Yogis and presenters from over 50 nations, including Kenya, Ukraine, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Japan and Thailand colourfully celebrated the concluding ceremonies of the world-renowned International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh today. They were joined by dignitaries including H.E. Dr. Aziz Qureshi, Governor of Uttarakhand and HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance.
The concluding ceremonies took place while the sun set serenely over the azure blue flow of the River Ganga. As participants from six continents and 50 countries raised their voices in songs of togetherness, messages were brought forth that that a more peaceful world can be forged through mutual-understanding.
Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji: “India should never be seen as a mere piece of land. It is a land of peace. Today, as we celebrated together, the illusory differences of nations, language and race were erased, and all were able to enjoy true harmony. Such togetherness is a natural outcome of yoga, which reminds us that we are all members of one family, united by the ties of Divinity.”
Said HE Governor Dr. Aziz Qureshi, “Pujya Swamiji is truly a divine symbol of peace, prosperity, progress and humanity. It brings me great happiness to see the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan blossoming under His vision and blessings… It is also a great honour to welcome the seekers and participants from over 50 countries to this sacred land of Uttarakhand. Their coming together, in itself, is a message of the power of Yoga to break through all borders and boundaries of caste, cultures and creeds.”
The presenters and participants were unanimous in their love and appreciation for what the Festival has given them. They said, “We have never before experienced a feeling like this. Looking around us, seeing the flags of so many nations, brought tears to our eyes. We realized that all differences are but surface-deep. Underneath, we are the same. We are all brothers and sisters.”
Sadhvi Bhagawatiji of Parmarth Niketan, explained “This yoga festival brings together people of every country, every culture, every creed and every colour. It is a true union, a “yoga” of peace and love. Together, we have enjoyed a beautiful week of being taught, touched and transformed. We have learned together, grown together and come together. Through this International Yoga Festival, at Parmarth Niketan’s divine, peaceful abode, on the banks of Mother Ganga, yoga has united the world.”
Prior to the Concluding Ceremonies, the sixth day of the week-long International Yoga Festival celebrated a wide spectrum of practices. As the sun rose over the Himalayas, hundreds of participants gathered for Kundalini Yoga, taught by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Gurushabd Singh Khalsa of California, USA, on Parmarth Niketan’s Ganga Ghats.
Throughout the day, participants had a wide range of classes and programs to choose from, including a graceful Dance of Prana by India’s renowned yogacharya, Deepika Mehta, Yuuva Yoga led by award-winning Yogi T.A. Krishnan and Yuva Dayalan, and Somatics Flow Yoga by Siddharth Ingle of Ireland and Gayatri of Sweden.
Later in the morning, an inspiring spiritual discourse series was held in which award-winning author, Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi) of Vancouver, Canada discussed “Ishvara Pranidan: The Lost Secrets of the Devas.” He explained: “Yoga teaches us to get in touch with the Source of All Love and have a direct, personal relationship with the Source of Everything. This world is difficult because it is made of unconscious energy. We are conscious energy, but the full potential of who we could be has been subdued to come here. Our atma has gone to sleep and we get amnesia.”
His talk was followed by a discussion on the “Psychological Perspectives of Yoga” by the renowned yoga expert and author, R.S. Bhogal of Kaivalya Dham, Pune, India.
After enjoying their lunches sitting at tables in the lap of the Himalayan Foothills, participants benefitted from unique classes, including a special class on “The Moon Sequence” by renowned Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and martial arts expert from USA, Matthew Sweeney. Matthew explained, “Chandra Krama is a gentle and flowing vinyasa practice intended to help the student connect with the phases of the Moon. The first salutes are offered as a prayer to Parvati, the daughter of the mountain. The Moon Sequence focuses on the hips and the lower spine and will help you to find and release many of your tensions and restrictions in the lower body.”
China’s David Wei gave a beautiful class on “Using the Principles of Taoist Yin Yang, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Buddhist Yoga, and Chinese Massage for Inner Meditation.”
Padmashri Bharat Bhushan gave a class in Bharat Yoga and Maa Gyan Suveera led the Reiki sequence.
As a special, inspiring program, Shri Mooji, a beloved spiritual leader in the Advaita Vedanta tradition from Jamaica, led an enlightening question and answer session.
Said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, “This year’s International Yoga Festival was a sangam of all nations, bestowing greater harmony to nearly one thousand lives directly, and innumerable thousands through those the participants will touch.. United through the yoga of togetherness, the participants will make their own lives, their families, their communities, their nations and our entire world more peaceful places through their noble actions and open hearts.”
Said HE Governor Dr. Aziz Qureshi: “Through yoga, all the barriers between men are demolished. I wish you all, when you come again next year, that you return with the message that the narrow divides that tear apart humanity have disappeared.”
Mina Khagram-69 Nakuru, Kenya: “This is my 8th year here. Initially I came for the yoga, but now I return for the people.”
Vik Shah- 31, Bangalore, India: “Practicing Kundalini with such amazing instructors on the Ganges with this diverse community has been an incredible experience.”
Ivana Crmcic – 32, Zagreb, Croatia: “I am the Croatian ambassador for a yoga initiation program for children. I have to come to here to see all these gifted global teachers and to learn from them. I am so glad I have come.”
Naima Kirkefeldt -33, Fakse, Denmark: “My desire for self-love brought me here. I am deeply impressed by the festival, and was truly in awe of Shivamani’s performance.”