United Nations, June 21: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday described Yoga as "truly universal" and free from copyrights and patents as he led a historic event at the UN Headquarters to commemorate the 9th International Day of Yoga, attended by top UN officials, envoys from across and the world and prominent individuals.

Modi, who is here on the first leg of his maiden state visit to the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, began the celebration by paying respects to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the North Lawn of the UN headquarters. The bust was installed in December last year under India's presidency of the UN Security Council. International Yoga Day 2023: PM Narendra Modi Arrives at UN Headquarters Lawns in New York to Lead Yoga Event (Watch Video).

Watch Video: PM Narendra Modi Performs Yoga at International Yoga Day Celebrations

The prime minister, wearing an especially customised white yoga T-shirt and trousers, began his address with a 'Namaste' and thanked people for coming here from far away to attend the celebration. "I'm delighted to see you all. And I thank you all for coming. Friends. I'm told that almost every nationality is represented here today," Modi said. International Yoga Day 2023: People Arrive in Large Numbers To Attend Yoga Day Event Led by PM Narendra Modi at UN (Watch Video).

"Yoga comes from India and it is a very old tradition. Yoga is free from copyrights, patents and royalty payments. Yoga is adaptable to your age, gender and fitness level. Yoga is portable and is truly universal," Modi told the gathering.

Hundreds of yellow yoga mats were placed on the ground where yoga enthusiasts and practitioners, wearing customised white yoga T-shirts, joined the event. LED screens playing videos of Indian culture and heritage were set up on the lawn.

PM Narendra Modi Leads Historic Yoga Session at UN

"Yoga means to unite...I remember about nine years ago, right here, I had the honour to propose celebrating the International Day of yoga on 21st June. It was wonderful to see the entire world come together to support the idea," Modi said.

The historic yoga session was attended by top UN officials, ambassadors, envoys, delegates from Member States as well as prominent members of the global and diaspora community. "I am excited for everyone who is participating in Yoga Day," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN.

President of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly Csaba Korosi, Hollywood actor Richard Gere, Mayor of New York City Eric Adams and Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Amina J Mohammed were among prominent personalities who attended the event.

"The feeling here is so open and embracing, I hope this feeling intoxicates the entire building. It's a really nice feeling here today," Gere said ahead of the event.

People from more than 180 countries participated in Prime Minister Modi-led Yoga Day celebrations here, representing different walks of life and comprising diplomats, artists, academicians and entrepreneurs among others, sources said.

"You can see the vibrations and excitement. Hundreds of people are lining up for International Yoga (Day celebrations) with Prime Minister Modi. Such a great feeling," said Dilip Chauhan, Deputy Commissioner for New York City Mayor's Office for International Affairs.

Ruchika Lal, Yoga and Meditation Instructor, Art of Living, said people are excited. "They have been waiting outside since 6 am," she said. People were seen standing in queues outside UN headquarters to take part in the yoga session since early morning.

The first International Day of Yoga was commemorated in 2015 and has since then been marked with several sessions and events highlighting the benefits and universal appeal of Yoga at the UN, Times Square and iconic locations across the world.

The UN underlined that Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga' is derived from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of body and consciousness. Today it is practised in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity.

Recognising its universal appeal, in December 2014, the UN proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The draft UNGA resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

Earlier in a video message on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga, Modi said India has always nurtured traditions that unite, adopt and embrace and made a fervent appeal to eliminate contradictions, hurdles and resistances through yoga. Modi said Indians have welcomed new ideas, conserved them and celebrated the country's rich diversity.

Yoga strengthens such feelings, expands the inner vision, and connects us with that consciousness which makes us feel the unity of the living being giving a basis of love for the living being, the prime minister said.

"We have to eliminate our contradictions, blockages and resistances through Yoga. We have to present the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat' as an example to the world,” Modi said.

Modi also said the International Day of Yoga was special this year as researchers at India's research stations in the Arctic and Antarctica too were participating in the celebrations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message for Yoga Day, said yoga unites people. "It unites body and mind, humanity and nature and millions of people across the globe for whom it is a source of strength, harmony and peace," he said.

"In a dangerous and divided world, the benefits of this ancient practice are particularly precious. Yoga offers a haven of calm, it can reduce anxiety and promote mental well-being. It helps us to develop discipline and patience. It connects us to our planet, which so badly needs our protection," Guterres said.

He added that yoga reveals "our common humanity, helping us to understand that despite our differences, we are one. On this International Day of Yoga, let us embrace the spirit of unity and resolve to build a better, more harmonious world for people, the planet and ourselves."

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