Hundreds of thousands of Indians performed yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation across towns and cities as the country marked the second International Day of Yoga on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led more than 30,000 people at a 45-minute workout which included school children, government officials and security personnel at the Capitol Complex in the northern city of Chandigarh.
"Yoga Day has become a people’s mass movement unlike any other," Modi told the crowd.
"Yoga gives health assurance at zero budget. It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor," Modi said.
Modi said yoga was not a religious activity - to be linked to Hinduism. "It is for the believers and for the non-believers. There is no need to create any controversy about it," he said.
The Indian leader and participants warmed up with some stretching exercises and later practiced asanas, including postures such as the Vriksasana, or tree pose, and the Bhujangasana, or cobra pose.
Hundreds of thousands of Indians practiced yoga at similar events in the country’s villages, towns and cities, including in the national capital New Delhi, Yoga Ministry spokeswoman Suvida Kumra said.
At the biggest such event in India, more than 100,000 people performed yoga with Guru Ramdev in Delhi’s suburbs of Faridabad, setting a record for the largest congregation for yoga practice, the IANS news agency reported.
In Delhi, thousands gathered at several venues including the central business district of Connaught Place for yoga sessions.
Yoga, an ancient discipline first practiced by Hindu sages thousands of years ago, is one of India’s biggest cultural exports, with millions of practitioners worldwide.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Yoga Day was being celebrated in 191 countries.
This year’s events have been planned on a grander scale, with many preparatory events already held across Indian cities and countries including the United States, Britain and Australia.
Over 173 Indian missions across the world are also organizing Yoga demonstrations to spread the awareness for the yoga day.
The UN headquarters in New York City was illuminated Monday night with images of yoga poses and about 500 people from more than 130 nations gathered on the lawn in front of the building on Tuesday to do yoga.
Hundreds also gathered in New York's Times Square early in the morning to practise yoga.
Global yoga events were held for the first time last year after June 21 was declared International Day of Yoga by the United Nations to coincide with the summer solstice.