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Yoga Day: PM leads celebrations in Ranchi, thousands in India and world roll out their mats

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: June 21, 2019  | 19:23 IST

(Eds: Adding info) New Delhi/Ranchi, Jun 21 (PTI) Yoga was the theme and wellness the agenda on Friday as India and the world marked the fifth International Day of Yoga with tens of thousands of people rolling out their mats to stretch and twist, breathe in and breathe out, reach for the skies and bend to touch their toes. From the UN General Assembly hall to the Indian Parliament premises and from Beijing to Ranchi, enthusiasts of the ancient wellness regime performed 'asanas' simple and complex amid chants of "Om" and "Shanti" in several global capitals and across the expanse of India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the observance of the day. In India, the main event was held at the Jharkhand capital Ranchi with the prime minister performing various 'asanas' along with 40,000 people at the Prabhat Tara ground. Appealing to people to make yoga an integral part of their lives, Modi said, "We should make efforts to take yoga from cities to villages and tribal areas. Yoga is above religion, caste, colour, gender and region, it is above everything." "The essence of yoga has been stable and remained the same -- healthy body, stable mind, spirit of oneness. Yoga has provided a perfect blend of knowledge, karma and bhakti," he told the gathering. The United Nations General Assembly adopted June 21 as International Yoga Day in 2014 on a proposal mooted by Modi. Scenes of mass yoga exercises in open grounds, parks and halls were mirrored in various parts of the country, in the waters of the Digaru river in Arunachal Pradesh where ITBP troopers performed asanas and even in the icy heights of the Himalayas where their colleagues put out their mats on the Vasundhara glacier near Badrinath. And in Jalandhar, members of the 2 Army Dog Unit performed doga (dog yoga), the canines doing the asanas along with the Army personnel. While Modi led the celebrations in Ranchi, his ministers spread out across the country with Home Minister Amit Shah participating in a function in Rohtak, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the national capital, where many hundreds did yoga in the rolling greens of Rajpath, and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur. Shah, who did yoga exercises along with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, said it is due to the efforts of Modi that the world is now not only observing Yoga Day but making it a part of their everyday lives. "Yoga is the symbol of India's ancient history and diversity which is showing the world the way towards a healthy life," he tweeted after the event. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra where 60 ambassadors as well as diplomats from various missions performed yoga exercises. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla led the Yoga Day events in Parliament House where around 400 people, including newly elected MPs, Union ministers and Parliament staffers, participated in practising the asanas. While President Ram Nath Kovind was part of Yoga Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan's Ceremonial Hall, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu participated at an event at the historic Red Fort where thousands of men and women, all in white, performed yoga exercises. Some politics played out too on the occasion. In Patna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was conspicuous by his absence as G/Rovernor Lalji Tandon led the celebrations at an event being seen as an occasion to demonstrate the cordiality between ruling coalition partners BJP and the JD(U). All eyes were on ministers Maheshwar Hazari and Shravan Kumar as their presence marked the JD(U)'s first participation in the event. Their leader, Nitish Kumar, is known to be a yoga enthusiast but has maintained distance from such celebrations, holding that the discipline is best practised in solitude. In Thiruvananthapuram, /RBJP general secretary Ram Madhav said yoga will help those with "kiddish temperament", an apparent dig at Congress chief Rahul Gandhi who was seen browsing through his mobile phone during President Ram Nath Kovind's address in Parliament on Thursday. There are "kids in school" and in Parliament too, Madhav said, a day after Gandhi courted controversy for not paying attention to the President's address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. The world joined in in marking the day. In a first of its kind yoga celebration, the iconic UN GA hall reverberated with chants of 'Om' and 'Shanti' as UN officials and diplomats joined hundreds of others to commemorate the day. Addressing the large gathering, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the essence of yoga is balance, "not only within us but also in our relationship with humanity". In Beijing, the celebrations were led by India's envoy to China Vikram Misri who, along with a large number of Chinese yoga enthusiasts rolled out their mats to participate in Yoga Day. Yoga represents aspirations of the people from India and China that it is beneficial to work together in spirit of "friendship and cooperation", Misri said.  In the UK, yoga enthusiasts marked the day with a session at the iconic Durdle Door stone arch, a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site on the south-western coast of England.        The Indian High Commission's annual yoga session in London took place in St. Paul's Cathedral. Over 400 people performed asanas to mark the International Day of Yoga at the picturesque Hatachana compound in Tel Aviv, Israel, with India's envoy to Israel Pavan Kapoor asking the government to consider making it a part of the annual calendar of events. PTI TEAM MIN MIN

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