Calling yoga a “unifying force and passport for wellness,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with 50,000 volunteers kick-started India’s fourth International Yoga Day celebrations in Dehradun on Thursday. Adding that yoga has become the biggest mass movement “in the quest for good health and wellbeing,” the prime minister said India should be honoured to be the “guardians of the great practice.”
Greeting the country on the occasion, PM Modi, at Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI), said, “Dehradun to Dublin, Shanghai to Chicago, Jakarta to Johannesburg, Himalayan highlands or sunburnt deserts, yoga is enriching millions of lives all over the world. While many powers in the world divide us, yoga unites us. It gives peace to an individual. Instead of further animosity, Yoga assimilates.”
Stressing on India’s role in promoting the practice, he added, “The gems of India’s unique heritage such as yoga will be respected by the world at large only when we ourselves respect our culture and traditions, and take part in our legacy and heritage.” Asking people to embrace yoga for a healthy and peaceful life, Modi said yoga presents a ray of hope for future of the world. “Yoga is beautiful because it is ancient yet modern, and it is constantly evolving,” he added.
The prime minister described Uttarakhand as a sacred land and said it had been the centre of yoga for ages. “We are blessed to have gathered on this occasion on a land which has been the centre of yoga and Ayurveda for ages and attracted the likes of Adi Guru Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda. It exudes extraordinary energy,” he said.
The prime minister then performed asanas with the volunteers. The participants at Dehradun event include Baba Ramdev’s Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar-based Shanti Kunj, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, participants from the “spiritual organisation” Brahma Kumaris, and yoga practitioners from Swami Chidanand Saraswati’s Rishikesh-based Parmarth Niketan.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who participated in a yoga event in Lucknow, emphasised on Modi’s role in popularising yoga around the world. “Today the entire world is celebrating Yoga day. Yoga’s popularity and acceptability is spreading around the world cutting across the continents and religious lines. When India moved the resolution for International Yoga Day in the United Nations, it was supported by many Muslim member countries as well. Yoga is an example of our Prime Minister’s cultural diplomacy,” he added.
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu joined Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in an event in Mumbai. “The practice of Yoga is important for positive thoughts. If it is included in the school curriculum it is possible to create a healthy nation. Yoga also helps in relief from stress due to the changing lifestyles,” Naidu said.
President Ram Nath Kovind, who is on a three-day visit to Surinamese will perform yoga asanas along with his counterpart Desire Delano Bouterse in Paramaribo. Extending his greetings on the occasion, the president said, “On International Yoga Day greetings to all those practising yoga across the globe. Yoga is an ancient Indian tradition, but it doesn’t belong to India alone. It is part of humanity’s intangible heritage. I invite you to explore and celebrate yoga wherever you are.”
In Bihar, however, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar skipped the International Yoga Day event yet again. Kumar’s absence from the event in Patna set tongues wagging. The event was inaugurated by Governor Satya Pal Malik and attended by top BJP leaders including union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
Opposition RJD latched on to Kumar’s absence to take a dig at him. In a statement, RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said it was “part of the old strategy of Nitish to appear different from his allies and then make a volte face.” Tiwary is a former associate of the chief minister.
(With PTI inputs)