The Fourth Annual International Day of Yoga (IDY) was observed in Paramaribo, capital of Surinam, on Thursday June 21 by India's President Shri Ram Nath Kovind and his Surinamese counterpart Desire Delano Bouterse. The two heads of states were joined by Surinam’s Vice President Michael Ashwin Adhin, India's Ambassador to Surinam, members of the cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps, and thousands of others including Guyanese and Trinidadian residents in Surinam.
The President of India was on a State Visit to Surinam at the invitation of President Bouterse from June 19 to 21. This was the first time that two heads of states or heads of two countries together participated in yoga.This writer covered the President’s visit that included stops at many historic locations pertaining to the arrival of Indians as well as an address of Parliament. Shri Kovind-ji is in the Surinamese capital on the second leg of his three-nation tour having visited Greece and then going to Cuba.
At the request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the United Nations on December 14 declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga (IDY). The observance began in 2015 with June 21, 2018 marking the fourth anniversary. Globally, tens of millions observed IDY facilitated by Embassies, Consulates, and Cultural Centers of India around the world. Hundreds of yoga organizations around the globe also participated in the yoga event. People of all ethnicities and ages participated the festival. In Surinam, Swami Bharat Bhushan especially came from India to conduct IDY 2018 and he provided some training to President Bouterse who conducted the exercises like an expert.
Yoga has been found to be a major unifying force in a world facing conflicts. It brings people together and reduced tension and rivalry. It leads to peace, quiet, and harmony. Prior to IDY in Suriname, President Kovind promoted the event at all of his stops. The President appealed to Surinamese to make yoga an integral part of their lives, saying that it would help them with their health. Indeed, Yoga has been proven to havebeneficial impact on peoples’ bodies as well as their minds. In today's world of stresses and lifestyle diseases, yoga practitioners say yoga can be helpful to relieve stress. The President of Suriname also said it has helped his mind to be more focused.
And in Paramaribo, people heeded the appeal as thousands from all walks of life participated in the event – young and old. There were also members of the diplomatic corps and Surinam’s cabinet and opposition members of parliament. Organizers provided tee shirts and roll on mats to sit on the floor to conduct the yoga. The turnout was so huge that tee shirts ran out.
Addressing the huge gathering in Paramaribo at the KKF Center, President Kovind extended greetings on the occasion. The President said, "On International Yoga Day, greetings to all those practicing Yoga”. He noted that yoga does not belong to India alone but to all of humanity. “It is an ancient tradition. But it is part of humanity's intangible heritage. I invite you to explore and celebrate yoga wherever you are."
He stated that “Yoga is the ultimate expression of Indian soft power and it has won us love and affection among yoga practitioners in all corners of the planet, including in Suriname”.
Kovind also said that yoga embodies the symbiotic relationship of mind and body and of thought and action. He added, “it promotes harmony between human beings and nature, a sentiment that is so much at home in the culture of Suriname”.
He noted: “It promotes a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. The benefits of yoga must also spur us, in different countries and cultures, to explore traditional wisdom and consider how this could be useful for the modern age - or simply repackaged for our times. Many societies, including Suriname and India, have a wealth of traditional knowledge to offer".
Later in the day, the President laid the foundation stone of an Indian Cultural Centre here which will be dedicated to the promotion of Hindustani music and culture.
All Indian Embassies and office abroad globally performed or promoted Yoga. The Japanese Parliament also conducted Yoga joined by the Indian Ambassador there.