Sunday marks the first-ever International Yoga Day, celebrated by millions worldwide, with the most turnouts in India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead the 35-minute event on Sunday with thousands before him at New Delhi’s Rajpath.
Modi is known to frequently urge Indians to take up yoga and openly promotes the practice. He stated previously that yoga is an “invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition.”
“Today is not just the first-ever International Yoga Day, but the beginning of a new era that would inspire humanity in its quest for peace and harmony,” Modi said to the 37,000 enthusiastic yogis present at the event on Sunday.
The crowd gathered with their mats prepared to carry out many different postures, hoping to qualify for a Guinness world record as the “world’s largest yoga demonstration at a single venue.”
Senior politicians, diplomats, students, soldiers and the Prime Minister of India were present at the event, which came into being an internationally celebrated day following the Indian PM’s appeal to the UN General Assembly in December, 2014.
At the event, Modi said to the enthusiastic crowd which gathered in the 1,400m long boulevard; “Yoga was not merely an exercise, but offered an opportunity for balancing the mind and body, and could help harness an individual’s inner strength.”
Four different yoga instructors were present at the event, demonstrating poses for the crowd to follow. About 8,000 soldiers were appointed to ensure security.
Three hundred million rupees (nearly $5 million) was reportedly spent on the expenses of the event.
Approximately 177 countries participated in the worldwide event.
Turkey also joined the bandwagon of yoga practice on Sunday. Yoga sessions, holistic practices and outdoor events took place in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
The 6,000-year-old practice was celebrated vividly in Istanbul, in locations such as Macka Park, along with Caddebostan and Tunel Square in Taksim. The Indian Embassy of Ankara also held special events at ODTU (Middle East Technical University).
Similar events were held in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, not to mention many other cities.
India's foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, flew to the US to celebrate the event at New York’s Times Square.
The Indian PM’s conspicuous emphasis on yoga has sparked some controversy, especially among minority groups in India. Last week, some Muslims objected to the event, saying it is a ploy to boost Hindu pride and marginalise the 175 million Muslims living in the country.
The Congress Party, India’s main opposition, has also criticised the yoga event and claimed it to be a political gimmick.
Secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the campaign is just a strategy to “enforce Hindu rituals on all non-Hindus.”
However, yoga ambassadors have argued that Muslims are wrong to oppose yoga as it transcends religion and is more of an exercise regimen rather than act of Hindu worship.
To add to the controversy, last week Hindu priest and Member of Parliament, Yogi Adityanath suggested that minority groups who oppose yoga should leave the country or drown themselves.
Yoga, which was found for the first time in the Hindu scripture of Vedas, is known as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline and physical form of exercise which consists of breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures.