Across India and the world, people partook in massive yoga sessions as part of the third annual International Yoga Day. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted his country's cultural export.
Rain poured down onto the crowd as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead 50,000 people in an outdoor yoga session on Wednesday at Rama Bai Ambedkar Ground in Lucknow, the capital of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Among the participants were students and government officials, whom Modi, dressed in a white T-shirt and long pants, occasionally stopped to help with their poses.
"Yoga connects body, mind and soul. It is playing a big role in bringing the world together, too," he said after performing various poses.
Since his Hindi national government came to power, Modi has spearheaded the initiative to restore the ancient practice as part of as a historic part of Indian culture. Part of that initiative was setting up a ministry dedicated to promoting yoga and other traditional practices.
Modi, who credits yoga with his ability to work long hours with little sleep, also persuaded the United Nations to create a dedicated International Yoga Day in 2014.
"Many countries which do not know our language, tradition, or culture are now connecting to India through yoga," Modi said addressing the crowd.
Celebrated across India
Mass yoga demonstrations were performed all across India to celebrate the holiday. An estimated 5,000 events were being held in India and in 180 countries around the world, according to media reports.
The largest of which was in the western city of Ahmedabad, where celebrity yoga guru Baba Ramdev lead a group of 125,000 in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record. Police also closed roads in New Dehli to accommodate a large crowd of yoga enthusiasts in the Indian capital.
Indian soldiers performed yoga at a height of 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. Others did the same with their families on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
"It is not only the world's longest serving aircraft carrier but also the world's longest-serving warship. I think the ship must have done lots of pranayaams to be sustaining for so long," Puneet Chadha, a top naval officer, told a TV channel, referring to a yogic breathing technique.
Indian scholars say yoga dates back 5,000 years, first practiced by Hindu sages. It is one of India's biggest cultural exports, a lifestyle industry estimated to be worth $80 billion.
"There was a time when yoga was confined to sages meditating in the Himalayan caves. Now, it is becoming a part of people's lives not just in India but across the world," Modi said in his address.
dv/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)