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UNESCO boost for India’s cultural diplomacy: Yoga declared as world treasure

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yoga-unescoyoga-unesco3It’s a high moment for the global march of yoga and India’s cultural diplomacy. Building on the success of the UN’s designation of the International Yoga Day, the UNESCO has now declared yoga as “world treasure” and inscribed the ancient Indian practice in its Representative List as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In a quiet diplomatic triumph for India, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the 24-member Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage unanimously declared Yoga as a “Human Treasure” on December 1. The panel overturned the decision of an Evaluation Body of technical experts, which sought to defer the case to the next session of the Committee in 2017.

The Indian Delegation to Addis Ababa was led by India’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO Ruchira Kamboj. “Never ever happened before! After #Yoga inscription, entire conference does Yogic breathing,” tweeted Ms Kamboj. India’s Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma hailed the UNESCO’s inscription of yoga as “a huge achievement for India.”

The decision is set to give an added boost to the global popularity of yoga as yoga activities can be now promoted with the prestigious UNESCO branding and logo.

The inscription and classification as a ‘human treasure’ brings immense recognition to  Yoga and underlines its role as a social practice, an oral tradition and a system of ancient and scientific knowledge facilitating an enhanced harmony and peace across caste, creed, gender, age and nationality, said the statement.

The 23 members of the committee which supported India’s nomination for yoga included: Austria, Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Saint Lucia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Senegal, Zambia, Algeria, Lebanon and Palestine. Mauritius had initiated the amended decision seeking to inscribe Yoga in UNESCO’s Representative List, said a statement from the Indian embassy in Ethiopia. India is the 24th member of the Committee.

yoga-un1The UNESCO’s inscription of yoga also provides more resonance to India’s role as a bridge-builder in promoting a global dialogue on intercultural relations and sustainable development. In his landmark address to the UNGA in September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had eloquently argued for the UN’s designation of International Yoga Day and underscored organic linkages between the practice of yoga and sustainable development. Within barely 75 days after Mr Modi’s clarion call, the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 11 adopted by acclamation draft Resolution, A/69/L.17, declaring the International Yoga Day, with a record number of 177 countries co-sponsoring it.

yoga-timessquareYoga Global

Cutting across countries and continents, the first International Yoga Day was celebrated across the world on June 21, 2015 with passion and gusto. The celebrations were broadcast live at Times Square, the pulsating heart of Manhattan, to a global audience.

In a world bristling with mania, madness and mental distress, the ancient Indian practice of yoking together of mind and body, has emerged as a harbinger of physical vigour, mental serenity and spiritual radiance.

Yoga’s emergence as a global brand and the most visible symbol of India’s soft power is a work in progress. Ordinary people and celebrities around the world, including Hollywood and Bollyood stars, have taken to yoga in a big way, giving a touch of glamour to the ancient Indian practice.


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Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, a portal and e-magazine focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story.

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