LUCKNOW (Uttar Pradesh) • Yoga has connected the world with India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday, as he rolled out his mat along with millions of others across the globe to celebrate the ancient practice.
Enthusiasts across India rose at the crack of dawn, many braving monsoon showers, to mark the third International Yoga Day.
In the western city of Ahmedabad, 125,000 people led by celebrity yoga guru Baba Ramdev gathered at an open-air ground to try to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest session.
Police in New Delhi closed roads to make room for a mass yoga session held amid tight security in the heart of the Indian capital.
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Mr Modi, a teetotal vegetarian who practises yoga daily, led about 50,000 people in an early morning session in Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
"Many countries which do not know our language, tradition, or culture are now connecting to India through yoga," Mr Modi said in an address to the crowd.
"Yoga connects body, mind and soul. It is playing a big role in bringing the world together too," he said after performing various poses.
Mr Modi's official Twitter account, which has more than 30 million followers, has posted pictures of mass yoga sessions in China, Colombia, the United States, Paraguay, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and atop Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca citadel in Peru.
In New York, the UN headquarters lit up with images of poses in one of many events held across more than 100 countries.
In India, social media was flooded with pictures of yoga being performed in various places including an Indian Navy submarine and the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Television footage also showed Indian soldiers doing yoga in their military overalls in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, at an elevation of 5,500m.
Mr Modi, who credits his strict yoga regime for his ability to work long hours on little sleep, has been spearheading an initiative to reclaim the practice as a historic part of Indian culture since his Hindu- nationalist government came to power in 2014.
He has set up a ministry dedicated to promoting yoga and other traditional practices and persuaded the United Nations to create International Yoga Day, a move seen as a triumph of soft power.
Indian scholars believe yoga dates back 5,000 years, based on archaeological evidence of poses found inscribed on stones and references to Yogic teachings in the ancient Hindu scriptures of the Vedas.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS