SURVIVING A serious legal challenge and surprise afternoon rains, the World Culture Festival of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation began Friday on the Yamuna floodplains, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the world will not look towards India if its people kept “damning” each other.
“India has the cultural heritage that the entire world looks for. We can satisfy that need of the world in some measure. But this can happen only when we take pride in this heritage,” Modi said.
“Agar hum hi apne aap ko koste rahenge, hamari har cheez ki hum burai karte rahenge to duniya hamari ore kyun dekhegi (If we keep damning ourselves, criticising everything, then why will the world look at us at all),” he said.
Modi was present for about two hours at the event organised by AOL, which had to deposit Rs 25 lakh on Friday as part of a Rs 5-crore penalty imposed on it by the National Green Tribunal as compensation for the environmental damage the event is likely to cause to the floodplains.
Praising the work that the Art of Living Foundation was “doing across the world” and likening the three-day festival to a “kumbh mela” of art, Modi said, “When you look at a country through the prism of art, you realise the internal strength of that country.”
Despite rains reducing the venue to a muddy mess, an estimated 40,000-50,000 people attended the festival’s opening day, including artists and participants from several countries.
The controversy surrounding the event, however, seemed to weigh on the mind of Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who said, “Some people say this is a private part of Guruji (Sri Sri). They are not wrong. The entire humanity is my family and therefore this is indeed a private function… If lot of difficulties come in the way then something right is being achieved.”
Sri Sri added, “India has always thought about the world as one family. Today it feels that this dream is getting fulfilled.”