NEW DELHI: Amidst controversy over environmental and security concerns, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's three-day extravaganza began here on Friday evening soon after thunder and lightning lashed the World Culture Festival on the banks of river Yamuna.
Head of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shanker called for "peace and harmony" even as the National Green Tribunal allowed the organisation to pay the fine of Rs.5 crore in three weeks. The fine was imposed for damage to the environment in setting up the sprawling stage and additional structures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dozens of foreign dignitaries attended the dance and music jamboree.
Indian classical music and dizzyingly intricate footwork characterised the performance by 1,700 Kathak dancers.
There were occasional whoops from many among the thousands of participants as other danseuses entertained the audience with Bharatanatyam at the Festival.
Billed as one of the biggest cultural gatherings in recent times, the festival is being hosted across 1,000 acres of the Yamuna floodplain. Environmental concerns dogged the event days before it kicked off as green activists, fearing environmental degradation of the fragile floodplain, sought cancellation of the festival.
However, the Tribunal on Friday cleared the decks for the event.
Ravi Shankar, considered by many as a spritual guru, lashed out at those who were opposing the event as his "private party".
"Of course, it is my private party. The entire world is my family," he said, recalling Sanskrit phrase "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", which means "the world is one family", as one of the loftiest vedic thoughts.
"Let's create peace and harmony," Ravi Shankar said, addressing the gathering.
The event is expected to draw lakhs of people over the next three days. People from different parts of the world are also expected to attend the mega event.