Extolling the ancient Indian discipline of Yoga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called for efforts to protect nature and mould human activities to bring them in sync with ecological surroundings.
He also termed unity in diversity as the speciality and strength of the Indian culture.
"This (Maha Shivaratri celebrations) symbolises a spirit of vigilance, that we have to protect nature and mould our activities in sync with our ecological surroundings," he said addressing a gathering after unveiling a mammoth 112 feet bust of 'Adiyogi' Lord Shiva at Isha Yoga Foundation in Coimbatore.
Underlining the need for peaceful coexistence, Modi said, “Lord Shiva is everywhere” and referred to the bull, peacock and mouse that were the vehicles of the Lord and his sons -- Ganesh and Kartikeya. He also talked about the venomous snake Vasuki curled around Shiva’s neck to emphasise the importance of peaceful coexistence.
He asked people to remain united, insisting unity in diversity was special to Indian culture.
Praising the ancient practice of Yoga, whose goal is to bring the practitioner’s body, mind and spirit in tune with each other, Modi told the gathering that by ‘practising Yoga, a spirit of oneness is created. Oneness of mind, body and the intellect, oneness with our families and with the society we live in, with fellow humans and with birds, animals and trees’.
"This is Yoga, Yoga is a journey from me to we," he said, emphasising India’s biggest strength was its diversity.
Modi began his speech by greeting people in Tamil ‘Ungal Ellorukkum En Anbana Vanakkam,’ (My loving greetings to all).
Founder of Isha Foundation, Jaggi Vasudev, said the bust of ‘Adiyogi’ was built in eight months. He also lauded Modi for practising Yoga.
Before unveiling the giant ‘Adiyogi’ bust, Modi lighted the ‘Maha Yoga Yagna’ and released the book Adiyoga: The source of Yoga, which deals with yogic sciences.
Modi was shown around various places in the Isha Yoga complex, including the Dhyana Linga, Surya Kund, Nandi statue and the inner and outer corridors (prakaras) by Sadguru Vasudev.
The prime minister offered aarti and showered flower petals over the Dhyana Linga.
He later sat in the Dhyana Linga mandapam, where a yogic dance was performed by a group of youngsters to the accompaniment of traditional music and Sanskrit shlokas.
Modi briefly sat alongside Vasudev in a meditative posture.
The city and the venue of the event were placed under a multi-tier security cover by police and the Special Protection Group, which guards the prime minister.
Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami received Modi on his arrival in Coimbatore.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi also attended the event.
The statue and the foundation are located in the foothills of Velliangiri mountains in the Western Ghats.
The bust was unveiled to coincide with Maha Shivaratri celebrations.
Equating nature with God, Modi said, “This has been firmly established by our ancestors who showed their foresight.”
The prime minister said though there were various schools of Yoga and ways of practising it, there was beauty in both the ancient and modern techniques.
"It is constant yet evolving, the essence of Yoga has not changed and it is of utmost importance to preserve this essence, otherwise we may just have to discover a new Yoga to rediscover the soul and essence of Yoga."
Modi said no idea should be followed only because it was ancient as ‘it is essential to analyse it, understand it and try to take it to the new generation in a manner which they understand best’.
Modi said lifestyle and stress related diseases were becoming more and more common.
"Communicable ailments can be controlled. What about non-communicable ones?” he said, noting he was saddened by people taking to substance and alcohol abuse because they are not at peace with themselves.
"Today the whole world wants peace...not only from war and conflict but peace of mind,” he said, adding Yoga was the ‘sharpest weapon’ to beat stress.
"There is ample evidence that practising Yoga helps combat stress and chronic conditions. If body is the temple of mind, Yoga creates a beautiful temple and that is why I call Yoga the passport to health assurance not insurance,” he said.
He said Yoga was about ‘rog mukti’ (freedom from diseases) as well as ‘bhog mukti’ (freedom from worldly greed).
Yoga made an individual a better person ‘in thought, action, knowledge and devotion’, he said.
Noting that Yoga was not only about a set of exercises which keeps the body fit, he said it went beyond physical exercises. “Through Yoga, we will create a new yug (era), an era of togetherness and harmony.”
He said when India mooted the idea of International Yoga Day at the United Nations, it was received with open arms and world celebrated it in 2015 and 2016 with great fervour.
"The coming together of so many nations to mark the Yoga Day shows the real essence of Yoga which is togetherness.”
He said Yoga has the potential to herald a ‘new era of peace, brotherhood and all round progress of human race’.
Lauding Isha Foundation founder Vasudev, he said the guru was making ‘Yogis out of ordinary people’.