Cultures unite for peace at the World Cultural festival at Berlin

Badakhshan province, Afghanistan

Berlin. July 3. 2011. It was a spectacular evening, in spite of the drizzle, when the apparent walls between the cultures have come down. The highlight of the festival was yoga and meditation led by Art of Living founder, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Marking the 30th anniversary of the organization, around 50,000 people from across 151 countries, 6000 artists and 804 dignitaries including ministers, members of parliament and ambassadors were present. The program began with vedic chants followed by the German national anthem and the European anthem – Ode to Joy.

Gurudev spoke both in German and English to the cheers of the local population. “It is time that walls come down between cultures and civilizations. We all should remember we are a one world family. We need to bring everyone together in a spirit of love, compassion and service. It is time to celebrate life on this planet. With all the volunteers, we are sure we can create a stress-free, violence-free society. One divinity, one humanity and celebrating the diversity - this is our sacred duty.” he said.

The festival began at 10am with the opening of the continent pavilions showcasing the rich diversity of cultures and traditions spanning the globe. The grand finale was a spectacular laser show set to the lyrics of the song “Ancient Love” composed by Gurudev and sung by Stanislav Gemes from Russia.  The theme song of the festival ‘Colors of the rainbow’ – seemed to have been reflected by the light showers that added an ethereal touch to the whole event.

The evening began on a musical note with the Grammy award nominee Chandrika Tandon along with 50 Indian singers smiling through the drizzle while reciting Sanskrit shlokas. The ancient science of yoga came alive when 800 experts sychronized yogasanas and suryanamaskars to musically choreographed shlokas and chants. 2000 Bulgarians, 500 Lithuanian dancers, 500 Polish dancers had the stadium enthralled with a perfect display of folk dances.

Aboriginal dance from Canada and performance by Swiss, Austrian Alpine Horns added a unique traditional touch to the festival. A guitar ensemble for peace with 1000 guitarists, 30 pianists from 12 countries captivated the audience.  This was followed by a grand choir performance from Germany comprising of 1000 people. The festival saw a diverse yet enthusiastic participation from various countries across the globe like Japan, Argentina, Russia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Cuba and Ukraine. Including the performances in the pavilions, the festival featured more than 70 shows.

Prof. Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who headed the reception committee of the festival said, “The Art of Living is powerful and the way forward to bring each of us together”.

Mr. Subodh Kant Sahay, Minister for Tourism, Govt of India, Mr. Nitin Gadhkari, President, Bharatiya Janta Party represented India. “Humanity needs the wisdom of ancient India to heal the wounds of terrorism. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the ambassador of peace, a modern rishi who has come to unite the world”, added Mr. Nitin Gadhkari.

“I congratulate The Art of Living and Gurudev for the truly transforming work being done in over 150 countries which has touched the lives of millions of people and of the younger generation in particular.” added Mr. Sahay.

Sheikh Fahad from Kuwait, Minister for Information and Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, Mr Abul Kalam Azad and Deputy Minister for Development from Israel Mr Ayoub Kara were also present on the dias.

Lauding the organization for its humanitarian work, congratulatory messages poured in from various dignitaries across the world such as Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and the President as well as the Prime Minister of India. “I hope that the festival will be able to spread the values of various cultures while celebrating harmony in diversity.” said a message by Mr. Manmohan Singh.

Gurudev also received the prestigious Human of the World Award from General Major Alexander Stephanov, President of the Academy of National Security, Russia.

Dignitaries from India and abroad including Monika Griefahn Co-Chair Right Livelihood Award, Elmar Brok German Member of the European Parliament and the former Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nirj Deva, Member, The European Parliament, Prof. Peter Eigen founder of the advisory council of Transparency International along with several Congressmen,  Members of the European and German Parliament, ambassadors, business leaders, academicians and NGO representatives attended the festival.