New Delhi: Addressing a huge gathering at the World Culture Festival here on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi heaped praises on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living Foundation and said India has so much to give to the world because of its cultural diversity.
This three-day mega global event, being organised on the banks of river Yamuna by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living, is expected to witness tens of thousands of people from India and the world.
Welcoming the gathering, PM Modi said, “India has so much to give to the world since it is a culturally diverse country.”
He said, “We must be proud of our cultural heritage.”
“This is a Kumbh Mela of art and culture. People have come from all across India and the world for this great mission,” PM Modi said.
“Through the Art of Living, the world has got to know about India. I want to congratulate Ravi Shankar. He has contributed a lot to India's world image.” he said.
Earlier, marking the opening of the event, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world dignitaries to the stage with colourful garlands.
Addressing the gathering, Sri Sri asked the participants to “Keep smiling and face all challenges with courage." He said, "It is such a beautiful occasion.”
He rubbished allegations that the World Cultural Festival is his private party, saying that “This is not my private party, this is for the world.”
World luminaries from various fields will also address the gathering during the course of the event.
In his address, a visiting Japanese parliamentarian has conveyed his Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's message and said, “I sincerely hope we can spread world peace through Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.”
Devotees from 155 countries are attending the programme, where some 36,000 artistes from around the world will perform.
The event has been mired in controversy for allegedly flouting the environmental regulations and degrading the ecology of the Yamuna floodplain.
The National Green Tribunal on Thursday given the go-ahead to the organisers after they pledged to pay an initial amount of Rs 25 lakhs for mitigating any adverse impact on the Yamuna's fragile floodplain.
In its promotional literature, the Art of Living Foundation had claimed that 35 lakh people would come.
The organisers told the Tribunal that they had already spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event.
“The festival celebrates the diversity in cultures from across the world while simultaneously highlighting our unity as a human family,” the Art of Living said on its website.
“The grand spectacle will witness a multitude of dancers, musicians, religious leaders, eminent personalities and people from all walks of life come together to celebrate our enormous diversity,” it added.
Earlier in the day, rains lashed Delhi raising doubts whether the festival would pass smoothly since the wet weather could wreck havoc on the traffic.
"The minimum temperature recorded at 8.30 AM was 19 degrees Celsius, four notches above normal. The humidity was 80 per cent," a MeT official said.
Weatherman had predicted light rains in several parts of Delhi.
An uneasy calm prevailed in the sprawling complex as foot soldiers of the Art of Living struggled to put up a good show.