In a school hall in Dujiangyan — the home of Taoism — hundreds of young people, from all parts of the country, elbowed for mat space, to soak in from an authentic Indian master, the finer points of Yoga, which has become the new spearhead of India’s soft-power push in China.

The incident was the latest in a string of cultural flashpoints surrounding the centuries-old Indian practice, and has made many a yogi rethink the lines between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar today performed yoga asanas with more than a thousand participants at a mega event organised here as part of International Yoga Day celebrations. Javadekar inaugurated the yoga session at 7 am at the Forest Research Institute premises here along with IFS probationers, officers and faculty members and followed it up with another programme held by Patanjali Yogpeeth at the Rangers Ground where he was accompanied by state BJP chief Tirath Rawat and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Ajay Bhatt. In his brief speech, Javadekar appealed to people to embr

June 19, 2015

International Yoga Day serves as a soft power tool for India. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken on the role of a yoga guru for Chinese Internet users. He is providing his followers on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, a daily lesson of yoga exercise complete with sketches about different poses, and a list of benefits. Modi’s yoga posts are but the latest in a series of sweeping efforts by India to connect directly with the public in China, and try to capitalize on the two neighbors' shared links to Buddhism and other traditions in a bid to build sentimental bridges.

Foraying into Myanmar and snuffing out militants to avenge the death of Army men killed on Indian soil is one aspect of the Narendra Modi government which has its clutch of takers. While special forces of the Army fight the nation’s battle, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry, Culture Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Health Ministry are waging a different battle for the minds, leading to what some historians say is a situation where an entire population could be lulled into thinking and acting on similar lines.

June 11, 2015

One of the ideas that some of the religious- and nationalist-minded Indians felt at the turn of the last century is that India has something that the rest of the world does not have — spirituality. It was, no doubt, fuzzy patriotism at work when sensitive Indians were feeling the sense of colonial oppression. The man who mooted the idea was the young Swami Vivekananda, and a few decades later it was again articulated by Sri Aurobindo. They were men of their times and they should not be faulted for their refracted thoughts.

On June 21, the world will observe International Day of Yoga for the first time ever. A United Nations resolution to this effect that India moved in the General Assembly last year was co-sponsored by an unprecedented 170 countries.