World twists and turns on Yoga Day
PM leads nation; India sets two records
India on Sunday stretched its soft power with the celebration of Yoga around the world – from Taliban-stronghold Herat in Afghanistan and conflict zone at Marjeyoun in south Lebanon to Eiffel Tower in Paris and Trafalgar Square in London.
Except Pakistan, India was joined by all its neighbours to celebrate the first International Yoga Day with special sessions at Peking University in Beijing, Galle Face Green on the shore of Arabian Sea in Colombo, Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre in Dhaka, Embassy of India in Kathmandu, Royal Institute of Management in Thimphu and the Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Yangon.
Pakistan stayed away from the global celebration. An event was, however, held within the High Commission of India in Islamabad.
In Afghanistan, apart from capital Kabul, the day was celebrated at the site of Salma Dam, a hydroelectric-cum-irrigation project being built by India in Herat, which is still a stronghold of Taliban.
With more than 170 countries observing the Yoga Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned against commodifying the ancient Indian wellness exercise.
“Yoga is not a commodity. Yoga is not a brand which has to be sold. If we make yoga a commodity, then we will cause the maximum damage to it,” Modi said at a conference here, after taking part in the early morning mass yoga session with 35,985 people on the Rajpath.
The effort created two Guinness records: First, for the largest yoga demonstration (35,985 participants) at a single venue, second, for the largest number of people of various nationalities – 84 – performing yoga at one place.
The prime minister’s comments on yoga commodification came against the backdrop of United States-based yoga trainer Bikram Choudhury claiming copyright on some of the “asanas” (postures), triggering a debate on the intellectual property rights.
The US authorities later clarified that yogic postures were outside the scope of copyright protection.
Modi, however, acknowledged the contributions of foreign-based yoga trainers in popularising the traditional fitness regime.
The support it received in the United Nations was not because of India, but due to the great tradition of yoga.
Yoga practitioners are there in almost every country. “We will take the movement forward for better health,” he said.
The UN celebrated the unique cultural heritage of India on its premises in New York, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj joining the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In India, Yoga Day was celebrated across the country.
In Gujarat, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel took part in a session and practised “asanas” for almost 35 minutes along with more than 70,000 participants. In Karnataka, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah observed, “There is a special connect between Karnataka and Yoga. B K S Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois from Mysuru and other gurus have put yoga on the world map.”