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External Affairs Minister's address at the International Day of Yoga celebrations at United Nations, New York (June 21, 2015)

June 21, 2015

Your Excellency Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.
Respected Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Distinguished Guests and friends,

It is a singular honour for me to join all of you today to celebrate the first International Day of Yoga.

It is not often that both occasion and location match each other in scale. Here, in this historic place that was built to protect succeeding generations from the scourge of war, we gather to celebrate an ancient treasure – India’s own gift to the world. Yoga began in India some five thousand years ago. But it was given the ultimate seal of international acclaim only last year by the UN.

And this is the place where it all began. On the 27th of September, 2014 when the Prime Minister of India Mr. NarendraModi first made the proposal in the UN General Assembly to have an International Day of Yoga.

I should, first and foremost, thank all the 192 other member states for their full support which allowed our Resolution declaring 21 June as the International Day of Yoga to be adopted by consensus. In particular, I thank the 176 other member States who, by co-sponsoring the Resolution, took equal ownership of the initiative. That the resolution was adopted within 75 days of Prime Minister Modi proposing it bears evidence to the fact that it was an idea whose time had come.

I must also record my gratitude to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who provided immediate and unstinted support to our proposal and to the President of the General Assembly Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa for the leadership he provided on this issue.

In a world increasingly divided by what the great poet Rabindranath Tagore called "narrow domestic walls,” Prime Minister Modi had a vision of India’s ancient treasure that would do the opposite – that would, through the notion of holistic health, and a conscious search for the self, seek to bring us all together. Yoga literally means to join, to unite, and we see the International Day of Yoga as the perfect platform to bring the world together in a spirit of unity and harmony.

Yoga is neither a religion, nor should it be seen as belonging to any particular religion. It is a science, the science of well-being, the science of integrating body, mind and soul, the science of actualizing our true potential.Even as I speak, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are practicing Yoga, just over a mile away at Times Square. Millions others all across the world in 192 nations, have joined them in their own unique national celebrations of this historic day. In my own country India, Prime Minister Modi led the largest yoga class in history when he addressed more than 35,000 people at Rajpath a few hours ago. This truly is a confirmation of the international character of Yoga as well as its convening power.

By celebrating the International Day of Yoga together, we celebrate our common humanity. We are recognizing that we have shared opportunities. We are also acknowledging our sense of a shared global fate.

Prime Minister NarendraModi, in his address to the General Assembly last year, had said that Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment and harmony between man and nature.

The United Nations is about nations living in harmony with each other. By celebrating the International Day of Yoga at the United Nations, I believe we send a powerful message about men and women living in harmony with each other and also in harmony with nature.

At a time when ethnic conflicts and extremist violence are threatening to destabilize societies, yoga can serve as the perfect antidote to stem such negative tendencies and move us on the path of harmony and peace.

I am confident that Yoga can also become a potent tool for the United Nations to promote the message of brotherhood and amity in the finest Indian tradition of VasudhaivaKutumbakam. The entire world is one family, and we can unite it with Yoga.

Yoga Guru BKS Iyengar used to say: "When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” On this First International Day of Yoga, let us join our breaths, let us combine our strengths, for a safer, happier, healthier world.

Thank You.


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