Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday termed the Art of Living's World Culture Festival event at the Yamuna flood plain here as an “art maha kumbh" and said India can fulfill needs of the world through its cultural heritage only if there is no constant internal criticism. Speaking at the inaugural event of the festival, which had run into and faced a case in National Green Tribunal, Modi profusely praised the even as well as the Art of Living (AoL).
In his speech AoL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, took a dig at those who were opposing the event as his “private party". "Of course, it is my private party. The entire world is my family," he said, recalling Sanskrit phrase “vasudhaiva kutumbakam", which means “the world is one family", as one of the loftiest Vedic thoughts. Showers lashed the venue just before the inaugural event of the three-day cultural extravaganza, throwing some preparations into disarray. The show could not be screened on screens put up at the venue estimated to be spread over 1,000 acres.
The evening saw chanting of Vedic mantras, and Indian classical performances by thousands of artistes. The Art of Living Grand Orchestra saw participation of an estimated 8,500 artists, organisers said. Several international leaders including from UAE and France took part in the event. A message was read on behalf of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Modi began his address by terming Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as “param pujay gurudev" (revered guru). Modi said world was not only linked through economic interests but also throuugh “human values." He said India has heritage which is needed by the world. "We can fulfill needs of the world in some ways but we can do so if we have pride in our herigtage. If we keep criticising ourselves, if we find faults daily, what will the world see towards us," Modi said. He said Art of Living had spread to over 150 countries in its 35 years. Modi said AoL has helped shape a distinct identity of India. “Today we have seen a kumbh festival. This is kumbh mela of art," Modi said.
The Art of Living event on the Yamuna flood plain has been slammed by some environmentalists for violation of environment norms. The National Green Tribunal has imposed an environmental compensation of Rs.5 crore on AoL for the event. Modi also said that “soft power" plays an important role in international relations. He said that practise of music has potential to influence mind.
“When we face resistance in life, we will need Art of Living, when we pursue our dreams we need Art of Living and when we move from myself towards the common cause of us, we need Art of Living," he told a large gathering including a large number of participants and dignitaries from various parts of the world.
Appreciating Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's services in last 35 years, Modi said: “Once I was overwhelmed when I got a grand reception in Mongolia at an event organised by Art of Living Foundation." Ravi Shanker, in his speech, made a veiled reference to the criticism of the event and the challenges his organisation faced and said when “something great is done, many obstacles come". “It only indicates it is very very significant work we have undertaken," Ravi Shanker said. "Let's create peace and harmony. Today it seems the dream of vasudhev kutumbakkam has come alive," he added.