During last few days the banks of River Yamuna in Delhi became like a pilgrim spot. People from all across the world who believe in mutual-existence and universal brotherhood; consider the entire world as a global village and wish that peace prevail on this planet, took part in this pilgrimage. These people firmly believe in solving problems, they also believe in mutual harmony in art and culture and respect all nations of the world. They believe that peace and coordination can help bind the humanity in a single thread.
These people had come as participants in the Art of Living event at the invitation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar which was held from March 11 to 13. This event was organised on the occasion of Art of Living completing 35 years of its existence. Earlier, in 2011 a similar event was held at Auschwitz in Berlin, Germany when the Art of Living had completed 30 years of its existence. Auschwitz is the same place where Hitler had committed atrocities on Jews. From the same place Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave a message of humanity to the entire world.
On first day of the festival (March 11) all roads leading to the festival venue witnessed massive traffic jams. People who were travelling in private vehicles were stuck for hours in these traffic jams and they had to spend around one and half hours for the distance that usually takes 10 minutes. People coming through public transport got down from the buses or metros and started walking towards the venue. Unfortunately at this time suddenly the sky became overcast and it started pouring. At around 3 in the afternoon it started raining that continued till 4:15 PM. Since the event’s venue was on the banks of River Yamuna so after rains all the pathways became muddy and slippery. However, people were extremely enthusiastic about reaching the venue for this event. Their enthusiasm for this event was unmatched that was not seen even during much publicised similar events such as the Common Wealth Games. The reverence and dedication for this event was such that the enthusiasts started walking along the muddy tracks to reach the venue. Several people could be seen holding the invitation card of the event with one hand and trying to tidy their clothes with the other hand. Nobody was in a mood to return back to their home. Women who had children with them were ready to battle the odds to reach the event venue but were unwilling to go back.
“I have such deep regards for Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that no obstacle in my way can prevent me from reaching the venue,” said Renu Pathak who had come over from Gurgaon to attend the event. A lot of people who were stumbling and holding each other’s hands fell on the ground and muddied their clothes. Inspite of this they did not loose heart and walked 4-5 kilometres to reach the venue.
Artists spreading the message of
peace through Bharatnatyam
By 5 o’clock those from in and around Delhi and foreigners who had come to Bharat especially to participate in the event had assembled at the venue. The number had swelled to around three lakh. A majority of these people were those who under ordinary circumstances would never tolerate even a speck of mud on their shoes. Surprisingly, these people braved the rains and slush and sat on the chairs available on the venue. Gradually all the 2,90,000 chairs were occupied and yet people continued to come in. These people stood at whatever space they could muster at the venue. The volunteers and police became proactive after seeing the huge ocean of people.
Very soon around 1,050 Vedic pandits came up on the huge stage erected at the venue. They started chanting the Ganesh Vandana which calmed down the huge ocean of people. Thereafter Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar arrived on the stage. They were accompanied by several foreign leaders and representatives from various sects and religions. Prominent among them were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Kamal Thapa, President of Philippines Benigno Aquino III, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Vice-Chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien.
After the Ganesh Vandana, Vedic mantras were recited and Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the culture festival by lighting a lamp. Prime Minister Modi said that the world cannot be unified only through economic means rather humanist values can help in unifying the world. He added that Bharat has the cultural heritage that the world is searching. “We can fulfill the world's cultural requirements in some way or the other, but this can happen only when we feel proud in our rich cultural heritage. If we continue to crib about ourselves and badmouth every aspect of ourselves then why will the world look at us?”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: “There are five ways through which we can unite people across the globe. Sports comes first in this list. A child starts playing soon after being born, sports is one such activity that is all encompassing, present at all times and unifies people. Thereafter, arts, thoughts, business and spirituality can help in unification of people. There’s an ancient thought in Bharat that this whole world is a family. The basic purpose of this festival is to take this thought of Bharat to every nook and corner of the globe.”
Soon after the inauguration famous singer Patricia Sosa from Argentina sang Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram that left everybody in the audience spellbound. The song broke barriers such that people across religious beliefs, sects or communities, Bharatiya or foreign, Hindu-Muslim, old-young everybody started chanting Sri Ram.
Thereafter, Bharatiya and foreign artists jointly presented nine musical compositions. Sixty different instruments were played and prominent among them were tabla, trumpet, harmonium, flute, drum etc. 1,700 artists performed the Kathak dance and the same number of people performed Bharatnatyam. 1,500 artists performed Mohiniattam and Kathakali. These artists had come over from Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi and Odisha. A few of these artists were professional while others were students or those undergoing training in performing arts.
Foreign artists also impressed the people with their performance. Artists from Argentina, Bulgaria, Africa, Japan, Lithuania, Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia impressed the Bharatiya audience with their performance depicting Lord Shiv and Sri Ram.
Bulgaria’s 500 artists performed the Horo Dance, 650 African drum players played the African music and dance performance by 350 Thai dancers left everybody spellbound. Nobody realised that it was 10 PM and it was time to go back to their homes.
On the festival’s second day (March 12), a symposium on the topic 'Ethics at Workplace' was organised at Hotel Leela in Anand Vihar. This symposium was attended by Vinod Kumar Chaudhary who is an industrialist from Nepal, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Mexican Parliamentarian Marmido Peter, former minister of Sri Lanka Damini Lakshman and Sri Lankan Culture Minister Ravindra Samarveera. A total of 2,390 delegates attended this symposium which focused largely on finding an equilibrium between the corporate and spiritual worlds and through this initiate works on human welfare.
At evening, the cultural bonanza started once again which went on till late at night. The occasion was used to showcase Bharatiya culture and values.
On last day of the festival (March 13) a conference was held on religious harmony, which was attended by several spiritual leaders from different religions and sects that included religious leaders from Arab world and a representative of the Pope.
This conference also led to the signing of an agreement wherein each religious leader will contribute to maintaining peace and harmony in their respective countries. It was also agreed upon that all religious places such as Temple, Church, Mosque, Gurudwara etc will strive towards maximum use of solar energy. The festival's closing included presentation of ‘cosmic rhythm’ where several asuans from the yoga, spirituality and dhyaan were performed. Around 4,600 artists associated with these three forms presented 30 different dance forms.
Pakistani Sufi dancers through their dance portrayed that this beautiful world does not profess to discriminate among various humans.
Arun Kumar Singh
(With inputs from Nishant Kr Azad)