The World Culture Festival
World Culture Festival - moving towards a stress-free violence-free society
“There were people from so many different countries in the World Culture Festival, all speaking different languages. Yet to come together in the spirit of celebration and to feel that common bond, transcending all kinds of different barriers was phenomenal,” exclaimed Rochi Khemka, research analyst in McKinsey, Delhi, India. She was one of the 50,000-strong audience at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The occasion: 30 years of The Art of Living, celebrated by honoring diversities at The World Culture Festival.
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Spirituality, yoga and meditation became the universal language as people from 151 countries came together as one family and shared their different cultures, food, music and dance.
Where differences are usually the cause of rift, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar showed how diversity is in reality a reason to celebrate and come together. Amidst a galaxy of performances, and a stadium full of a cheering audience, Gurudev said: “I am so happy to be here in this city (Berlin) where the walls came down between people, it is time 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.”
Uniting in diversity
The spirit of love and camaraderie was palpable. Whether it was in the Pavilions which displayed a wide array of cultures from each of the continents; a range of music and dance performances from widespread corners of the world. It is said that music binds the world together, across races, religions and continents. The World Culture Festival bore testimony to this phenomenon. Fittingly, ‘All the colors of the rainbow’, the theme song, brought out the beauty in diversity.
A sudden onslaught of rain and wind threatened to change the program’s schedule. Yet the show, went on, as usual. The biting cold, and rain didn't dampen the spirit of the musicians who inaugurated the program with Sanskrit shlokas or the ensuing line-up of performers. 1000 Lithuanians embraced the rain as they danced to folk music; 2000-odd Bulgarians displayed vivacity, energy and enthusiasm through their dance and music. The Africans set the rhythm with their sonorous drums, contrasting the supple movements of the Russian ballet dancers. Guitarists and pianists from around the world; yoga enthusiasts all performed with perfect synchrony. ;
Performers from Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Switzerland, Japan, Israel left a lasting impression on the audience through a myriad of performances which culminated in the One World Family dance and a tribute song: Call of Ancient Love.
Everyone was united in this show of diversity through the universal medium of dance, music and celebration. What shone through in the smiles and cheers of the performers and the audience was the strength of the human spirit: sheer commitment, grit, lightness of the moment and encouraging each other’s achievements.
Commitment to peace
While the celebrations continued on the outside, everyone quietened down as Gurudev led the audience through a meditation for world peace. Explained Gurudev: “Meditation is the food for soul and there are so many souls starving. There is malnutrition at the physical level. Many children are starving. Many people are starving for peace and that is why we must bring meditation to everyone.”
There was pin drop silence as 50,000 people meditated and committed their solidarity to world peace. This scene was a far cry from the very purpose of the stadium: Built by Adolf Hitler in 1936 to further the World War. Later members of the Olympic stadium committee shared their amazement: “We have never seen such a large crowd quiet for so long!”
"The WCF is a true testimony to the work Art of Living has been doing to create a One World Family. Being here, in this electric atmosphere, is a truly unforgettable experience," said Subodh Kant Sahay, Indian Tourism Minister. Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minster of Netherlands, echoed Gurudev’s sentiments. “All the people of this world are connected to each other and the nature in its magnificent diversity. It is our common goal to live in harmony,” he expressed. Other notables including Mr Nirj Deva, Member of European Parliament; Dr Jacques Santer, Former Luxemberg Prime Minister and President of European Parliament; Nitin Gadkari, President of BJP Political Party in India, were truly inspired.
At the close of the World Culture Festival, each person left with a commitment to make Gurudev’s words become a vision: “With all the volunteers, we are sure we can create a stress-free, violence-free society for our children. Poverty eliminated, differences celebrated and connection to the inner Divinity. One Divinity, one humanity, celebrating differences, this is our sacred duty.”