Prime Minister Narendra Modi did yoga for 35 minutes on Rajpath on Sunday morning, leading from the front as India set two new Guinness World Records — for the most individuals, and individuals from the largest number of nationalities — in performing the exercises at a single venue.
AYUSH Ministry awarded 2 Guinness World Record titles for ‘Largest Yoga lesson’ & ‘Most nationalities in Yoga lesson’ pic.twitter.com/7faHPmCMPl
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 21, 2015
As many as 35,985 participants belonging to 84 nationalities did asanas at the official observation of International Day of Yoga, Minister for AYUSH Shripad Naik said. In the evening, the Ministry was awarded two world records by Guinness World Records (GWR) officials at a ceremony at The Ashok.
Marco Frigatti, head of the global records management team at the GWR, described the feat as “an astounding achievement, a very rare one”. The earlier record for the largest number of participants at a yoga session was set in 2005, when 29,973 students from 362 schools performed yogic kriyas in Gwalior. At least 50 nationalities needed to have joined in at Rajpath on Sunday to qualify for the second record.
In the morning, Frigatti had said, “I have been doing this (watching attempts to set Guinness records) for the last 12 years, and I have never seen such an electrifying atmosphere. We are keeping a watch on the people coming in, but by the looks of it, a world record will be created here.”
Frigatti’s team, along with personnel from official auditor Ernst & Young closely watched the 150-odd exits at the venue for the turnout. Participants came with barcoded entry passes to take their designated numbered mats. The Prime Minister’s mat was the only one without a number or the logo of International Day of Yoga.
Officials said Modi’s decision to join in the yoga, which delighted the 37,000-strong crowd, took them by surprise. The only indication that he might actually do more than deliver an address and sit on stage with four yoga gurus had come, they said, in the PM’s attire: a loose linen shirt and trousers.
Describing yoga as a journey from “I to we, self to universe”, Modi said that it did not matter to him where yoga originated and to which country it had spread — only that on Sunday, “Rajpath had become Yogpath”.
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“It (yoga) has been enriched by the contributions of people from across the world, and I bow to all of them. It is important to understand that yoga is not just physical exercise, the physical part is just the prelude to the actual thing — like musicians test instruments before the actual musical programme,” he said.
Modi took a break from his exercises to walk among schoolchildren, correcting their postures — and he went back among them at the end of the performance.
Several top bureaucrats, including secretaries to union ministries and officials from the PMO were present. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung were among those who performed yoga on Rajpath as four yoga teachers — Ramdev, H R Nagendra, Swami Atmapriyananda and Hamsaji Jaidev — looked on.
The performance started with Om and the recitation of a sanskrit shloka. There was a token Muslim presence, including Mufti Shamoon Qasmi of the All India Imams Organisation, who had also done yoga with Ramdev last week. “I am a regular practitioner of yoga, but I said Ameen instead of Om. The experience of doing it in such close proximity with the Prime Minister was priceless,” Qasmi said.
Gates were to open at 4 am, but people from all over the city started arriving at Rajpath much before that. Buses were lined up along almost all roads around Rajpath. A very heavy police presence ensured that things were orderly. Participants got to keep the mats they performed on as souvenirs, but for most of those who came, the highlight was watching the PM lead the exercises.
“Three cheers for Narendra Modi. We were earlier in the United States and are very proud to have been part of this,” Dr Pushpa Gupta, who had come from Rajinder Nagar, said.
Apart from the main event at Rajpath, High Commissions and Embassies of India in 192 countries across the world organised events to commemorate International Day of Yoga. The only country where there was no IDY event was Yemen, where the war has forced the Indian mission to move to Djibouti.
Addressing the first International Day of Yoga celebrations at the UN, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “The entire world is one family, and we can unite it with yoga.
“At a time when ethnic conflicts and extremist violence are threatening to destabilise societies, yoga can serve as the perfect antidote to stem such negative tendencies and move us on the path of harmony and peace,” she said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, dressed in a tracksuit provided by the Indian mission to the UN, joined hundreds of students and yoga practitioners to perform asanas and mediate under the guidance of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Ban had earlier spoken of the “unprecedented” enthusiasm for the Yoda Day celebrations across the world.
In a brief video message played at the UNHQ, Prime Minister Modi said, “When today’s young generation moves towards violence, moves towards suicides, lives in depression, I think yoga is the most easy way to save them.
“India’s priceless legacy is today world’s legacy… For the welfare of mankind, we must connect with our legacy of yoga because this legacy is man’s legacy. This is world’s legacy, your legacy, and this is your responsibility to hand over the legacy to the coming generation.”
At New York’s iconic Times Square, some 30,000 enthusiasts in colourful dresses performed yoga. The event was observed by thousands in over a dozen cities in China as well.
(With PTI inputs)