PM Modi’s Yoga Day Visit and Kashmir’s Potential as a Global Wellness Hub

By: Prem Pawa | x.com/prempawa

 By celebrating the International Day of Yoga with the people of Kashmir in Srinagar, PM Modi not only marks a significant milestone in recognising and rejuvenating the region’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage, but also positions Jammu Kashmir as a global health and wellness destination.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Srinagar on June 21, the International Day of Yoga, marks a significant chapter in the valley’s ongoing journey to celebrate its yogic heritage. His presence in Jammu Kashmir on this day not only underscores the importance of yoga in India’s cultural and spiritual journey but also serves as a catalyst for its revival and universal acclaim. By celebrating the International Day of Yoga with the people of Kashmir in Srinagar, PM Modi not only marks a significant milestone in recognising and rejuvenating the region’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage, but also positions Jammu Kashmir as a global health and wellness destination.

Yoga, an ancient Indian practice that has transcended borders to become a global phenomenon, has deep roots in Jammu Kashmir, particularly through the lens of Kashmir Shaivism. The story of yoga in Kashmir begins with the legendary sage Kashyap Rishi. One of the seven sages or sapt rishi’s, his contributions to spiritual practices laid the groundwork for yoga and meditation in the Valley. According to recorded ancient texts, Kashyap’s teachings emphasised harmony with nature and the pursuit of inner peace, principles that resonate deeply with the core tenets of yoga.

In the 10th century, Abhinavagupta, a philosopher and theologian, emerged as a monumental figure in the history of Kashmir Shaivism. His seminal work, the “Tantraloka,” remains a cornerstone in the study of yoga and meditation. Abhinavagupta’s philosophy extended beyond physical postures, focusing on mental discipline and spiritual enlightenment. His teachings integrated various aspects of life, positioning yoga as a holistic way of living rather than merely a physical exercise.

Lalitaditya Muktapida, the 8th-century King of the Karkota dynasty, was instrumental in promoting arts and culture, including yoga. His reign is noted for the construction of grand temples that provided spaces for the practice and dissemination of yoga. This royal patronage ensured that yoga thrived among the populace, fostering a culture of spiritual and physical well-being.

Moreover, Kashmir’s history is woven with the contributions of several kings and queens who enriched the practice of yoga. Queen Didda, a wise and powerful ruler of the late 10th and early 11th centuries, and King Avantivarman, who ruled in the 9th century, both played pivotal roles in nurturing the spiritual and cultural milieu of the region. Their patronage of learning and spirituality further solidified yoga’s place in Kashmir’s heritage. 

In recent years, Prime Minister Modi has often referred to yoga as India’s super gift to the world, a practice that promotes physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. His advocacy for yoga on international platforms including at the headquarters multilateral institutions like the United Nations in New York has significantly boosted its global reach and appeal. By reinstating this message in Kashmir, PM Modi acknowledged the region’s historical contributions to yoga and its potential to become an epicentre for health and wellness reveal and tourism.

As evidenced by the global rise in wellness tourism, travellers are increasingly seeking destinations that offer holistic health experiences. Kashmir, with its rich historical and spiritual association with yoga and meditation, is ideally positioned to become a leading destination in this sector. The region’s blend of spiritual heritage and unparalleled natural beauty, characterised by lush valleys, serene lakes, and majestic mountains, provides an ideal environment for yoga practice, making it an attractive destination for wellness retreats, yoga workshops, and holistic health programs.

Since the amendment of Article 370 in August 2019, the government has prioritised tourism, launching several initiatives to develop infrastructure and promote Jammu and Kashmir as a premier tourist destination. However, creating a sustainable and appealing environment for both domestic and international visitors still requires significant effort, especially in hospitality services skilling and training.

Moreover, to fully realise the potential of wellness tourism in Kashmir, ongoing enhancements to tourism and wellness services are essential. This includes constructing state-of-the-art yoga centers, wellness resorts, and eco-friendly accommodations. Additionally, developing programs that offer authentic and immersive yoga experiences will attract wellness tourists seeking holistic health benefits. By focusing on these areas, Kashmir can truly emerge as a global hub for wellness tourism. Most importantly, ensuring that the development of wellness tourism in Kashmir is sustainable and inclusive is paramount. This involves protecting the natural environment, preserving cultural heritage, and providing opportunities for local communities. Inclusive development will ensure that the benefits of tourism reach all sections of society, promoting economic growth and social well-being.

The deep connection between yoga and the Kashmir Valley spans centuries, intertwining history, culture, and spirituality. From the teachings of Kashyap Rishi and the philosophical insights of Abhinavagupta to the royal patronage of kings like Lalitaditya Muktapida, yoga has long been a cornerstone of Kashmir’s heritage. Today, the valley’s potential as a wellness tourism hub offers a promising future, where visitors can experience the profound benefits of yoga amidst the spiritual and serene beauty of Kashmir.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on the International Day of Yoga heralds a new chapter in this journey, reaffirming yoga’s timeless relevance and its power to heal and unite. By embracing and promoting its rich yoga heritage, Jammu and Kashmir can once again become a beacon of peace, wellness, and spiritual enlightenment for the world.

(Prem Pawa is a pioneering travel-trade leader from Srinagar, J&K and director at future-tech firm Nuerolytica Consulting)

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