It started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the UN General Assembly last September when he expressed a “wish” that June 21 should be adopted as the International Day for Yoga. Nine months later, the entire government in India — and all Indian embassies/high commissions abroad — are preparing for a Yoga spectacle. And a couple of Guinness world records.
The main event will happen on a 1,400 m stretch of Rajpath — it can accommodate a little over 37,500 yoga mats so the initial target of 45,000 does not look feasible — while there will be celebrations in 192 countries. The government will not mind the slight revision in target, of course. It is still well ahead of the current world record for the largest yoga class , which is 29,973 held by the Vivekananda Kendra.
For the second record of yoga performance by the people of most nationalities, there needs to be people from at least 50 nationalities performing yoga at Rajpath on June 21. Officials in the ministry of AYUSH and in the ministry of youth affairs are confident that will be met.
Part of the Rajpath turnout will also be approximately 5,000 participants each from guru Ramdev’s organisations, Art of Living, paramilitary forces, Delhi schools and NCC. There will be 1,000 from Isha Foundation and 2,000 from Gayatri Parivar apart from bureaucrats, ministers and guests from abroad.
How much this ambitious Guinness effort will cost the public exchequer, though, is another question. The AYUSH Ministry puts the expenditure at Rs 30 crore. The Ministry of External Affairs will not give a figure; minister Sushma Swaraj has said the expenses are being borne out of the publicity budget of embassies and will go towards “increasing India’s soft power”, so there is no need to talk about it in isolation.
The real expenses, however, are of publicity, with the intensive campaign launched by Prasar Bharti and the information and broadcasting ministry being unofficially pegged at Rs 100-odd crore. AYUSH is issuing ads and has started sending bulk messages urging people to take up yoga.
There will also be non-government events. According to Ishwar V Vasavaraddi, director of the Morarji Desai Yoga Institute that is the nerve centre of the preparations, former and present pupils alone are organising several hundred small yoga camps in their respective localities. Sports complexes of the Delhi Development Authority have put up banners for events and there is at least one in the works even in the air — SpiceJet in association with Isha Foundation will organise a ten-minute yoga session on 14 of its flights on June 21.