The iconic National Mall in Washington DC was witness to an event of grand proportions, with an unprecedented and record breaking one million people gathering there to be part of The Art of Living’s World Culture Festival, which truly resembled a bouquet of world's cultures, as people from 180 countries converged for the planet's biggest festival of humanity, peace and culture.
The event saw the coming together of global dignitaries, enthralling music and colorful dance performances by Grammy Award Winners and other renowned artists-with a common message of celebrating the One World Family.
Global humanitarian and peacemaker, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living while addressing the gathering said, “It's such a beautiful occasion to celebrate our diversity. Our planet is so diverse, yet there is an underlying unity of our human values. Today, on this occasion, let’s commit ourselves to bringing more happiness to society. Let’s put a smile on everyone’s face. That’s humanness. That’s what we all are made up of. No celebration gains depth if it's not supported by wisdom. And that wisdom is within all of us. Wisdom is to recognize we are all unique and that we are all one. Let me tell everyone once again - we all belong to each other. We all belong to one global family. Let's celebrate our life. Let us accept and face the challenges pragmatically. Let us dream of a better future for this and the coming generation.”
The global event also awakened our senses and serenity with captivating performances such as America the Beautiful and Vande Mataram by Grammy Award Winner, Chandrika Tandon and 200 artists, Panchabhootam, a 1000-strong Indian Classical dance and classical symphony, 1000 global guitar ensemble led by Grammy Award winner Micky Free and other renowned guitar players, and traditional dance performances from Africa, Japan, and the Middle East.
Finally, it concluded with a Reggae Rhythms performance by Skip Marley, celebrating ‘One Love.'
External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar stated, “While we all endeavor to expand prosperity and secure our planet's future, it is natural that we are confronted with challenges of oppressing nature. Whether it is natural disasters, man-made ones, conflicts, or disruptions, it is important that in an interdependent world, we are always there for one another. The Art of Living has been an inspirational example in this regard and I personally have seen the difference that they have made most recently in the Ukraine conflict. Today, their message, your message, our message should be of caring, sharing, generosity, goodwill of understanding, and cooperation. This is what has brought us all together here."
The second day dawned with a thousand people stepping on their yoga mats at the historic Lincoln Memorial, as they were led through a unique yoga, breath and meditation session, by global spiritual leader, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, setting the tone for an evening filled with soulful performances, inspirational addresses and an unmissable sense of human connection, as former President of India Sri Ramnath Kovind remarked, “ People from mountains to coastal plains, river valleys to desserts have congregated here. In doing so, you (Gurudev) have created a microcosm of the global family.”
Among the many art forms presented was a traditional Ukrainian song conducted by renowned Ukrainian musician Olena Astasheva, who had left her motherland due to the war. Moved by the performance, the crowds joined in a spontaneous peace prayer for the people of Ukraine, led by Gurudev.
In what can only be described as an electrifying speech, Rev Gerald L Durley remarked, “We need to change the name of the Art of Living to the Art of Living Proof, because you (Gurudev) are proving that you can love, you can share, you can have compassion.”
Tim Draper, American venture capital investor, also shared, “We (Americans) used to call people from other countries aliens. And it was not a nice term. And somehow though, we've started to bring people together, and under Gurudev’s leadership, we've brought people together, and no longer is anyone on the earth an alien. But if there were an alien, on this earth and they said take me to your leader, I would point them to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar!”.
Other distinguished speakers on day two included Prithvirajsing Roopun, President, Mauritius; Former President of India – Shri Ramnath Kovind; Mrs Akie Abe, Former First Lady and wife of late Prime Minister of Japan-Shinzo Abe; Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General; among others.
Cultural highlights from the second day of the event included the 10,000 people-strong Garba performance led by the vocals of Grammy winning, Falu Shah, an Indian American singer; a 200-strong euphoric Bhangra performance; Irish step dance; surreal Afghan melodies; a spectacular ensemble of 1,000 Chinese American vocalists and dancers, combined with a Kung Fu performance, joined by majestic dragons and lions brought to life through artistry and imagination; unforgettable performances from Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Latin American countries; Hip hop and breakdance performers led by legends like Kurtis Blow; 1200-people Gospel choir and mesmerizing performance from Pakistani contingent.