The controversial three-day World Culture Festival being organised by the Art of Living founder and spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living began on 11th March and culminated on 13th March at the banks of Yamuna in Delhi. Thousands of people and artists from across the world thronged the festival that was dubbed as the “Cultural Olympics”, by the spiritual Guru.
The ground prepared for the World Culture Festival, was spread over an area of 1,000 acres. The stage alone was seven acres in area and accommodated 37,000 artists. The construction includes a massive 40-feet-high; multi-floor stage seated on steel rods over seven acres of land, with the organisers claiming it to be largest stage in the world, with the Environment activists elevating alarms that the event violates environmental laws and the mega construction work - including tents, hutments, barricades, and pontoon bridges - will pollute the river and alter the floodplain.
The event also invited the Delhi high court’s ire, which said it was an “ecological disaster” with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) blipping a fine of Rs 5 crore on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living foundation for damaging the ecologically sensitive Yamuna floodplains. The NGT has also fined the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) Rs 1 lakh for its failure in arranging all the analysis of the mega show on the floodplains of Yamuna.
However, the event received full government cooperation with the head of the Indian government attending and appreciating the event. The Narendra Modi government threw its weight behind Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with a posse party heavyweights, including Cabinet ministers, party president Amit Shah and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan attending the World Culture Festival, “If we damn ourselves, why will world take note of us”, said PM Modi at Sri Sri’s World Culture Festival. 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”.
“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 futher.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said his organisation will build a biodiversity park on the banks of Yamuna. "We will build a biodiversity park there. We will develop that area and not harm it," he said.
Throughout the festival intermittent rains soaked the national capital.
Post the event, clean-up act begins on Yamuna floodplains. It will indeed take few weeks before the World Culture Festival venue is cleared of erected structures.