World Social Media Day

Social Media – A Gnana Astra

Social Media is a new phenomenon that has come into existence in the last fifteen years.

The internet, the web has in many ways shrunk the world like never before. It has got the people together, a global family of netizens, a family of people who are well informed in the happenings both at the local level and the global level, a family of people who are knowledgeable. This is one Avatara of the traditional Indian way of expression, Vasudeva Kutumbhakam.

In India, traditionally, knowledge is something that is put in the open and shared freely and fearlessly among the knowledge seekers. While that was in the past, in the medieval times and the post medieval times knowledge became something that was exclusive and elusive.

It is with the coming of the post modern era and the information highway that knowledge has once again come back in the public domain. Even here knowledge was made available in formal formats. With the coming of the Social Media, the components of this knowledge have become available in digestible doses. This created knowledge for the netizens in digestible portions.

In India there is a well known saying ‘sange shakti kaliyuge’, meaning, in this Kaliyuga, it is those people, who are able to gather people around them, that gain the strength.

We are in the midst of Kaliyuga where so many unsavory happenings are happening all around us. The way to alert people of these, the way to bring people together on these issues cannot be left to the media alone. After all, it is for the people’s welfare and so has to engage people directly one on one. Social Media via the internet has come in handy here. For instance the social media allows one to reach many and at the same time express a point of view with all its associated layers of issues without any space constraints.

“Pen is mightier than the sword”. This is an old adage.

Wars have been fought with swords from time immemorial. For major as well as petty issues, countless lives, since the dawn of history have been lost in wars, in getting across one’s point of view. Yet, after all this, if we continue to say that, the pen is mightier than the sword, then the power of the word, the power of knowledge in moulding human minds is mightier indeed.

Gnana Astra

In warfare, we have the Astra and Shastra. The Shastra are hand held fighting equipments. The Astra are the ones which are released from the hand.

Sastra Era

Social Media is a modern day astra, an astra of knowledge, a Gnana astra, where in, without hurting the other we get our point of view across to the family of seekers of this knowledge.

Knowledge Era

The world has gone through many succeeding era like the Industrialization era, transportation era, commercial era, communication era. We are now in the midst of an information era. It is here that the family of the knowledgeable, with their knowledge, will have a bigger say in moulding our thoughts, minds and ways.

 Knowledge era

With the word, the vak, being mightier by the day, with the world coming together for common good, with the knowledge era dawning on us, mediums such as the internet, present us with a whole field ahead in guiding people. A simple, beautiful, sustainable, open minded, interactive engagement, with a “questioning and responding” nature, is a responsible way forward, for the society as a whole.

 

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Sri Kempe Gowda

Kempe Gowda

There is one name that catches your attention time and again if you are in the city of Bengaluru.

Kempe Gowda Road, Kempe Gowda Nagar, Kempe Gowda Bus Station, Kempe Gowda International Airport! The name is everywhere!

You know Bengaluru. Do you know its founder?

His name is Kempe Gowda.

Founder of Bengaluru

Sri Kempe Gowda is well known as the founder of Bengaluru, the city that has grown leaps and bounds in the last many centuries. The city was established by him in the year 1537 CE as the capital of the land he ruled.

Kempe Gowda gave the name Bengaluru

He was the chieftain of Yelahankanadu, a principality under Vijayanagara Empire.  This place was known as Bendakaluru, before Kempe Gowda gave it the present name.

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Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru

Kempe, Ruby

Kempe means a precious gem, a red ruby in English. True to his name, he is indeed a precious gem of the land of Karnataka.

Types of Ruby

The different types of Rubies include,

  • Indian Ruby, found mainly in Mysore

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Mysore Ruby

  • Burmese Ruby
  • Thailand Ruby
  • Tanzanian ruby
  • Madagascar Ruby

Kempe Gowda Day

The Government of India observes his birthday every year on 27th June.

The day is celebrated as Kempe Gowda day in the state of Karnataka.

Sri Kempe Gowda was born at Yelahanka in the year 1510 CE, as the son of Kempananje Gowda, who ruled the Yelahankanadu for over 70 years, after which his son took over.

So how exactly did he get the idea of building a city, which is today among the most prominent cities in India?

Building of Bengaluru

Idea during an expedition

Interestingly, Kempe Gowda had this idea, when he was on a hunting expedition, towards Shivanasamudram from Yelahanka.

Hare chasing Dog

While Kempegowda was on a hunting expedition, he was amused to see a rabbit chasing a dog. He called that place as “Gandubhoomi”, meaning “The land of heroes” and desired to build a city in that place.

He envisioned the city to have a cantonment, a fort, plenty of water bodies and people from all professions and trade.

Conquering regions

On this expedition, he conquered many areas, which today form a part of the Bangalore city. With these large areas under his belt, Kempe Gowda started his task of city construction, with the royal permission of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Bengaluru Fort

Kempe Gowda first built a Red Fort with eight gates, and a moat surrounding it, a little away from Yelahanka. This fort is today popularly known as Bangalore Fort, and is located in the center of Bengaluru City.

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An artist impression of Bangalore in 1537.
Enclosed within a strong mudfort and surrounded by a moat.

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Bengaluru Fort, in 1860

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Bengaluru Fort as it stands today

Four streets and roads

He then designed the four streets running in the four directions with the corresponding roads. The street running from east to west was named Chikkapete street, while the street from north to south was named Doddapete street. This Doddapete street has been renamed today as Avenue Road.

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The four roads originally built by Kempe Gowda in today’s Bangalore map

One ran from Ulsoor to Sondekoppa, running from east to west and another from Yelahanka Gate to the Fort, running from north to south. These streets were segregated for different purposes such as for residences or business. Tanks were built at different places to supply water to the city.

4 towers

Kempe Gowda also built four watch towers to mark the outer boundaries of Bengaluru. The city has today grown much beyond these towers which today stand at the heart of the city.

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One of the Watch Towers built by Kempe Gowda

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A watch tower as it stands today in Lalbagh, Bengaluru

Thus came about a city that is today the IT capital of India. A city that owes its origin to Kempe Gowda.

Kempe Gowda passed away in 1569 CE, having ruled for around 56 years.

Legacy

Statue

In 1609, a metal statue of this emperor was installed at the Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivagange.  Post-independence, another statue of his was built in from of the Bangalore Corporation office.

Bus Stand and Airport

Today, the central bus station is named as Kempe Gowda Bus Station, and the Bangalore Airport as Kempe Gowda International Airport. The central metro station at Majestic has also been named after Kempe Gowda.

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Kempe Gowda Bus Station

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Kempe Gowda International Airport

Water Bodies

One lesser known fact is Kempe Gowda’s contribution to building many tanks and reservoirs in and around Bengaluru. With great forethought, he built these water bodies to supply sufficient water for his city citizens.

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Yelahanka Lake, Bengaluru

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Ulsoor Lake, Bengaluru

Unfortunately today, we have destroyed these water bodies in the name of development.

Educational Institutions

Also, many educational like Kempe Gowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kempe Gowda college of Nursing and the Kempe Gowda Institute of Physiotherapy have been named in honour of Kempe Gowda.

Awards

Kempe Gowda awards are given away every year to those from different walks of life.

Museum

Kempe Gowda Museum, was established in 2011 at Bengaluru, dedicated to this chieftain.

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Kempe Gowda Museum

Like this, legacy of Kempe Gowda has taken the form of many institutions, and his name is well-etched in the minds of people.

Bankim Chandra

bankim chandra chattopadhyay - birth

We all know the song Vande Mataram, the National Song of India. But do you know the person behind this song?

Around 180 years back, on 27th June 1838, was born the creator of this song at Naihati, in the then Bengal Presidency of India. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was his name.

He grew up to be a freedom fighter poet who gave this clarion call of Vande Mataram, that inspired many generations during the Indian Freedom Struggle and continues to do so even today, even with just its popular tune itself, minus the words.

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A writer cum poet and journalist, Bankim Chandra, was a leading figure in the literary renaissance of Bengal and India.

Bankim Chandra composed the popular song Vande Mataram, as a part of his work, Anandamath in 1881. The first two verses of this song were adopted as the National Song of India, in 1937, due to the patriotic fervor that this song aroused in the minds of the people.

Vande Mataram is an ode to motherland, Matharam. In the Indian ethos, the motherland is revered as a Mother herself – Bharat Mata.

The house at Chinsurah in West Bengal, where the Vande Mataram was composed

Bha stands for knowledge, and Ratha means to relish. Bharat is the land of people who relish knowledge. Bharat Mata is the embodiment of the knowledge and wisdom in this land, which gives it its strength, courage, prosperity, virtue, clam and charm. She is revered as a Devi, the Divine Mother.

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Vande Mataram – Original Song With All Verses and Its English Translation by Sri Aurobindo

Along with Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem, Vande Mataram is the most revered song in this land. With this song, Bankim Chandra has left a permanent imprint in the minds of the people of this country.

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Urdu Daily, named “Vande Mataram”, based in Lahore during the pre-independence times

This song was introduced in the political arena by Rabindranath Tagore and from thereon, its popularity spread far and wide.

The term Vande Mataram soon became popular among the leaders and masses.

Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, the two well-known freedom fighters named their journals, Vande Mataram.

Sri Aurobindo, the freedom fighter cum spiritual leader called it the National Anthem of Bengal.

This song was composed in both Bengali and Samskrt. As it was composed in Samskrt, the mother language of most languages of Bharat Desh, the song, the words and their meaning, easily found resonance among the citizens of the land and encouraged patriots all the way from Baluchistan in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East and from Himalaya in the North to Kanyakumari in the South.

Bankim Chandra’s other works include Durgeshnandini, Kapalkundala and Devi Chaudhurani.

Bankim Chandra passed away on 8th April, 1894. But he lives on even today, through his song Vande Mataram.

Nirjala Ekadashi

Ekadashi is an occasion for fasting, when one forgoes food. Nirjala Ekadasi is the day when one foregoes even water.

 Ekadashi is an occasion for fasting, when one forgoes food. Nirjala Ekadasi is the day when one foregoes even water. Ancient India recommended fasting a day in a fortnight, the designated day being Ekadasi. Many still practice Ekadasi fasting religiously with a clear understanding of the biological and therapeutic benefits of this practice. The position of the sun, moon, earth and the gravitational pull they exert on each other on this day that makes Ekadashi special.

Ekadash, eleven also stands for

1. 5 Jnanandriya – eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin

2. 5 karmandriya – arms, legs, digestive system, excretory system and reproductive system

3. Mind

The 5 senses of perception and action, and the mind as the eleventh. Ekadashi is a day to bring the senses into harmony with the 11th aspect, the mind. One of the ways to do this is through fasting.

Hence fasting is undertaken during every Ekadasi.Nirjala Ekadashi is more austere, where they observe, without even drinking water.

Which is why it is called Nirjala Ekadashi.

There are four levels of fasting, based on intake

1. Eating one regular meal in the day

2. When fruits and milk are consumed

3. When only water is consumed

4. When, even water is not taken

This last category of fasting is undertaken on Nirjala Ekadasi day, when even water is shunned. Fasting once every month and annually without consuming water is prescribed as a cleansing process for the body.

International Yoga Day

Yoga-The Union

 

Yoga-1

The Roots

Yoga, the latest rave across the world, comes from the root Yug, Jug which means to align.

It is the same root as for the word “Yoke” which is used to align bullocks to pull a cart.

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YogaYug/Jug – Yoke – Join

The root of the word Yoga and its practice, lies in India.

The Practice

Yoga is not just exercise or postures.

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Yoga, as the name suggests, is the practice by way of which mind, body and breath are aligned to achieve a state of harmony with each other and to become homogeneous with the cosmic consciousness – a state that brings with it a sense of freshness, energy and calm, a sense of balance of the various senses and emotions.

The extent of harmony and balance maintained, defines the depth of insight the Yogi has gained.

In a simplistic form, it is a structured combination of

  • Asana – exercise postures for the body,
  • Pranayama – regulating energy through control of the breath and
  • Dhyana – meditation for the mind,

along with maintaining physiological, psychological and sociological hygiene through Yama (control / abstinence), Niyama (adherence) and other guidelines.

Daily activities as Yoga

In our life, the various activities that we perform are also various aspects of Yoga. For example,

  1. When we greet each other with Namaste, it is Anjali Mudra.
  2. When we sit down on the floor to eat, the sitting position is called Suhasan, one of the asana, postures of Yoga
  3. After eating, the asana, posture that is  suggested for easy digestion is Vajrasana
  4. The sleeping posture is Shavasana. The act of sleeping with awareness is known as Yoga Nidra

The common punishment asana is called Palikarsha. In Hindi it is called Baski and in Tamil Topukaranam. It is the act of crossing one’s arms and holding the opposite side ear lobes and performing situps.

Mistakes usually happen due to lack of knowledge and awareness. The Palikarsha posture stimulates the nadi, nerve which helps enhance neuron cells, their perfect connectivity and thus improves knowledge acquisition and transfer process within the body. It also helps to internalize whatever is learnt and to become more aware.

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Palikarsha

Like this, every simple activity is linked to one of the yogic postures or the other.

Child – An Expert in Yoga

Yoga comes to us naturally right from our childhood.

Many of the different poses that a child does in its antics are yogic poses. As we grow from childhood into youth, we need to continue our practice of Yoga.

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Children bending their bodies in play like Yoga Asanas

Yoga as a structured practice by the adults can be traced to India to beyond 7100 years ago at the very least.

A 7100 Year Old Structured Practice

The general opinion is that Yoga is 5000 years old. But we can see the trace of Yoga even during Ramayana times, 7100 years ago. Yoga was a specialized practice then too and hence must date to times before Rama as well.

Yoga Vasishta

The antiquity of Yoga can be ascertained from the fact that Rama’s Spiritual Guru, Vasishta, counselled and groomed Rama’s mind through the treatise Yoga Vasishta. One of the longest texts in Samskrt after Mahabharata, Yoga Vasishta forms an important text for Yoga and Advaita Vedanta (Non duality).

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Vasishta imparting Yoga Vasishta to Rama – An Illustration on Art of Living CD Cover

Rama’s birth datable to 5114 BCE, makes Yoga Vasishta and the concept of Yoga, atleast 7100 years old.

Continuous practice

From the timeless Veda, we can see that Indians have been in the habit of this continuous practice to keep both mind and body fit. Antiquity can be seen both in art and text.

In art, we can see a continuity of Yoga practice right from Mohenjodaro and Harappan times in the form of terracota Yogic posture figurines.

146 Yoga Poses Fig.jpg

As far as texts go, across the times, illumined minds have given structure to this practice, through a large body of texts, thereby giving Yoga practice, a breath of fresh air every few generations.

Rishi Patanjali and Yoga

Rishi Patanjali, one of the earliest pioneers of Yoga was born in the land known today as Afghanistan.

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An idol of Patanjali

When Rishi Gonika was praying to Surya, Sun with cupped hands – an Anjali Mudra, a yogic posture, a baby fell into it. The child was thus named Patanjali, meaning one who fell into cupped hands.

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Anjali to Surya

Rishi Patanjali had his education at Takshashila University, the premier centre of advanced learning then, which is near present day Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Takshashila was a sought after centre for higher studies in Yoga, Ayurveda among many other subjects.

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Takshashila Ruins of today

Patanjali Rameshwaram Connect

Rishi Patanjali attained his Samadhi in Rameshwaram in South India.

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Rameshwaram Temple

Rama installs Rameshwaram Lingam

Rameshwaram is one of the hallowed places of India, where Rama installed and worshipped a Shiva Lingam, before his battle with Ravana.

More on Rama installing the Lingam at Rameshwarm in our book ‘Historical Rama’.

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Rama praying to Shiva Linga                  Rameshwaram Temple                                                        Historical Rama

Rameshwaram – A Jyothir Linga

The Lingam at Rameshwaram is one of the 12 Jyothir Lingas. We discuss the significance of Jyothir Linga and Rameshwaram in our book ‘Understanding Shiva’.

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Understanding Shiva

It is in such a holy place that Patanjali lived, practised and propagated Yoga and eventually attained samadhi.

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Rishi Patanjali Samadhi, Rameshwaram

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra composed by Rishi Patanjali, which goes back by many millennia, has been a forerunner and guide for the practice of Yoga in all these years.  Traditional Yoga as in Yoga Sutra is about meditation and mantra (OM-pranava). Asana had a secondary role. Yoga must lead to meditation and Samadhi to achieve its true goal of self-realization.

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Patanjali Yoga Sutra being explained by H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, Art of Living

Rishi Patanjali recorded, systematized and expounded Yoga through the entire stretch of land from north-west Afghanistan, where He was born, to Rameshwaram in south-east India, where He attained Samadhi.

Thus the structured practice of Yoga was not limited to north India alone, but has stretched from north-west India to south-east India, covering the whole civilization of India.

Shiva-Adi Yogi

Shiva is referred to as Adi Yogi, represented as a bodily form, Shankara.

Indus Valley Pashupathi Seal

Probably one of the earliest representations, can be found in the Harappa – Mohenjodaro seal of Pashupathi, where Shiva or Pashupathi is shown seated in a Padamasana pose with all the animals surrounding Him.

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Pashupathi seal from Harappa

Gundestrup Cauldron

A very interesting archaeological find in Denmark, of a very ancient bowl, at a place called Gundestrup, throws new light on Pashupathi and His following. This bowl, now called the Gundestrup Cauldron, bears in one of its panels, an image very similar to the Pashupathi seal unearthed from the Harappa – Mohenjodaro sites.

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Gundestrup cauldron, Denmark, Unearthed in 1891 Dating back to 150 BCE & Pashupathi

Indo-Euro Yogic connect

This shows that this yogic form was prevalent not only to the Indus Valley sites but even to far away Denmark in North Western Europe.

Krishna – Yogeshwara

Sri Krishna was an exemplary Jnana Yogi. Krishna also speaks about other Yoga such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita Upadesha was given on 22nd November, 3067 BCE. How we have conclusively arrived at this date, is discussed in our book, “Historical Krishna”.

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                  Gita Upadesha                                 Historical Krishna

This implies that Krishna and His Upadesha, counsel on Yoga are historical and real.

This means that Yoga and it benefits are also real.

This positions Yoga as not just exercise postures, Asana, but as knowledge, action, devotion, all coming together, to verily become a harmonious way of life.   

Yogasana and Namaz Postures

There are interesting similarities between Yogasana Postures and the Muslim practice of Namaz.

Namaz Postures have their equivalent names and poses in Yogasana as can been in this chart.

Yogasana Namaz Postures
Namaste Qiyam
Ardha Uttanasana Ruk’u
Vajrasana Julus
Balasana Sujud

yoga

Similarities of Yogasana and Namaz Postures

The similarity of Yogasana and Namaz Postures shows unison. For, Yoga itself means to unite, to come together.

Yoga Travels World Over

This structured practice of Yoga has now travelled and become popular world over as one of the preferred forms of keeping body and mind fit with one move.

Yoga to Near West

A look into the past shows that even Sufi saints from the Near West, Sultans and Mughal kings have interacted with Yogis, with an open mind inorder to learn of the good aspects of Yoga from its master practitioners.

Yoga to Far West

The visit of Swami Vivekananda to US in 1893 was a kick off point for Yoga in the modern international arena. Yoga kicked off and spread as a big  in the US and worldwide.

Yoga to the East

Yoga went to the East from India along with Buddhism more than 2000 years ago, for Dhyan, meditation lies at the heart of Buddhism.

A sitting example is at the west entrance of Wat Phra Kew, the main temple attached to the Grand Palace at Bangkok, Thailand, in the form of a bronze statue popularly called “The Hermit Doctor”.

The locals refer to this statue as their patron of medicine, an Indian hermit Jivaka, who gave them Yoga and herbal medicine and hence offer prayers and other offerings here, to get cured of illnesses.  This Jivaka was none other than the personal physician of the Buddha.

This statue at the front of the temple is placed on a stone pedestal, with another pedestal in front, bearing a stone mortar and pestle – an indication of how he practiced medicine with herbs, he used to grind.

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Jivaka, Patron Hermit of Yoga and Medicine, Wat Phra Kew, Grand Palace, Bangkok

Further more, many Yoga postures can be seen displayed by statues in the gardens of Wat Pho, the temple adjacent to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, which houses the Reclining Buddha and is home to the original Thai massage. Housing many plaques with inscriptions on the pressure points in the human body, this temple from a long time has been renowned as a study centre for Ayurveda including Thai style of massages and Yoga.

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Statues depicting Yoga Postures at Wat Pho Temple in Thailand, Bangkok

The statue, 2nd from left in the 2nd row, just under the large leafed plant can be seen

doing Pranayama, breathing exercise, with his hands on his waist

Yoga, Now a Global Brand

It was Paramahamsa Yogananda and then Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri. Krishnamacharya, Sri B.K.S.Iyengar, their disciples and Gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev, who have literally taken Yoga to the world.

World Yoga Day

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave a clarion call to have an World Yoga Day declared, to raise awareness of keeping mind and body fit through Yoga.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in his address to UN Assembly in September 2014, made a request to formalize a World Yoga day. The UN body adopted this resolution and passed it with a overwhelming majority in December 2014.

The world now has a new day to observe and celebrate – A World Yoga Day!

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June 21st of every year, which is the day of Summer Solstice, i.e. the day when the Sun is seen longest in the sky, the day when daylight is maximum, was declared by UN on 12th December 2014, as World Yoga Day.

It is an apt day to be chosen as a World Yoga Day for every Yoga session typically starts with Surya Namaskar, the reverence to the Sun. What could be a better day than a Summer Solstice, the day when the Sun is in its peak to revere and celebrate the connection between our body and the Sun. It is the connection which drives the very metabolism clock in our bodies.

What is even more amazing is that, the proposal from India to the UN, to declare June 21st as World Yoga Day was seconded and co-sponsored by an unprecedented number of 175 nations out of 193.

This is indeed a remarkable feat. Normally, so many countries coming together in the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution for a commemorating day is rare.

For the 1st time so many nations have unanimously voted for a declaration in the history of UN General Assembly and that too within a record 3 months of the proposal having been put up in September 2014.

This in itself is proof of the universal acceptance of Yoga.

The popularity of Yoga and universality of Yoga, is what led so many countries to come together to jointly announce a World Yoga Day.

“Yoga embodies

  • unity of mind and body;
  • thought and action;
  • restraint and fulfilment;
  • harmony between man and nature;
  • a holistic approach to health and well being.” ,

were the words with which India described Yoga and garnered this support.

No wonder then that people across the globe, across times have therefore held and continue to hold Yoga in high respect and demand. The need for Yoga and the benefits of Yoga are as universal, as is our breath and our desire to be in union with the divine.

Yoga is a universal offering from India which has the potential to align all bodies and minds, across the world, towards the common goal of self realization, oneness, unity and peace.