Yogis from 101 Nations Converge at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh for Historic Proclamation to Save the River Ganga During International Yoga Festival
RISHIKESH- Yogis from 101 Nations come together at Parmarth Niketan in support of a historic proclamation to save the River Ganga. The massive gathering took place during Parmarth Niketan’s International Yoga Festival, with the proclamation held up as a reflection of the sentiments stirred by days of spiritual practice on the holy river.
Organized under the guidance and inspiration of HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President, Parmarth Niketan and Founder, Ganga Action Parivar, the International Yoga Festival is being attended by well-over a thousand people, who are coming from across the world to take part in inspiring lectures and courses by over 70 revered saints, yogacharyas, presenters and experts who are teaching 150 offerings throughout the week.
The River Ganga, which supports the lives and livelihoods of some 500 million citizens, also attracts to its banks millions of international and domestic travellers every year. Yet, the river is among the most polluted and endangered in the world. Every day, billions of litres of toxic chemicals and sewage are dumped into this key aquifer, causing countless preventable illnesses and deaths from diseases including cholera, typhoid, cancer and dysentery. Its waters are also extracted to the point in which the Ganga completely disappears for kilometres in some regions during the dry season.
Prior to the release of the Proclamation, participants from five continents came together for a special Water Blessing Ceremony.Led by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, they lovingly poured waters from the Ganga onto a globe, heart-felt pledges that they would all work to help protect and preserve the waters bodies of the world.
As Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of the International Yoga Festival and Secretary General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance explained, “All water bodies of the world are connected to Mother Ganga. All rivers flow into the oceans which connect us to each other. Water is life. As yoga unites us, so does water. As yoga is for everyone, so is Ganga.
As we pledge ourselves to Yoga for Peace we must realize that more people perish every year from lack of safe and sufficient water than from all forms of violence combined. So let us all raise our hands and pledge together to join hands and hearts, using our energy, experience and expertise, to protect our water bodies for the life of our brothers and sisters of every species, every culture, every colour and every creed.”
Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, who is also Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance India, “Yogis from around the world have come together to say that the River Ganga is a global treasure which should be kept in a clean, green, free-flowing state for all. Far too many travellers are seeing Mother Ganga’s waters tainted with sewage, trash and toxic chemicals. They are witnessing dry rocks where Her water used to serenely flow.
Now is the time for us to reinvent the dream. To preserve instead of destroy; To make beautiful what has been deforested, paved over and used as a dumping ground. Now is the time to plant trees, to stop polluting, to be the change. It’s something each one of us can so easily do, and if we all do this together, enormous transformations can be achieved.”
After the Water Blessing Ceremony, all participants pledged to the Ganga Proclamation, which was written by foreign-born yogis who said they wanted to impress upon the world the crucial role the Ganga River plays culturally and environmentally.
States the Proclamation:
“It is from the banks of the Ganga that the art and practice of yoga was born. Her waters have supported the growth of civilizations and have inspired poets, saints and sages. She is the lifeline for some 500 million people, as well as for countless species of plants and animals, some of which can be found no place else on this Earth.
We, as travellers to and within India, expect Her waters to be clean and serene. We expect them to nourish us and to inspire us.
Yet, we see rubbish mar Her banks and lyrical flow. We learn of billions of litres of sewage and toxic chemicals that are permitted to foul Her waters every day. In some places, we are startled to see that there is no Ganga at all, because Her waters have been diverted or extracted to the point in which there is nothing left but dry rocks and parched dreams.”
The declaration also calls for the protection of all rivers and sources of water worldwide.
Afterwards, a beautiful song on global togetherness was presented by an International Yoga Festival participant from South America with the theme of “My hands are for you,” as people from the nations of the world raised their hands into the air in loving solidarity.
Said Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, “The theme of the International Yoga Festival is ‘My Hands are For You.’ We do Yoga asanas to strengthen and increase the flexibility of body and mind so that we can be vessels and tools of service for humanity. Through this beautiful coming together of people from 101 nations from around the world, we are also seeing friendships strengthened, alongside more fortified determination to stretch our hands across borders and boundaries towards making this world a better, more peaceful place.”
Other Activities Held Throughout Day 4 of the International Yoga Festival
On the 4th Day of the 29th annual world famous International Yoga Festival, after the early morning Kundalini Sadhana with Gurushabd Singh Khalsa, the morning classes began with, The Heart of Compassion by Anand Mehrotra, Traditional Hatha Yoga Asana with Sun Salutations by Dr. Indu Sharma, Inbound Yoga by Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti, as well as T’ai Chi, taught by Sandeep Desai and a talk on the Foundations of Health by Dr. Andrea Paige.
Anandra George of Hawaii, USA led Sunrise Nada yoga, music meditation on the Ganga before breakfast. Anandra said, “I decided several years ago that the only emotion worth getting really worked up about was devotion… so as I have cultivated my bhakti yoga practice, I have noticed that as other emotions surface, they’re very faint and dissolve easily, as fog disappears in the sun. If you think about the most intense, direct, revelatory spiritual experiences you’ve ever had, was music and sound a big part of it? The yoga of sound is the metaphysical science of creating those ‘magic moments’ deliberately.”
The intense morning asana classes included teachers Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, founder of the world famous Golden Bridge Yoga, Jules Febre of Jivamukti Yoga, Bharath Shetty, Gloria Latham and Roberto Milletti. Bharath Shetty explained, “Nāhathath, nābhalath’ (no force, no pressure). Connect every movement of your asana with your breathing…. Feel the yogic energy around you at Parmarth and connect yourself with the bliss of Himalayas and the flow of Ganga.”
Parmanand Aggarwal and Shilpa Joshi taught the Concept of Ashtanga Yoga and Practices of the Meditative Asanas.
Prior to the next segment of the Spiritual Lecture Series, Gurunam Singh, an American Sikh and disciple of Yogi Bhajan from USA, graced the crowd with his beautiful music. This was followed by a special dramatic dance performance by a group of yogis from across South America and Europe. Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasenaji then led a beautiful Buddhist meditation.
After lunch in the garden, Adam Bauer of USA, led a Kirtan Workshop while classes taught by Sadhvi Abha Saraswati, Satya Kalra, Gurushabd Singh Khalsa, and Chandanni Miglino took place.
Chandanni Miglino, originally from Iran and now living in the USA said, “We’ve traveled here from all corners of the earth to come together in celebration of Life, of truth of Unity. What better way than to bow together towards our heart in recognition of the tie that binds, our Divine Breath. We are here together in one of the greatest gatherings of Unity and peace on earth at the International Yoga Festival at the beautiful and sacred Parmarth Niketan Ashram.”
The late afternoon classes were taught by Laura Plumb of USA, co-founder of Deep Yoga, Mert Guler of Turkey, Tommy Rosen of USA, Brian Siddhartha Ingle of Ireland, and Francesca Cassia of Italy.
After a nutritious dinner, participants enjoyed a musical and dance performance by Parmarth Rishikumars.
Quotations from participants:
Georgie from Russia,“Everyone here is so nice. I have never been around this many people practicing yoga! I wish the whole world was like this.”
Emmanuelle, the Belgium Ambassador, said,“The teachers are amazing, thanks to them, I’m understanding why I do yoga, the reason of why we do Asanas. I can feel how my heart and mind are waking up. This is the spirit of The Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, inspire and go deeper.”
Karl, Ukraine, Participant“This is my first time to India. I have never tried so many different yogas. I have the yoga and I have the mat and now I have the heart.”