This year, Wednesday, June 21, marked the third International Day of Yoga and millions of people all over the world joined in to celebrate it.
Throughout the week many festivities took place all over the country, India and the world.
On Wednesday, Consul General Riva Ganguly Das made a special appearance at the Summer Solstice International Day of Yoga Event in Times Square where she addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 people who were there to take a break from their busy New York life to join in the celebrations for the International Day of Yoga.
“After the initiative of the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi, the United Nations declared 21st June as the International Day of Yoga,” said Das in her address.
“A lot of you are practitioners of Yoga and must be doing yoga for a long time but I think since the day has been declared as the International Day of Yoga, Yoga has been embraced by the world,” she added.
Das exclaimed how “yoga is the only form of exercise which brings you at peace with yourself. It is a way to bring your mind, body and spirituality in one place.”
She also emphasized that yoga is meant for everyone, does not matter your age or health condition, yoga will always benefit you in some way “and most importantly it helps you control your mind.”
“If you are in harmony with yourself, you can be in harmony with the environment and the world,” she explained.
Ganguly Das recalled an incident from last year when there was so much construction going on in the area with buses and tourists running around and yet she was amazed to see that “the yogis were happily doing yoga, that’s what yoga does to you, it brings about the calmness in you which I think we all need in today’s world.”
She mentioned that she was very happy to see New York joining in the celebrations of the International Day of Yoga as it is the cross roads of the world and she was pleased to see the promotion of yoga in New York.
The International Day of Yoga was started by Nerendra Modi when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2014 with the idea to dedicate June 21 as a day for yoga as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and yoga has become a daily routine for many all over the world.
“For us in India, respect for nature is an integral part of spiritualism. We treat nature’s bounties as sacred. Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change and in bettering our well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day,” Modi told Times of India.
The United Nations then declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga from 2015 onwards and since then thousands of people throughout the world join in to celebrate the day by doing yoga.
The UN also held an event on Tuesday where more than 1,000 people showed up to see the revelation of the Yoga Day stamp worth $1.15 and depicts different yoga poses next to a large Om in Devanagari script.
According to IANS, a unique element in this year’s event projecting India’s soft power was the water puja ceremony led by Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagwati Sarawastiji of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, they poured over a globe while participants prayed for clean water for all.
Peter Thomson, the president of the General Assembly, said the practice of yoga was the embodiment and India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said yoga symbolized the union of humanity and India shares it with the world in an open and inclusive way.
Chidanand Saraswatiji said that yoga can be a solution to many problems and wants to send out the message of “Green Yoga” using the help of other yoga practitioners and teachers. “When we are facing violence and war, (this) is the time to send the message, ‘No more war, no more violence,’ to take the message from yoga,” he said.
IANS also reported that Bhagwati Sarawastiji called yoga “vasudeva kudumbakam” in action and said it had the power to break borders to bring peace and heal the suffering caused by separation.
On Wednesday, a forum on yoga and health is to be held at the UN with an international panel of swamis and yoga practitioners including Chidanand Saraswatiji, Bhagwati Sarawastiji, Swami Sivadasananda of the Sivananda Yoga Retreat House, Austria, Keith Mitchel, a yoga practitioner and former US National Football League star, Stanton Kawer, a US business executive and activist actor Anupam Kher.
The Consulate General of India in hosted a kickoff event on Monday where 60 people showed up to participate in various yoga demonstrations and view a message from Narendra Modi.
On Sunday, Actor Anupam Kher inaugurated the animated light show of the ‘asanas’ projected on the UN Secretariat building.
Jagdish Sewhani spoke at the third International Day of Yoga held in Long Island, where amongst those who participated were members of the Art of Living, the Brahama Kumaris, members of the Sadguru Isha foundation, Ranju Narang of Om Meditation and Acharya Lokesh Muni.
Also, hundreds of people attended the International Day of Yoga celebration held on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Since the General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Day of yoga in 2014,174 countries have adopted it unanimously.
In India and around the world
Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the International Day of Yoga in Lucknow this year with a crowd of about 50,000 people, despite rain.
“Yoga has connected the world with India. Yoga is about health assurance. It is not even expensive to practice,” said Modi cheerfully.
Baba Ramdev, BJP President Amit Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel led a yoga session for as many as 3,000 people on the grounds of Gujarat University in Ahmedabad.
Baba Ramdev praised Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in his speech saying “both Narendrabhai (Modi) and Amitbhai perform yoga every day without fail and everybody should follow them.”
Modi’s speech from Lucknow was broadcasted live in Ahmedabad.
Celebrations for the International Day of Yoga were held in many other cities and states in the nation including Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Kolkata, Mumbai, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Chandigarh saw nearly 3,000 people at their main event which was held at the Sector 17 Plaza; Haryana saw hundreds of people at the main event at Indri town in Karnal district and in Punjab, events were held in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Bathinda.
Modi was seen celebrating the International Day of Yoga in Chandigarh last year where it was held at the city’s iconic Capitol Complex.
In Mumbai, celebrities among commoners participated in the state’s main event held in Worli.
Celebrities who attended were: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who was also accompanied by his wife Amruta and Bollywood actors; Jackie Shroff, Arbaaz Khan and Malaika Arora Khan.
Over 10,000 naval personnel and their families and Indian Army officers took part in the celebrations as well aboard ships and special yoga camps in the military areas of the city.
Thousands of people also joined in to celebrate this peaceful day in Kolkata, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Countries such as China, Pakistan, UAE, Bangladesh, Mexico, Peru, Israel and Egypt held their own celebrations and events.