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Indians Should Be Proud of Their Heritage: Modi at Sri Sri Event

Modi heaping praise on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar saying he had introduced India to the world but made no reference to the raging row over environmental concerns surrounding it.

Published: 12th March 2016 01:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th March 2016 01:49 AM   |  A+A-

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The controversial event on the floodplains of Yamuna opened today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi heaping praise on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar saying he had "introduced" India to the world but made no reference to the raging row over environmental concerns surrounding it.

The three-day cultural extravaganza attended by thousands of people and delegates from a number of countries saw the Prime Minister telling Indians to be proud of their cultural heritage.

"India has the cultural heritage and richness which the whole world is looking for. We can fulfil those needs... But it can only happen, if we take pride in our heritage. If we keep cursing it, then why the world will look at us," he said while praising Ravi Shankar's efforts in this regard.

Modi spent three hours at the event but did not make any reference in his brief speech to the controversy triggered by environmental activists accusing Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation of destroying the river bed by erecting massive structures as lakhs of people are expected to participate.

With controversies dogging the event, President Pranab Mukherjee pulled out of the valedictory session on Sunday.

Former French Prime Minister Dominique Villepin, Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, UAE's Cultural Minister Al Nahayan were among the foreign dignitaries, who were present on the occasion.

But several others including Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah kept away.

Uncertainty had clouded the event with the National Green Tribunal posing tough questions to various government agencies on how the event was being allowed but later pleaded helplessness in enforcing a ban on it.

Nevertheless, it imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on AOL but Ravi Shankar was defiant saying he would go to jail than pay the fine. Today, AOL's counsel changed tack in the NGT saying it was an NGO and not in a position to pay the amount in a short time following which the NGT asked them to pay Rs 25 lakh today and the rest in next three weeks time.

In his address, Ravi Shankar took a dig at his critics for describing the World Cultural Festival as his "private party" saying "obstacles" do come when something great is done. He made no reference to the troubles AOL faced with the NGT.

Ravi Shankar also told his detractors that it was in our DNA to "care for and love" nature and protect environment.

Rains threatened to play spoilsport but the event went ahead as per schedule amid colourful cultural performances by artists from across the world and addresses by foreign dignitaries.

Terming the event as "the kumbh fair of art", Modi said even rains were "testing" the organisers.

"But this is art of living. Art of living is not living amid comforts and easy conditions. When move on with our ideas, it is art of living.

"When we live our dreams, it is art of living. When we tackle challenges, it is art of living and when we live for others instead of ourselves, it is art of living," he said.

The focus of Modi's brief address was the promotion of Indian culture and heritage to an audience which comprised participants from UAE, Argentina, Pakistan, Nepal among other countries.

"It is not that the world is connected by economic interests alone, it can also be connected through human values. It can be done, it should be done.

"India has the cultural heritage and richness which the whole world is looking for. We can fulfil those needs... But it can only happen, if we take pride in our heritage. If we keep cursing it, then why the world will look at us," he said while praising Ravi Shankar's efforts in this regard.

Emphasising the importance of the "soft power" of India's' cultural heritage, Modi recalled that Art of Foundation had also organised an event during his visit to Mongolia where the residents of that country welcomed him carrying Indian flags.

"Where the authority and power of the state do not reach, the soft power has a very big role to play at those places...

when the power of art is looked, then the inner strength of this nation comes out," he said.

At the event, which saw artistes from a number of countries performing, Modi hailed Indian traditional music as one which appeals to the soul unlike other ones, whose impact is confined to the body.

Seen as one of its kind event, the festival offers a platform for spiritual and religious leaders, politicians, business leaders, peacemakers and artists to spread the message of global peace and harmony in diversity.

The Art of Living had organised a similar peace festival in 2011 to celebrate its 30th anniversary at the historic Olympic stadium in Berlin, the organisers said.

In an apparent reference to the legal tussle with the NGT, Sri Sri said, "Many obstacles come when we want to do something great. But it only indicates that we have taken up something very significant.

"Obstacles do not come when something wrong is done.

Obstacles do come when something great is to be done. But all those obstacles are removed finally and the end result is very sweet."

The Art of Living founder told his followers to face with full courage whenever some difficulties come before them.



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