Thousands brave rain to attend Art of Living festival

4 Jul 2011

Thousands of people, including Indian Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, braved showers and chilly winds in the German capital to attend yoga performances and cultural programmes at the World Cultural Festival celebrating 30 years of Indian spiritual Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation.

Held at the historic Olympic Stadium -- built by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1936 -- the function saw devotees and spectators pouring in since Saturday morning despite incessant rains and chilly weather with temperature settling around 10 degrees.

The inclement weather did affect the spectator turnout which came down from expected 70,000 to 20,000-25,000 during the evening function but the mood of the people was upbeat as they cheered, danced and sang with the artists performing at the stadium amidst the rain.

"It rained throughout the day and it continues. I was really worried about how the artists will perform but everything went so well. I think it was the blessing of guruji (Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) that the four-and-a-half hour function continued despite the rains," an organiser said.

The function started with playing of nadaswaram -- a popular classical south Indian musical instrument - by artists from Indian and Sri Lanka. The beats of the barrel-shaped drum filled the stadium with energy as people clapped along, forgetting the chilly winds.

"All of us were freezing as it was so cold here but once the programme started, I completely forgot about rains. I danced and clapped and it made me feel warm. It was fantastic and I enjoyed it," said an excited Mary Basel, a devotee from South Africa.

Among the spectators were several world leaders and politicians, including Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari and Subodh Kant Sahai.

The stadium turned into a grand yoga park as 800 people from around the globe came together to perform a brief sequence of yoga. It started with Suryanamaskar (Sun salutation) accompanied by chanting of Sanskrit slokas, honouring different qualities of sun and ended with a global prayer for peace.

"It was breathtaking to see synchronisation between yoga performers. They did it so well despite showers and cold winds," said Henner Hippe, a spectator from Hamburg in Germany.

The cultural festival then took the spectators to a journey of world with classical music from India and US, contemporary music from Malta, traditional flutes from Turkey, folk dances from Russia and Bulgaria, Shaolin monks from China and a variety of performances by Germans.

A lotus dance from Japan and Austrian alpine horns were also some of the major attractions.

The stadium was left mesmerised by the Grand Guitar Ensemble for Peace -- an enchanting symphony of 2,000 guitarists, 30 grand pianists and 3,000 choir singers. Apart from German and other European countries' anthems, the Vande Mataram was also sung.

"The guitar ensemble filled the stadium with energy and I felt as If I was moved to a different world of music and ecstasy. I can't tell you how I felt," said Rama Shakar, an Indian settled in the US.

Spectators were left spellbound by peace meditation of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with flautists playing in the background. The 20-minute meditation session calmed the atmosphere in the stadium which was brimming with noise just a few minutes ago.

The colourful evening came to an end with a spectacular laser show and the song "The call of ancient love", spreading the message of peace and love in the world.