India’s Yoga Day, Finally Arrives, Amid Cheers and Skepticism

New Delhi (ND TV): It was a rare sight – after a brief speech to inaugurate International Yoga Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi descended from a huge stage in front of the presidential palace and took off his glasses and his shoes. He quietly took his place before a sea of schoolchildren and others, mats neatly arranged in a checkerboard as far as the eye could see, to begin what was billed as the largest yoga demonstration in a single venue in history.

Reporters pounced, and a camera lens shattered on the ground. Muscular men wearing International Yoga Day T-shirts held back the crowd. Some volunteers formed a chain around onlookers.

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To this, Modi appeared impervious, lost deep in his practice. After bending and twisting through most of a 35-minute session in unison with an army of more than 35,000 participants, many in identical white T-shirts, he delved into the crowd of children who touched his feet reverently. When he beckoned, and not a moment before, they rushed to him, touching the scarf he had used to wipe his brow.

“When he touched my hand, it was like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” said Shubhangi Tiwari, amid a gaggle of students afterward.

It was the culmination of a holiday hyped for weeks by the government, and one for which Modi lobbied the United Nations to recognize in a visit to New York last year. It was not the first time state machinery has been mobilized behind one of his government’s projects, nor the first time he has appeared to project himself as a uniter of a diverse and fragmented nation, but it may have been one of the least conventional.

“I believe that from the 21st of June, through the International Day of Yoga, it is not just the beginning of a day but the beginning of a new age through which we will achieve greater heights of peace, good will and train the human spirit,” Modi said in his speech.

Through Sunday’s spectacle and Modi’s place at its head, the government attempted to give fresh life to the idea that yoga can help restore national pride and a return to ancient values in an age of tarnished virtue and rising illness. Some groups representing Muslims, the country’s largest minority, have bristled against that message, calling it a threat to secularism, or saying that they should not be compelled to perform sun salutations or chant “Om,” a sound sacred in Hinduism.

The central government decided not to include sun salutations in the routine, and said the event was voluntary, though some government employees reported feeling some pressure to attend.

The government made no effort to play down its message of the healing power of yoga. In an event later Sunday, Modi mentioned diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and drug addiction in India, adding that “practicing yoga helps combat stress and chronic conditions.”

The message, despite the criticism, caught on with the apparently adoring participants, who included some of the most flexible schoolchildren in Delhi and apparently inflexible bureaucrats.

“Since ancient times India was the guru of the world,” said Vikash Chandra, a lawyer who has been practicing yoga since 1992. Yoga Day in Delhi, which was captured by more than 24 state-run TV cameras and broadcast all over the nation, would help them reclaim it, he said.

Senior ministers from Modi’s Cabinet took part in yoga events in Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Shimla. The army released photos of servicemen practicing near the icy Himalayas and in the desert.

There were also Yoga Day demonstrations across the world, including in Paris; Beijing; Osaka, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; and New York.

In India, an official from the ministry of yoga and traditional medicine, which coordinated the event, said he did not yet know the expense, but local news media reported it at anywhere from nearly $5 million to more than $15 million. An advertising campaign was started, fiber cables and security cameras were installed, giant projectors displayed, and schools and nongovernmental groups were granted funds for training camps.

Though government critics have questioned the expense, the army of participants on Sunday defended it.

Pavan Kumar Dubey, a 55-year-old inspector general with the Border Security Force, said he believed yoga could bring peace worldwide.

“How much money will be saved when the defenses between the countries come down?” he asked. Of his own job, he said: “We’ll find something else to do.”

Chandra, a member of the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, said yoga had brought his father relief from his arthritis and his mother energy after her cancer treatment. As for himself, his two-hour daily practice of meditation and yoga had brought him strength, he said.

“I’m approaching 56, and I can work from 4 in the morning till midnight,” he said. “I want to not be suffering from any ailment.”

After Modi departed, and the barricades came down, two 26-year-old engineering graduates who had failed to obtain tickets to the event lingered near a signboard made from marigolds. One of them, Baishakh Charavorty, said the event was necessary, and the government should go further and teach yoga and the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, in schools.

“It will increase the self confidence that we are not a third world country, a poor country,” he said. “We can be No. 1.”


  1. There is a political and religious color to it, an hidden agenda to divert the focusing of the electorate from the disappointing economic miracles to something else. A lot of people are practicing yoga, let them do so. But, if the Government is trying to enforce yoga upon the Government employees, that has bypassed the boundary. If anybody will walk for one hour a brisk walk every morning listening to music or meditation, that will be doing an identical relief of stress and creating energy. The next step should be to ban smoking and liquor all over India which can save thousands of lives every year. The BJP Government’s strategy in the economic development is not through investment and creating jobs, but through introducing beneficial religious traditions. Ayurvedic medical system is very effective for certain diseases, but enforcing that exclusively and degrading other medical systems is not a feasible idea.

    Based on the testimonies of some of the proponents in this article, through practicing yoga, the Government of India can save a lot of money spent on national health care; so that less hospitals and less doctors and nurses. Great achievement of yoga miracle.

  2. Dear readers,

    21 June has been consciously chosen. It coincides with the death anniversary of the founder of RSS Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. However, the argument floated in the UN in this regard was that 21 June is the longest day of the year being Summer Solstice and as such has great significance in many parts of the world. The global community agreed to the obvious justification.
    Those who have some knowledge about Yoga can comprehend well what is understood in the popular parlance as ‘Yoga’ is not Yoga at all but only Asana (postures) which make only one component of the eight ones, taught by Patanjali in Yoga-Sutras. In fact, debate on Yoga is focusing on different Asana used in the exercise, popularly called as Yoga.

    While BJP is promoting yoga as Indian culture to world body under new brand Ambassador of Modi and RSS elite mus read hijacked history.Yoga is long been promoted by Dhirendra Bramachari , born Dhirendra Choudhary in village Basaith chanpura, Madhubani, Bihar, was the yoga mentor of Indira Gandhi – a former Prime Minister of India.

    In the late 1970s, Dhirendra Brahmachari promoted the benefits of yoga in a weekly broadcast on Doordarshan, the state-owned television network. He introduced yoga as a subject of study in Delhi administered schools, a considerable innovation. In 1981 he also introduced yoga in the Kendriya Vidyalayas, or central government schools under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
    If Yoga is being so sincerely pursued by Indian government, the answer lies not in their concern for health but their concern for the corporate gurus which are seeing huge market potential in Yoga.
    But as yoga became more popular, and as the industry grew to be worth nearly $6bn, and as a variety of savvy marketers begin branding their “special” yoga techniques, it was hard not to notice that few yoga teachers and journals mentioned the origins of the practice and its connection to Hinduism. Yoga was “secularised” to rid it of any taint of a “pagan” tradition. The practice, the savvy marketers claimed, was “a spiritual path, but not a religious one”, to calm the committed Christian who wanted to hang on to Jesus while doing the “surya namaskara” (obeisance to the sun).”

    More than 30 percent of Yoga Journal’s readership has a household income of over $100,000. As American yoga Master Rodney Yee remarked at a 2011 Omega Institute conference, compromising the authenticity of the practice and ignoring its traditions is “ass-backwards.” “It dumbs down the whole art form,” he said.”

    If the Government has made every attempt not to let the Day become victim of Hindu-Muslim divide with concessions on Surya Namaskar and chanting of Aum, it is less about respecting the sensitivities of Muslims and more about the demands of the large scale corporatisation of Yoga.

    If RSS and other Hindutva organisations are so concerned about health and about religious morality, they should pressurise the government to observe an anti-drinking day. Let drinkers break their bottles on that day, and let the alcohol flood the canals of Delhi and Mumbai. Muslims will just love it, as it will remind them of the day when the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) broke all the wine bottles iun Medina following the revelation of the verse of Quran banning alcohol.

    Shripad Naik, India’s first minister overseeing yoga and traditional medicine, practicing yoga went step further suggested practicing of yoga to reduce ‘rapes’.The Modi’s government earlier kept its healthcare budget for 2015-16 on a tight leash, roughly 2 percent higher than current year’s revised budget of 290 billion rupees.Asia’s third-largest economy spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared with 3 percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States. Modi’s finance minister slashes health budget, already one of the world’s lowest putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world.While creating new ministry Modi’s government can only promote ‘Yoga’ and ‘Go Muttra’ as an alternative medicine through corporate yoga gurus.With severe financial constraint how the new ministry will be helpful to serve the billion plus population is arguable?

    Attempted murder, waging war on the state, criminal intimidation and fraud are some of the charges on the rap sheets of ministers Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed to his cabinet, jarring with his pledge to clean up politics.

    Seven of 21 new ministers appointed face prosecution, taking the total in the 66-member cabinet to almost one third, a higher proportion than before the expansion.
    At least five people in the cabinet have been charged with serious offences such as rape and rioting. But Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said any suggestions there were criminals in the cabinet were “completely baseless”.
    “These are cases arising out of criminal accusations, not cases out of a crime,” Jaitley said, adding that Modi had personally vetted the new ministers.

    Mod’s government which made ‘Yoga’ compulsory into school curriculum,why don’t preach its own ministers in cabinet to cleanse the corrupt and criminal political system? If Yoga is so beneficial why don’t let Modi’s ministers bring mats to assembly and practice yoga while listening debates?

    Instead of waiting for long day every year,why can’t Modi’s clan of ministry will make it a practice of every day to cleanse their polluted mind?

    Jai hind

    Jai Hind

  3. What we are witnessing is an ideological fight between two forces.

    Old India, represented by likes of AS Mathew and Sharia Shaikh that stands for old, abused, self-hating, inferior mindset, always advocating for self-defeating policies to keep us in perpetual state of intellectual poverty.

    New India, represented by Sri Modiji and his supporters, an unapologetic, confident, forward-looking, aggressive, nation-loving and self-respecting individuals fully committed to rejuvenate India to highest levels of her potential.

    The old India is loyal to its foreign masters while New India is a ‘simha swapna’ to those foreign masters. The old India tries to discredit and insult every native contribution while ‘New India’ is unapologetic for showing our strengths at world stage. The New India is aggressive in positioning India as a global leader while Old India was happy playing second fiddle to foreign masters!

    The Modi-tsunaami of 2014 marked the beginning of new India by crushing the forces of ‘old India’ and pushing them to where they truly belong – 44 seats at the back!! Sri Modi is not a perfect man. But, look at other options we have – Prince Raul, Tourist, Hotte Uri Nitisha Kumaara, appa-maga teams and crazy ladies from WB and TN!!

  4. Yoga is a well recognised form of exercise and is getting the due recognition now. Pakistan played by ignoring it just like shariya chief. Tribals, nomads bitter minorities all stayed away. Looks like kottakkal ayurveda shaala massage with coconut oil had some positive effect………

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