The iconic National Mall in Washington DC was witness to an event of grand proportions, with an unprecedented and record breaking 1 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.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Vision
Global humanitarian and peacemaker, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living shared, “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.'
A Call for Unity and Cooperation
“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,” expressed Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India.
Prominent Voices for Unity
Day one of the World Culture Festival saw global dignitaries like H.E. Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations; D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Michigan Congressman Sri Thanedar; Mr. Hakubun Shimomura, MP, Former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Science and Technology, Japan; Eric Solheim, former UN Deputy Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, as well as former Minister of International Development Norway, and others share their common vision for unity, peace, and harmonious coexistence in a conflicted world facing multiple global challenges.
Message from The Pope
The Pope through The Reverend Bishop Emeritus Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor Emeritus of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; The Holy See, shared a venerable message on this occasion as well; “To have world peace, we need inner peace. To communicate peace, we need to live in peace. And to live in peace, we need the Art of Living. To have the art of living in peace, we need to have communication with God. God is not an enemy of the human being. God is a friend. God is love. And, to have God, we need to come back to the meditation, to the prayer. We need to come back to our roots. So, in this delicate moment, we need to invoke God and in the name of Pope Francis, that we, the fraternity of all human beings, I bless you, and I bless this very big meeting, and I think that this act of living really will the future of our humanity.”
A Joyful Celebration of Oneness
Inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and organized by the Art of Living Foundation, the World Culture Festival transcended borders and celebrated the rich tapestry of cultures tied together in the thread of humanity snd brotherhood. WCF provides a platform for the preservation of local and indigenous traditions through music and dance, as well as the opportunity for everyone to relish and enjoy. This is a movement for the revival of universal human values such as love, compassion, and friendliness.
Speaking on the occasion, H.E. Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations said, “Culture builds bridges, breaks down walls, brings the world together through dialogue and mutual understanding, and enhances unity and harmony among people and nations. Culture can create powerful exchanges between all global citizens. Today, all of the world's cultural richness has come together, here, at the National Mall of the United States. I commend Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's inspiring vision of unity and diversity. We need more of these celebrations, more coming together, more peace, and more cooperation, solidarity, and partnership. This is how we will persevere over the great challenges we are facing now. This is how we will build peace and resolve conflicts, end hunger, ensure healthy lives, advance quality education, and empower women and girls. This is how we will advance, and leave no one behind.”
Continuing the Celebration
The enthusiasm and happiness of the crowds was palpable as thousands of national flags fluttered in the air in the spirit of oneness, and the energy was equally infectious among the artists.
"This is overwhelming and so beautiful," shared Beena Mohan, choreographer of the Mohiniyattam performance, "it is a dream to be part of this show. Putting this work together has been an unbelievable experience for me and my students. We all have grown through this experience and After the show, it's definitely going to be a different feeling, the confidence, the happiness, and all of that the show brings in for us."
As the World Culture Festival 2023 continues to unfold, we eagerly anticipate two more days of cultural richness, unity, and global celebration, building on the foundation of harmony and cooperation.