Yoga power. The closest we can recall is the late Rajiv Gandhi in his jogging overalls leading thousands on a “March for Peace”. On Sunday, India took a proactive step, globally.
Modi, true to his activism, with his ministers leading yoga exercises in four of world capitals, got people to stretch their limbs, regulate their breaths and flex their muscles – for peace
The closest we can recall is the late Rajiv Gandhi in his jogging overalls leading thousands on a “March for Peace”. On Sunday, India took a proactive step, globally. As the world participated – not just watched – the ‘commissar’ turned a ‘yogi’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the world community, spread across 251 cities, in celebrating the United Nations-commended first International Yoga Day.
In doing so, he heralded a hopeful “era of peace and harmony” assuring, “in a world of fear, yoga promises strength and courage.” New Delhi’s Rajpath, which used to witnessing civilian protests and military marches, turned ‘Yogpath’. Kurta-pyjama-clad Modi made a short speech and then sat in ‘padmasana’ on a mat ahead of young men and women, joining the mass exercise, following instructions from yoga teachers.
While Modi was leading the show at Rajpath, up above on the Raisina Hill at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Pranab Mukherjee opened a similar exercise with his officers, staff and their families. This silently underscored the unity of purpose between the holders of the nation’s two highest offices.
It was a feat meant to be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, surpassing a 2005 record. If another comparison be allowed, while Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made the first-ever speech in Hindi at the UN General Assembly, Modi, true to his activism, with his ministers leading yoga exercises in four of world capitals, actually got people to stretch their limbs, regulate their breaths and flex their muscles – for peace.
Cynics be ignored – this was no small achievement, significant for its symbolic values. Even if most of the participants do not repeat the routine the next day or thereafter, the message has gone out; loud and clear. That message, coming from Modi, whose past political record has caused reservations, has been inclusive and universal.
To him, yoga is a medium to check greed, violence, cost of healthcare and conflicts, not to be commodified. Many among the Muslims, the largest minority community, have heeded it. Among them is retired Indian Army general and Aligarh Muslim University Vice-Chancellor, Zameeruddin Shah. He took to yoga two decades ago, he has said, while nursing an injured back, and has benefitted physically and mentally.
Significantly, the message of peace was sought to be spread by the country’s armed forces. Soldiers on the Siachen Glacier performed yoga at minus-seven degrees, so did the airmen and so did the sailors on three Indian Navy ships sailing in South China Sea.
It is a rare event that one of Modi’s ‘friends’, Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a judoka, took not even before it took place. Flexing its economic muscles and ‘looking’ and ‘acting’ in all directions across the globe, India has added, or rather pro-actively reinforced an ancient art and science of well-being. It is a new weapon in its ‘soft’ power diplomacy.