After a two-year hiatus on physical events due to Covid-19, the International Yoga Day was celebrated on Tuesday by the Modi government with customary pomp and show at 75 different locations across the country. Union Cabinet ministers and prominent BJP leaders graced the events, with the point of focus being Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at Mysuru palace.
While the Modi government has been consistently pushing for the day on a global scale since first coming to power in 2014, this year marks a new kind of reach, with the Ministry of External Affairs’s ‘Guardian Ring for Yoga’. As per this, yoga is to be performed across the globe at sunrise in their respective countries — from 3 am IST in Japan to 10 pm in America and Canada.
In an official video shared by the government for the event, Modi is seen reciting portions from his 2014 UN speech that first put forth the proposal to adopt June 21 as Yoga Day, noting that yoga is “a legacy of our ancient and traditional values”. Sarbananda Sonowal, whose Ayush ministry is handling the event, said the theme of the 2022 Yoga Day was ‘Yoga for Humanity’, adding that yoga had helped “millions deal with Covid pandemic-induced stress and disorders”.
A protocol was also shared on YouTube, with specific suggestions on the T-shirts to be worn, banners to be put up and protocol to be followed.
In a first, several high courts too celebrated the day, with judges, advocates and court staff invited to the complex to attend a live telecast of Modi’s speech at 6:30 am, followed by the Yoga Day celebrations. The Ministries of Ayush and Law and Justice and the Supreme Court issued directions in this regard, officials told The Indian Express.
In another first, the National Monuments Authority, along with the Ministry of Science and Technology, announced that it would organise an astrophysical analysis of the movement of the sun around the Qutub Minar to determine if the monument holds any astronomical significance on Yoga Day. PTI reported that the study would begin at 11.30 am and go on till 1.30 pm, with people being able to track the event with an app.
A yoga portal and Namaste app were used for registration of participants, organisations, while there is now a Yoga Certification Board portal for issuing certificates after completion of a trainer course. Since 2019, the Ministry of Ayush has utilised the Bhuvan app, which it developed in collaboration with ISRO, to assess participation numbers on the day.
At the Mysuru event, also attended by Sonowal, Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Mysuru royal scion Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar and “Rajmata” Pramoda Devi, Modi said: “This whole universe starts from our own body and soul. The universe starts from us… And, yoga makes us conscious of everything within us and builds a sense of awareness… The peace from yoga is not merely for individuals. Yoga brings peace to our society. Yoga brings peace to our nations and the world. And, yoga brings peace to our universe.”
Since its inception, the scale of Yoga Day – one of the Modi government’s pet projects — has only expanded every year. June 21 had been pitched for the day on account of the day being solstice, the longest day of the year and considered to be auspicious in several cultures. The UN subsequently passed a resolution in December that year.
The government claimed that the very first event, held in 2015, broke records for being the largest yoga gathering (till the time) at a single spot with 37,000 people, as well as the maximum number of countries – 85 – being a part of the event. This was surpassed in 2018, when an event in Rajasthan’s Kota featured more than lakh people performing yoga.
The 2015 event had seen yoga guru Ramdev share the stage with Modi.
The Ayush Ministry, founded in November 2014 with “a vision of reviving the profound knowledge of our ancient systems of medicine and ensuring the optimal development and propagation of the Ayush systems of healthcare”, has seen a rise in its budgetary allocation from Rs 1,252 crore at the time of its inception to Rs 3,050 crore in the 2022 budget.
Modi has participated in Yoga Day from a new location every year: Delhi in 2015; Chandigarh 2016; Lucknow 2017; Dehradun 2018; Ranchi 2019; and Mysuru 2022. In 2020 and 2021, the event was held virtually.