Enthusiastic countrymen turned up in large numbers at different locations in India to celebrate the fourth International Yoga Day on Thursday with much fervour. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the country-wide celebrations in Dehradun, where around 50,000 enthusiasts at the Forest Research Institute campus stretched an extra muscle in various yogic exercises. Modi called the ancient Indian discipline a "powerful unifying" force in a strife-torn world.
Addressing a large gathering with the British-era FRI building in the backdrop, Modi said yoga has shown the world the way from "illness to wellness" and enriching lives across the globe.
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He said in fact, yoga has become the biggest mass movement across the globe in the quest for good health and wellbeing, which is crucial to the creation of a peaceful world.
"Dehradun to Dublin, Shanghai to Chicago, Jakarta to Johannesburg, Himalayan highlands or sunburnt deserts, yoga is enriching millions of lives all over the world.
"Yoga fosters amity in societies, which can form the basis of national unity," the prime minister said.
Modi said apart from being an art of holistic health, yoga had the power to unite people and countries, and pave the way for universal brotherhood.
"When disintegrating forces gain prominence it is yoga that unites, creates amity in societies, which forms the basis of national unity and unity among nations, and finally leads to universal peace and brotherhood. It has become a powerful unifying force," he said.
The growing popularity of yoga across the globe has brought India closer to the world and this position is going to get strengthened in times to come, he said.
Describing Uttarakhand as a sacred land, Modi said it had been the centre of yoga for ages.
The yoga session lasted around 30 minutes during which he performed different asanas, including pranayama and breathing exercises.
Modi in 2015 lead the yoga celebrations at Rajpath in New Delhi and in 2016 at the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh. Last year he participated at an event at the Ramabai Ambedkar Sabha Sthal in Lucknow.
Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Kejriwal skip Yoga day event
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a key BJP ally, stayed away from the International Yoga Day event in Patna, which was a low-key affair in West Bengal where his counterpart Mamata Banerjee also gave it a miss, in moves marked by possible political overtones.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar did not participate in the main Yoga Day event in Patna which set tongues wagging. The event was inaugurated by Governor Satya Pal Malik and attended by top BJP leaders including union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
However, both the ruling allies--JD(U) and BJP-- sought to downplay Kumar's absence.
The JD(U) said Kumar has been practising yoga daily even before it was declared as an International Day by the United Nations in 2015 and "it would be wrong to attach any political meaning to personal decisions."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, found having a raised sugar level, had to give a miss to the International Yoga Day celebrations and leave for Bengaluru to undergo a ten-day naturopathy treatment.
Kejriwal, who had joined International Yoga Day participants last year along with Lt Governor Anil Baijal and the then Union minister and now Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, was found having high blood sugar following his nine-day, arduous sit-in at the Lieutenant Governor's office.
A day after his sit-in ended at the LG office on June 19, he left for Bengaluru on Thursday to undergo naturopathy treatment after holding meetings with his ministers and officials.
Records set in different states as countrymen up the vigour
Rajasthan created a world record bringing over a lakh of people together at a yoga session to mark the International Day of Yoga.
Two representatives from Guinness World Records, watched as Yoga guru Ramdev put the gathering - which included Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje - through a series of asanas.
Chhattisgarh too set a 'world record' as nearly one crore people simultaneously performed yoga in different parts of the state, government officials said. The feat, achieved on the occasion of International Yoga Day, was registered in the Golden Book of World Records.