From Peru’s historic citadel of Machu Picchu to the UN’s sprawling lawns in New York, yoga mats were spread at iconic landmarks across the world as yoga practitioners today performed ‘asanas’ to mark the third International Yoga Day.
Top UN diplomats, officials, envoys, yoga practitioners and people from all walks of life attended a grand event organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the UN to mark the day at the world body’s headquarters in New York.
Hundreds of specially designed yoga mats were spread across the UN’s sprawling north lawns, facing the imposing UN General Assembly hall and the UN Secretariat building, as people from all walks of life descended on the UN headquarters to participate in the ‘Yoga Session with Yoga Masters’.
Chants, hymns, prayers and the sound of “Om” reverberated across the UN as leading yoga practitioners led the gathering through sessions of yoga and meditation to celebrate the traditional wellness regime that originated in India.
The UN also issued special stamps commemorating the Yoga Day.
The UN postal agency, UN Postal Administration (UNPA) issues the new special event sheet to commemorate the day that has been marked annually since 2015.
Delivering the secretary general’s message on the Yoga Day, a top UN official has said that yoga can make an important contribution in achieving a healthy life and promoting well being for all at a time when the world is striving to achieve sustainable development goals.
At the iconic and historic citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru, one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World, Yoga practitioners stretched themselves in various asanas to mark the day.
Both Machu Picchu and yoga are recognised by the UNESCO as common heritage of the world.
The IDY celebrations started with a welcome address by Jose Fernando Astete Director of the Machu Picchu Archaeological site.
Sandeep Chakravorty, Ambassador of India to Peru said that both Machu Picchu and yoga are invaluable world heritage and legacy for humankind.
This being the peak tourist season for visit to Machu Picchu, the international visitors touring the historic citadel also joined the celebrations enthusiastically.
In China, a record number of people participated in yoga events held in several cities across the country.
A large number of Chinese practitioners besides Indian diaspora took part in the celebrations at the old premises of the Indian Embassy in Beijing.
Twenty Yoga ambassadors from the Morarji Desai Institute in India demonstrated a power-packed yogic asanas. Members from 12 Chinese yoga groups also took part in the event.
“Our assessment is that the yoga events held in China this year is the largest,” Charg d’affaires of the Indian Embassy, Amit Narang told news agencies.
“Participation in the events in various cities exceeded all expectations and the numbers are unprecedented,” he said.
China’s prominent yoga school ‘Yogi Yoga’ set up by Indian yoga expert Manmohan Singh Bandari and his Chinese wife Yin Yan held special yogic asanas with their students at Ritan Park in Beijing.
Yesterday, the Indian Embassy, Yogi Yoga academy along with Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which is affiliated to Chinese Foreign Ministry, held a special yoga session at the iconic Great Wall of China.
The event was a cultural milestone, marking the first time yoga has been performed atop the Great Wall by a joint Indian and Chinese group of yogis.
In Shanghai, about 1,000 Yoga enthusiasts took part in an event held at the Dongping National Forest Park at the Chongming Islands, which was jointly organised by Consulate General of India, Shanghai along with Chongming County Government.
Shanghai became the seventh city to host the 3rd IDY, which is being celebrated across twelve cities in Eastern China from June 17-25.
Besides Shanghai, yoga events were held in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, with theme of ‘Ten cities, ten days, bringing together 15,000 yoga lovers closer to India promoting healthy and harmonious lifestyles’.
The other cities in the region which held yoga sessions included Lishui, Wuyi, Huzhou, Zhenjiang, Hangzhou Tonglu, Wenzhou, Jiaxing, Suqian, Xuzhou, Taizhou and Wuxi.
London celebrated the Yoga Day in grand style as hundreds of practitioners descended upon Trafalgar Square to mark the Day as part of a week-long series of events organised by the Indian High Commission and India Tourism Office in the British capital.
“I want to thank India for giving us this wonderful gift of yoga,” said Justine Simons, the deputy mayor of culture for London, representing the Mayor of London one of the collaborators of the Trafalgar Square event.
A video message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to welcome Londoners to the third annual UN-designated International Day of Yoga (IDY) opened the proceedings against the backdrop of the famous Nelson’s Column in the square and was telecast live by major ethnic channels in the UK.
Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, thanked the Greater London Authority and the office of the Mayor of London for their support in organising the historic event.
“The word yoga means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of body and consciousness. At a time when the world is faced with the grave challenge of terrorism, yoga shows the way to lasting peace and harmony. Yoga is not just a form of exercise but a way to attain peace through physical, mental and spiritual well-being, he said.
Earlier this week, the High Commission and India Tourism had held IDY-related celebrations with a takeover of the London Eye, teaming up with UK-based yoga organisations to unite in a so-called Wheel of Yoga.
In addition, London’s Alexandra Place saw a day-long Yoga Day celebration on June 18.
In the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka hundreds of people participated in the IDY event at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Parliamentary speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury opened the celebrations. Indian and Bangladeshi yoga gurus demonstrated asanas at the stadium.
Sports associations, yoga associations, yoga institutes, students from various schools, colleges and universities in Bangladesh participated in the early morning event.
The programme began with the screening of a video message of Prime Minister Modi.
A new yoga app on Common Yoga Protocol was released along with a special edition of Bharat Bichitra, a regular High Commission publication, on Yoga.
Yoga sessions were also organised in northwestern Rajshahi and southeastern port city of Chittagong.
Various Bangladeshi yoga organisations and institutes also organised separate programmes.
Nepal also joined the world to mark the day as Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba underlined the need for imparting the ancient knowledge of yoga to students at school-level.
During a function in Kathmandu, Deuba said, “Yoga must be taught at school-level keeping in mind its mental and physical benefits, and the balance it creates between heart and mind.”
Deuba released ‘Dainandin Yogabhyas’, a book written by Acharya Bal Krishna and ‘Yoga Sandesh’ published by the Indian Embassy.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri was also present during the function.
In Pakistan, the Indian High Commission celebrated the Yoga Day on June 18.
Members of the diplomatic community along with High Commission officials based in Islamabad enthusiastically participated in the event led by Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale.
Bambawale highlighted the efforts of the Indian government in promoting ancient Indian traditions of healthy living.
The United Nations General Assembly had made a declaration in December 2014 that every June 21 would be observed as International Day of Yoga, a move that India lobbied hard for.