Millions of people across the country and abroad marked the International Yoga Day on Sunday as they joined virtual gatherings and shared online their pictures and videos highlighting the importance of the ancient practice for the world as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the celebrations in India and stressed that yoga has emerged as a force for unity which goes beyond race, colour, gender, faith and nations.
The world is feeling the need for yoga more than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ancient Indian practice is helping a large number of COVID-19 patients across the globe in defeating the disease, Modi said in his nearly 15-minute address this morning.
Yoga enthusiasts performed exercises in their homes or in small groups in the outdoors keeping in mind the social distancing norms as no major camps were organised due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since June 21, 2015, when Yoga Day began to be celebrated annually across the world coinciding with the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year.
This year's theme was 'Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family' due to the coronavirus concerns.
A number of people, including prominent personalities from various fields, posted their pictures and videos in various yoga poses on social media platforms with messages stressing on the benefits of yoga in fighting coronavirus and stress related to modern lifestyle.
Perhaps the most awe-inspiring images came from the icy heights of Himalayas as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel practised yoga in sub-zero temperatures in various places, including Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said that practising yoga can help keep the body fit and mind serene amid stress and strife, especially in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.
Indian missions across the world too held virtual events to mark the occasion, unlike during the previous editions when mass gatherings had been held.
Dressed in T-shirts and trousers and some of them wearing face masks, people stretched themselves in various postures at yoga events held in the US, China, the UK, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and several other countries to celebrate the occasion.
In Washington, Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu joined the embassy officials and other personalities including several Hollywood stars to celebrate the Yoga Day at a virtual event.
"We are not able to celebrate with a larger number of yoga enthusiasts due to the prevailing situation. Thanks to the technology, we are connected with thousands of people online from across the US," Sandhu said.
The events were low-key in Beijing owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the Sino-India military standoff at the Line of Actual Control.
China, where yoga has been very popular, usually celebrates the occasion with numerous events ever since its inception by the United Nations.
This year, the main event was held at the India House with the participation of Indian and foreign diplomats along with their families.
On December 11, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as 'International Day of Yoga', months after Prime Minister Modi had proposed the idea.
Governors, chief ministers and other leaders as well as various institutions marked the day with special messages and virtual events across India.
The Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) had planned to hold a grand event in Leh, but cancelled it due to the pandemic.
In his message on Sunday, Modi said the International Yoga Day is a day of unity and gives the message of universal brotherhood.
"It is a day of oneness and humanness. What brings us together, unites us, that is yoga. What bridges distances is yoga," he said.