India: Festival Celebrates Humanity’s Diversity

Kshitij Nagar
2016.03.14
New Delhi
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An Indian folk dancer carries his costume toward the stage at the World Culture Festival in New Delhi, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Indian sitar players perform at the festival, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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An Indonesian dancer looks on as she waits for her turn to perform, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Young dancers from the Philippines rest as they wait for their turn to perform, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Indian folk dancers (left) and Spanish dancers wait for their turns to perform at the World Culture Festival, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Audience members send a message of peace by shining lights from their mobile phones, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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A sitar symphony performs, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Artists perform before a packed house at the World Culture Festival, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar looks on from the stage, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

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A Delhi police constable stands guard on a makeshift floating bridge spanning the Yamuna River, as attendees exit the World Culture Festival, March 13, 2016. [Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews]

More than 1 million people converged on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi to witness the World Culture Festival, an artistic, musical and cultural extravaganza billed as a celebration of mankind’s diversity.

Organized by the Art of Living Foundation, the three-day event came to a close on Sunday and featured more than 30,000 artists from 155 countries.

The foundation is a non-profit organization engaged in activities ranging from educating economically poorer sections of society to providing free health care. The group mainly promotes Hindu spiritual practices, such as yoga and meditation.

But before the festival kicked off on March 11, the organizers were fined 50 million rupees (U.S. $746,000) by the Indian capital’s National Green Tribunal in anticipation of the “severe ecological impact” it would have on the river’s floodplains.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the foundation’s head, denied that the festival could add to the Yamuna’s pollution.

“The river cannot be polluted anymore. It has already crossed its limit of pollution. We are, in fact cleaning the river by putting enzymes in the water,” the guru told BenarNews.

The controversy refused to dampen the spirit of the artists.

“My dance troupe has been practicing for this event for six months,” a Spanish dancer, Linda, who only went by her first name, told BenarNews. “I am thrilled to be here.”

Vasudevan Sridharan in Bengaluru, India, contributed to this report.

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