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Time India reclaims Yoga

June 21, 2015

Today is the first time world celebrated the International Yoga Day. It coincides with Father’s Day, what a sweet surprise! Too much has been written on Yoga and too many videos/pix are in circulation so I only want to customarily record here the day India as a nation marks in the world social calendar the historic advent.

On this day I salute the universe’s first ever Yogi Lord Shiva who gifted humanity the wonderful scientific tool called Yoga to practise with. My salutations to Pathanjali the Yogic guru who nurtured the exercise of the mind and body and soul in complete harmony with our breath control, in a form adapted by us today.

Reportedly Pathanjali’s samadhi is in Rameshwaram. From Tamil tv channels I understand there was no Yoga celebration in the temple island, how come. The sight of a 107 year old rural man from the state performing Halasana and Dhanuraasana was the highlight.

Footages from world over are telecast round the clock in English as well as Tamil tv. From Eiffel Tower, Paris and Kuala Lumpur to Thailand and China to New York and Australia, every corner of the globe has come alive with Yoga in a brilliant kaleidoscopic display, a feast to our eyes, calming our volatile minds. Observed in over 152 countries, it comes as a shot in the arm for the Indian govt that the Yoga Day is celebrated in some 44 islamic nations including the Arab.

Not denying there is an element of spirituality in Yoga. If you don’t want it, shut yourself to the benefits of Yoga, who cares. When the islamic world can come to accept the New Year Day and Valentines day without any qualms, what is the fuss about Yoga? Don’t Indian muslim children attend catholic institutions all over the country and pray at the chapels? Why don’t you pull out your kids from christian schools? Isn’t it haram to attend school prayer meetings within the precincts of catholic chapels? Why not send your children to Madrasas?

Inter-religious harmony in schools etc is common in India. I attended a Hindu school where the minorities had no problems singing bhajans. In my primary school Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Yoga was taught to us upto class 5. In Tamil Nadu, Yoga has been made mandatory in last 2 years by JJ govt in all corporation/municipal schools. Children today are in dire need of physical and mentally calming and stimulating exercises. Yoga is essentially a holistic approach to overall well being of us humans.

I remember lighting candles in the chapel in my mother’s catholic convent.  We girls did not shake hands with Mother Superior or the sisters. Instead as per Hindu practice, we performed the ‘shashtank namaskar’ and touched their feet. We drew the good from everyone, everything. On Saraswathi Pooja day in the bank I worked, all communities celebrated the 9th day of Navrathri with a reverence that symbolized the cultural unity of this country. From us Hindus, our muslim & chrisitian colleagues learned to look at books and machines with respect.  They performed the aarthi with us taking turns. Until this day, this is true in the south mostly. On Vishwakarma Day (when architectural/civil engineering works are revered), we can see such an inter-faith worship across the length & breadth of this country. Even ‘Vastu’ is factored in. I have known muslim friends incorporating vastu in their homes & offices. I have been a personal witness to muslim engineers attending the Viswakarma pooja. There is no erection of any building or machinery or construction activity for that matter in India without the first essential Bhoomi Pooja (the ground breaking ceremony when we seek Mother Earth’s permission). None has shown disrespect to the highly religious ceremony performed even in our government projects/installations marking the inauguration of the projects. This is our culture, this is our janam bhoomi. If you are going to give communal colours to everything, then it means you cannot be running Indian blood.

BSE must be the only stock exchange in the world where we perform a Lakshmi Pooja before the bell tolls signalling commencement of new business in the next financial/accounting year, on auspicious Hindu New Year/Diwali (Muhurat Trading). I cannot imagine the annual first opening session otherwise. Is this celebration religious? It marks prosperity that everyone prays for. I have not heard a single adverse comment against the ritual all my life. A pooja in our stock exchange is not to benefit Hindu community alone; its for India, its for all Indian citizens. It is the way we have been always. India is a deeply spiritual country. I grew up offering food to the crows first in my terrace before taking the first bite everyday. This was after offering the freshly cooked in the kitchen to ‘Annapoorna.’ So from the moment you rise to the time you retire to bed chanting ‘Krishnaarpanam’ spirituality pervades every breath we take.

More than critics, we have admirers. From giving a baby its first solid food in temples (anna prasannam) to making a child write its first alphabet in grains in the temples (vidyarambam), every aspect of Hindu life is spiritual. Yoga should come as no surprise.

Why do minorities in India generally show respect to Hindu customs? This must be possible only if we share common ancestors. Of late there is a decry because there happens to be Modi’s BJP government at the center, right?

I got back to Yoga after a long break and my body has a little inflexibility, still I stand to benefit immensely from regular Yoga exercises. Not only in health respects, Yoga is also having a calming effect on my psyche.  It is very soothing, relaxing – the perfect complement to my high-voltage zumba.  I need Yoga to balance my physical exercise regimen.

We have some muslim friends who perform Surya Namaskar right in the terrace of their home early morning in direct sun. Obviously these are people who have no problem in admitting their forefathers were once Hindus. They must have converted in a single generation as one of our muslim friends observed – and had that not happened they would still be Hindu. One grandfather’s decision, that’s all, says the man. That changed a 2000 year belief for the family. Very few of India’s minorities have this kind of clear thinking and reasoning powers. Rest happen to kid themselves they descended straight from either Bethlehem or Saudi Arabia. ‘Gharwaapsi’ means home coming. Returning to your roots. Returning to your original ways. I mean no disrespect for others, but my lord is not from the Lalaland – She is authentic & desi. The denial is what makes anything Hindu anathema to our minorities. Whereas Arabs or the westerners carry no such baggage called identity crisis.

If you know who you are, then you must have no issues with Yoga. If you on the other hand believe you were not the vanquished but the ruling class, you have a problem. And its not got to do with mere Yoga.

Out of topic, but I feel compelled to say this. In middle-east in a social gathering once I happened to meet an Arab lady. She looked very fair and quite arabi in black burqa and everything but when she shook hands with male guests, I got my first doubts. Her voice was like a murmur, very mellow, typical of middle-eastern women. She spoke from her outer lips not from her throat or from her heart or deep down from her belly like we Indian women normally do. Her gestures were also arab, so dainty lady-like (whereas we desi girls are peasant, arent’ we?!). Later an Indian friend confided to me how the woman was only a Hyderabadi muslim woman who liked to act Arab, what a shame. We girls gushed about how the arab ladies might feel about our Indian sister mimicking them. How to make a fool of yourself in front of the whole world … I am meeting so many Pakistani women in the gulf who think they are more islamic than their Indian counterparts but they tend to show off their clothes and hair, not wanting to hide themselves behind a cloak. They are not covering themselves with abayas faking their way like some Indian muslims do. Not in a 1000 years can this Hyderabadi woman get middle-eastern citizenship or even acceptance. She simply will not belong. Never. Looking at her for sometime, I wanted to jump into a well and drown myself for the clown she presented.  It was an affront to Indian nation. You cannot do this to yourself, seriously!!

No wonder our Indian muslims are against Yoga!

The matter with lying (to your heart) is, you have to remember the lie and keep up the pretence. Arabs need not have to lie. They belong. Once you come to terms with who you are, where you came from, where you belong, you can have no doubts about wishing or wishing away Yoga.

Surya Namaskar, the prostration before the sun (sun worship) is ancient as Yoga itself – minimum 4000 years old. Even if we are not regular with performing other Yogic exercises, it suffices to doing this single one a dozen times or so a day to keep fit. Its also a good breath regulator.

A part of the Namaskar, we Hindus have been anyway performing at home or temples every single day of our lives.


A prostration on the ground is a Hindu custom, habit. Women and men prostrate in different ways in India, in temples, in poojas in our home. I have been doing it every single day in my pooja since my birth! From observing ablutions before entering the place of worship (which is why temples were always situated in river banks; those that are urban like in Chennai have a huge water tank/pond attached for this purpose) to circum-ambulating the deities, looks like most of our worshiping rituals have been hijacked. Why not, when Yoga can become Christian Yoga and Bharat Natyam Christian Bharatnatyam, anything must be possible.

Not long back I recall, even before entering our homes when leaving the footwear outside, we had to wash our feet. We observed this habit in our home until my grandparents were around.

Not mere ablutions, even the 6 time pooja/service in temples has been in practice from time immemorial. Poojas in our homes face east whereas we the devotees face west always; my Pooja looks to east and I sit/stand facing west looking at my Pooja that faces the rising sun. Cooking fires are to the east. Toilet seats should not be east-west in direction. Says who? Vastu Shastra. Even today strictly in some south Indian temples, men have to enter bare-chested or sheathed in a single unstitched white cloth – dhoti only. This is Hindu custom for minimum 4000 years. I wonder how the guys had water for ablutions first in desert lands and so where they picked up ideas. And who set the precedent for who.  Who imagined in India, we have to document or record these rituals to posterity for the sake of arguments. Intellectual theft, philosophical theft … besides plundering of our wealth, cities, livelihood…. How much the Hindu has given up without a fight…

The Hindu complacency is that, we are generous enough not to stake a claim on all that we have started with and given the world … and now we risk being told we are the usurpers. Its very disturbing to see Jayastambhas now being installed in Kerala churches, Christian Tulasi adorning cathedrals and so on… There are attempts to christianize even the harvest festival Pongal/Makar Sankranti with churches arranging for community celebrations during the occasion. Cultural terrorism is another grave threat India risks.

Its true Diwali, Holi, Eid and Christmas are more like national festivals in India, celebrated by one and all.

Still there are some which remain categorized like the Easter, the Mohurram and the Pongal/Sankranthi. These are very religious and hence observed by respective communities only.

Whereas, everything Hindus have given humanity seems to be generalized and trivialized. World historians see to that the word ‘Hindu’ is eliminated successfully, expunged from the pages of human history. Ayurveda to Yoga our heritage is universalized. Not that I complain – extremely proud of. But how many Asanas are now patented by the west? One never knew even the prostration form of our Namaskar would one day be communalized and alienated from Hinduism and presented to us as ‘their (sajda)s.’ A copycat act has been beautifully, cleverly legitimized. I thought it must be haram to adopt anything Hindu.

PM Modi did a good job. Over 150 nations have joined India in celebrating the International Yoga Day. A Yoga is a spiritual experience, still sidelining the Omkara is not something I can agree with. Aum…. write the holy number and look at it in the mirror and then tell me what you see.

Good things can be incorporated in our lives from everyone, everywhere. New Year day and Valentine’s Day are universal and do not carry communal colours. Yoga Day can be celebrated with a similar spirit universally. Yoga without Om chanting is unfortunate and is not authentic though.

When a man dressed as Santa Claus can delight children in every mall including in Arab nations for Christmas, why cannot  Yoga be afforded the same privilege.

Definitely I feel not only Yoga, many things Indian/Hindu need to be reclaimed. Yoga has to be branded. Ayurveda needs to be patented. There are open attempts to claim and patent many ancient Hindu cultural practices as theirs by vested foreign interests which is unsettling. Yoga is Hindu/Indian gift to the world. Like Karate and Taekwando are Asian/Chinese-Japanese.

Yoga precedes Aerobics and all other forms of physical exercises/activity which have drawn out heavily from Pathanjali’s yogic lessons on the synthesis of human body, mind & soul. Its not the other way around.

Zumba is branded I know. My instructor has to pay fees in dollars and renew his membership & licence every year in international forums. He has to regularly update. Otherwise he will be liable for legal action. So if he has to officially train us for zumba, he needs to get international accredition. This is how the west operates.

Karate and Taekwondo also need certification unlike Yoga. Yoga is as free-spirited as Hindu Dharma is. For, we have neither a pope nor a vatican/mecca or a church/mosque telling us what to do, least of all a bible/koran. Sanathan Dharma is Free Will. Hindus are world’s largest unorganized followers of an ancient fold.


And then finally guys, when and whenever you have to circumambulate your deity in holy cities, just think when you have ever done that before. Do you regularly do it in your places of worship. Because only Hindus have been going around Lingams and other deities in temples for millenniums. We walk around Agni, the holy fire, even in our weddings 7 times.

Dear Indian muslims & christians, be proud of your Hindu heritage and never give it up for anything. Stake your claim, you have every right.




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