International Yoga Day: Why PM Modi Chose Jammu and Kashmir This Year

June 21 marks the International Day of Yoga, a global celebration of an ancient spiritual discipline that has its roots in India. This year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is observing this significant day in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), signaling a political message alongside the celebration.

Yoga Day in Srinagar

Prime Minister Modi, currently on a two-day trip to the Union Territory, is leading the 10th International Day of Yoga (IDY) event at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar. The event has drawn thousands from various walks of life, all united in the practice of yoga.

Addressing the gathering, Modi highlighted the holistic benefits of yoga, a theme echoed worldwide since the UN General Assembly’s resolution in December 2014 that recognized June 21 as International Yoga Day. This day was chosen as it marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Political Significance of the Venue

Choosing Srinagar for this year’s celebration carries substantial political weight. Modi‘s visit follows his re-election for a third term and comes ahead of the J&K Assembly elections later this year. His presence in J&K aims to convey the government’s confidence and its commitment to peace and prosperity in the region.

This visit also boosts the morale of BJP workers in J&K, particularly after the party’s strategic decisions during the recent Lok Sabha elections. While the BJP secured both Lok Sabha seats in Jammu, it did not field candidates in the Kashmir Valley, focusing instead on fostering local leadership.

A Message to the World

Modi’s choice of venues for International Yoga Day over the years reflects a broader strategy of using yoga as a tool of soft diplomacy. Last year, he led the Yoga Day celebrations at the United Nations headquarters in New York, an event that saw participation from 135 nationalities and set a Guinness World Record.

Speaking at the UN, Modi emphasized yoga’s role in promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. His advocacy of yoga has significantly contributed to its global popularity, with millions around the world embracing the practice.

Previous Celebrations: A Journey Across India and Beyond

Since its inception in 2015, International Yoga Day has seen Modi leading celebrations across various significant locations:

2022: Mysore Palace, Karnataka

Over 15,000 participants gathered at the Mysore Palace grounds to observe the theme ‘Yoga For Humanity,’ acknowledging yoga’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 and 2020: Amidst the Pandemic

The themes were ‘Yoga for Wellness’ and ‘Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family,’ respectively, with Modi highlighting yoga as a source of hope and strength during the global health crisis.

2019: Ranchi, Jharkhand

Modi performed yoga at Prabhat Tara ground, joined by numerous MPs at the Old Parliament in Delhi.

2018: Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Accompanied by 50,000 volunteers, Modi celebrated in Dehradun.

2017: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Modi performed yoga with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and a large gathering in Lucknow.

2016: Chandigarh

The celebrations took place at Capitol Complex with over 30,000 participants, including differently-abled children.

2015: New Delhi

The inaugural International Day of Yoga was marked with a mass yoga program at Rajpath (now Kartavya Path) in Delhi, setting the stage for future global celebrations.

As Prime Minister Modi leads the 10th International Day of Yoga from Srinagar, the event underscores not only the global embrace of yoga but also the intricate interplay of cultural diplomacy and political messaging. Modi’s consistent advocacy has transformed yoga into a symbol of India’s soft power, fostering global unity and well-being through this ancient practice.

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