a discipline of mind and body.”
Jaggi Vasudev said yoga predated all religions and it was more of a science and technology that dealt with the human mind, body and soul.
“By teaching people yoga, we are only empowering them to achieve their own well-being,” he said.
In Tamil Nadu, a state where the practice of yoga is widely prevalent, it was no surprise that all the venues celebrating the International Yoga Day were overflowing with enthusiastic participants.
Some 5000 participants, from different schools and colleges, congregated at a local college to participate in the celebrations held by The Art of Living Foundation, which it called Yogathan.
In Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district, represented by Union minister of state for transport, highways and shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan, several yoga events were organised to mark the occasion.
Hyderabad and Vijayawada
The day was celebrated with enthusiasm across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, with Union health minister JP Nadda leading the celebrations in Hyderabad.
Thousands of people participated in the programmes in the two Telugu-speaking states.
Nadda, along with Union Minister for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya, and BJP leaders performed yoga at Sanjeevaiah Park.
Dattatreya also participated in a programme organised by Art of Living at Gachibowli Stadium. A large number of software professionals from various IT companies took part.
ESL Narasimhan, governor for both Telangana and Andhra, performed yoga at Raj Bhavan. His wife Vimla Narasimhan, officials and employees of Raj Bhavan also participated.
In Telangana, ruled by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the main official event was inaugurated by state health minister C Lakshma Reddy at Kota Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad.
In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu led the celebrations by performing yoga at an event in Vijayawada.
Naidu's cabinet colleagues, officials and students also participated in the programme held under the guidance of experts.
The chief minister announced a special fund of Rs 25 crore and a separate wing in the state health department to promote yoga.
Ministers and officials took part in the programmes held in Tirupati, Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and other places of Andhra Pradesh.
BJP president Amit Shah attended a yoga session in Patna where he lauded PM Modi for getting a resolution passed by the United Nations to accord recognisation to yoga.
Describing June 21 as a big day, the BJP chief said, "The proposal of Narendra Modi to celebrate International Day of Yoga got endorsement from over 175 nations and I hope it would emerge as a big global movement."
For the whole galaxy of state BJP leaders, it was a platform to exhibit their togetherness ahead of the crucial state elections slated for September-October.
Former Union minister CP Thakur said there was no need to see yoga from any religious or political prism.
"I am a doctor and know the importance of staying healthy. Yoga is the best way of achieving good health. It has benefits and so it cannot be opposed in any way," he said.
(With inputs from HT Correspondents and agencies)