Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the International Day of Yoga celebrations at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York today during his official state visit to the United States.
In an official statement, he said India has always nurtured traditions that unite, adopt and embrace, and made a fervent appeal to eliminate contradictions, hurdles and resistances through yoga.
"We have to eliminate our contradictions, blockages and resistances through yoga. We have to present the spirit of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' as an example to the world," Modi said.
Modi said Indians have welcomed new ideas, conserved them and celebrated the country's rich diversity.
Yoga strengthens such feelings, expands the inner vision, and connects us with that consciousness which makes us feel the unity of the living being giving a basis of love for the living being, the prime minister said.
Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar led the national celebration of International Day of Yoga in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla joined the celebration on the Parliament House premises while Union ministers performed yoga exercises in different cities.
Modi said the International Day of Yoga was special this year as researchers at India's research stations in the Arctic and Antarctica too were participating in the celebrations.
The prime minister said the idea of the 'Ocean Ring of Yoga' makes Yoga Day even more special as it is based on the mutual relation between the idea of yoga and the expanse of the ocean.
He emphasised that the participation of crores of people from all over the country and the world in this unique celebration in such a spontaneous manner shows the vastness and fame of yoga.
"The coming together of more than 180 countries on India's call is historic and unprecedented," Modi said, referring to the proposal for the International Day of Yoga that was moved in the UN General Assembly in 2014.
"What unites us is yoga," the prime minister said, adding that the propagation of yoga was an extension of the idea that the whole world is included as one family.
"Today, crores of people all over the world are doing yoga together on the theme of 'Yoga for Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'," he added.
The prime minister emphasised that yoga creates a healthy and powerful society where the collective energy is manifold.
Modi will lead a unique yoga session at the UN Headquarters in a historic celebration to commemorate the 9th International Day of Yoga that will see the participation from top UN officials, envoys from across and the world and prominent individuals.
The yoga session will run from 8 to 9 am on June 21 at the expansive North Lawn in the UN Headquarters, where a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, a gift from India to the UN, was installed in December last year during the country's Presidency of the UN Security Council.
The historic yoga session is expected to be attended by top UN officials, ambassadors, envoys, delegates from Member States as well as prominent members of the global and diaspora community.
People from more than 180 countries will participate in Prime Minister Modi-led Yoga Day celebrations here, representing different walks of life and comprising diplomats, artists, academicians and entrepreneurs among others, sources said.
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj told PTI in an interview that the yoga celebration this year will be a very “unique occasion” because it was Prime Minister Modi who had given this vision and it was his leadership that ensured that June 21 every year is celebrated as International Yoga Day.
"So about nine years later, the author of that vision comes to the United Nations,” she said, adding that now Yoga Day is a UN-mandated occasion. "So the coming together of the two- the visionary leader and the United Nations, I think, is in itself very unique,” Kamboj said.
She said that the yoga event is generating a lot of anticipation and excitement and is very heavily subscribed. "The international element is very high. There's a lot of interest, which is in itself, I would say, a sort of attribute to yoga, this ancient Indian practice, the fact that it has transcended all borders and it has become a global phenomenon.” Kamboj added that the “fact that there will be children performing yoga onstage is very unique. So altogether I think it is going to be quite a one of its kind event.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message for Yoga Day, said yoga unites people. "It unites body and mind, humanity and nature and millions of people across the globe for whom it is a source of strength, harmony and peace," he said.
"In a dangerous and divided world, the benefits of this ancient practice are particularly precious. Yoga offers a haven of calm, it can reduce anxiety and promote mental well-being. It helps us to develop discipline and patience. It connects us to our planet, which so badly needs our protection," Guterres said.
He added that yoga reveals "our common humanity, helping us to understand that despite our differences, we are one. On this International Day of Yoga, let us embrace the spirit of unity and resolve to build a better, more harmonious world for people, the planet and ourselves."
PM Modi will also be paying his respects to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi that now "proudly adorns” the North Lawn of the UN headquarters where the yoga will also be conducted. "There is also a memorial to the fallen Peacekeeper which is, I think, very poignant and very significant given that India is the largest troop and police contributing country,” to UN peacekeepers, Kamboj said.
The first International Day of Yoga was commemorated in 2015 and has since then been marked with several sessions and events highlighting the benefits and universal appeal of Yoga at the UN, Times Square and iconic locations across the world.
Recognising its universal appeal, in December 2014, the UN proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The draft UNGA resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.
(Except for the headline and introduction, this story has not been edited by Connected to India's staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)