Berlin: Fascinating yoga performances, melodious music, dazzling cultural programmes and colourful costumes took thousands of participants on an unforgettable journey of India and the world as the World Cultural Festival kicked off in the German capital Saturday.
The event is celebrated as a "peace festival" at the historic Olympic Stadium that hosted the 1936 Olympics and 1974 World Cup football matches. The stadium turned 75 this year. The festival also marks 30 years of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s Art of Living organisation.
"The Olympic Stadium was built by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and it was from this place that the call for World War II came. From where the call for war came we want to give a call for peace," an official of the Art of Living told reporters.
"It is 75 years of the Olympic Stadium and 30 years of Art of living and we are trying to bring people from across the world giving them a vision of `Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam` (one world)," she said.
In a unique celebration of harmony in diversity, the two-day festival will see participation of an estimated 70,000 people from 151 countries who will take home unique sights, sounds, tastes and the variety of all continents.
The overcast sky with light showers, initially, affected the schedule of the programme but many people poured into the stadium to have a glimpse of the festivity.
"It`s beautiful and spread in such a big area. There is so much to see and I really liked the section on Asia-Pacific as it`s very colourful with a variety of food. I hope the sun will come out of the clouds and shine bright," said Anna Asendorf, a college student, who came to attend the festival from neighbouring Brandenburg state.
Africa, Asia, America and Europe pavilions complete the journey through the world experience by interactively showcasing the beauty of cultures through local dance, music, food and literature.
One of the highlights of the programme of the opening day is the Grand Guitar Ensemble for Peace - an enchanting symphony of 2,000 guitarists, 30 Grand pianists and 3,000 choir singers. Apart from German and other European countries` anthems, Vande Mataram will also be sung, said an official.
The festival also showcases classical music from India and America, contemporary music from Malta, traditional flutes from Turkey, folk dances from Russia and Bulgaria, Shaolin monks from China and a variety of performances by Germans.
Lotus dance from Japan, aboriginal dance from Canada and Swiss groups, Austrian alpine horns will vie for the eyeballs during the two-day jamboree.
"I am really looking forward to the cultural performances. It`s a multicultural carnival where you get to see artists from various countries on one platform," said Kumar Roy, an Indian tourist.
The stadium has been transformed into a huge yoga park where visitors can attend workshops from different countries and experience its effect on physical and mental health.
A unique Yoga Museum charts the evolution of yoga from ancient sages to its global application in the 21st century and also illustrates the societal impact of yoga in peace building and its application in humanitarian projects around the world.
"A total of 500 yoga teachers and practitioners of various ages and yoga schools will present the beauty and impact of yoga. Together we will perform the musically choreographed exercise Surya Namaskar (sun salutation)," said the organiser.
This World Culture Festival concert is part of a world series of intercultural peace concerts, which began with the Brahmnaad concert in New Delhi, India, in November 2008. The concert featured over 1,200 sitar players and entered the Guinness World Records.