Colour of cul­ture

The World Cul­ture Festival’s fu­sion of arts, cul­ture and hu­man­ity was a sight to be­hold.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By M. KrISHNAMOOrtHY star2@ thes­tar. com. my

I could barely be­lieve that three­and- a- half mil­lion peo­ple could con­verge at the Art Of Liv­ing’s ( AOL) World Cul­ture Festival ( WCF) in one day. So, I made a bee­line to New Dehli to be part of the his­toric event, held on the Ya­muna Bank plains from March 11– 13.

I made the trip with much trep­i­da­tion and anx­i­ety, un­sure of what it would be like to be among such a mass of peo­ple.

But see­ing is be­liev­ing – spec­ta­tors started en­ter­ing the festival grounds from noon when the gates opened on the first day. By 5pm, there was al­ready a crowd of one mil­lion par­tic­i­pants.

The 405ha site ad­ja­cent to the Ya­muna River flood plains saw dou­ble the crowd of the mil­lion who turn up at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur an­nu­ally for Thai­pusam. How­ever, hav­ing cov­ered the re­li­gious festival for more than 20 years, the crowd at WCF, in­stead, came from ev­ery cor­ner of the world.

In the end, a record crowd of 3.75 mil­lion peo­ple con­verged over the three days. More than 37,000 artists from 155 coun­tries de­scended upon New Delhi to show­case their unique sights, sounds and tastes.

They were mostly AOL fol­low­ers and sup­port­ers re­ver­ber­at­ing with hope that the world can come to­gether and work to­wards peace, de­spite dif­fer­ences in faiths and be­liefs.

The rain and hail­storm on the open­ing day failed to dampen the spir­its of those who flocked to the flood plains of Ya­muna river.

To­gether with more than a mil­lion on the first day, I braved the storm and waded through slushy mud tracks for more than two kilo­me­tres to reach the stage. It was worth the trip af­ter be­ing trapped in a two- hour traf­fic jam head­ing to the festival.

I was for­tu­nate to wit­ness dance and mu­sic on the world’s largest stage, spread over seven acres. The main at­trac­tion of the festival was on March 13, when a “Peace Med­i­ta­tion” ses­sion was held un­der the open skies and serene banks of the Ya­muna.

The In­dian me­dia may have car­ried neg­a­tive re­ports of WCF en­dan­ger­ing the bio­di­ver­sity of the river’s en­vi­ron­ment prior to the event, but this festival, in­stead, sym­bol­ised the har­mo­nious co­ex­is­tence of var­i­ous races and re­li­gions from all over the world. It cel­e­brated di­ver­sity by bring­ing to­gether the power of the peo­ple on a com­mon plat­form – through dance and mu­sic.

The festival was such a suc­cess, the In­dian me­dia re­ported that the lead­ers of Colom­bia, Mex­ico, Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia and Paraguay have also in­vited AOL to or­gan­ise a festival of this na­ture in their coun­tries.

AOL’s founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, marked the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion dur­ing its open­ing, say­ing: “I be­long to you all. The peo­ple gath­ered here from all reli- gions, all na­tion­al­i­ties to give this mes­sage, we are a one- world fam­ily. From re­gional con­scious­ness to na­tional and then to univer­sal con­scious­ness, this is the growth

Malaysian par­tic­i­pants singing from their hearts at the festival.

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