New Delhi: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s three-day cultural extravaganza, the World Cultural Festival, kicked off today on the banks of Yamuna in the national capital in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Addressing the gathering, PM Modi welcomed the guests from across the world and lauded the Art of Living (AoL) and the participants of the event for having presented a diverse image of the country.
Hailing the event as a ‘kumbh’ of arts and culture, PM Modi congratulated Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for spreading his message to more than 150 countries and representing Indian culture on a world stage. He also highlighted the need for taking pride and honouring India's cultural heritage.
"India has the cultural legacy that the whole world is looking for. We can fulfill their demands to some extent. But it is only possible when we take pride and honour in our legacy. If we keep calling ourselves bad, criticise everything, then why will the world look at us," PM Modi said, adding, "We are those people who travel from Aham Brahmasmi to Vasudhev Kutumbakam. We have travelled from Upanisahds to planets. This is the legacy given to us by our saints." .
“PM Modi further said that the world was not just linked with economic relations but that it 'could and should be linked with humanitarian values. "India is full of diversity. We have a lot to give to the world,” PM Modi said at the World Cultural Festival, congratulating Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and all participants for presenting a diverse image of India to world.
The PM was all praise for AoL for its efforts which have seen it grow to a 150 countries in 35 years since its inception. "When you are firm with your ideals, you need Art of Living. When you walk with your dreams, difficult times, Art of Living. When you live for others and not for yourself, you need Art of Living. When we move from I to we, we need 'Art of Living'," he said.
The event began with a slight delay following a spell of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. The last few days have seen the organisation of the event embroiled in a huge controversy over environmental and security concerns, with the National Green Tribunal handing a Rs 5 crore penalty on the AoL for environmental degradation of the Yamuna floodplains.
Billed as one of the biggest cultural gatherings in recent times, the festival is being hosted across 1,000 acres of the Yamuna floodplain. Green activists, fearing environmental degradation of the fragile floodplain, sought cancellation of the festival. However, the Tribunal on Friday cleared the decks for the event.
Ravi Shankar, considered by many as a spritual guru, lashed out at those who were opposing the event as his "private party".
"Of course, it is my private party. The entire world is my family," he said, recalling Sanskrit phrase "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", which means "the world is one family", as one of the loftiest vedic thoughts.
"Let's create peace and harmony," Ravi Shankar said, addressing the gathering.
Indian classical music and dizzyingly intricate footwork characterised the performance by 1,700 Kathak dancers. There were occasional whoops from many among the thousands of participants as other danseuses entertained the audience with Bharatanatyam at the Festival.
The event is expected to draw lakhs of people over the next three days. People from different parts of the world are also expected to attend the mega event.
* Thousands of dancers and children performing on an enormous stage ran for cover when the rain came crashing down. The downpour soon stopped, to everyone's relief.
* Flags of 155 countries flutter as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar take the stage
*The World Culture Festival opens with 1008 musicians from Maharashtra playing the Dhangari Dhols. Nadaswarams accompany dhols as performers dressed in white Kurtas and yellow turbans wave saffron flags.
* Just moments before the opening, rain and hail led to chaos at the site that features a stage covering six football fields, where 35,000 performers from 150 countries will perform.
* More than 1,500 participants to be on the stage.
* Key roads between Delhi and Noida are jammed. "Kindly avoid the stretch," the traffic police tweeted repeatedly.
* Heavy traffic around Akshardham due to rain fall in the city
* Besides the PM, ministers at the Centre and in Delhi are attending the event. President Pranab Mukherjee had opted out earlier this week.