WASHINGTON: Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living announced Thursday it will co-host its trademark Olympic-scale World Culture Festival on Washington D.C.’s iconic National Mall, which has been called America’s Front Yard, later this year in September-October.
“We need to bridge the gap. There is a lot of polarisation in the world,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said at a news conference.
“The World Culture Festival is an occasion for people to come together and celebrate each other’s differences. It is the need of the hour, to bring people together in celebration and to spread the message of peace and to say that we are one human family.”
Holding the fourth edition of the World Culture Festival in Washington D.C. will send a message to the whole planet as “there is so much need for awareness about the importance of non-violence and creating peace and (resolving) mental health issues,” the spiritual leader added.
The Art of Living is co-hosting the cultural event with the government of the city of Washington D.C. “Washington D.C. is the perfect city to bring people together from around the globe,” said Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“We are a city that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, a global city, a welcoming city, and a city that loves visitors. We know that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s message that ‘diversity is the beauty of creation’ aligns with our D.C. values. So, we invite people to plan their visits, and we’ll see you in the fall!”
The three-day event will be held from September 29 to October 1 and organisers said they expect more than 1,50,000 people to participate, coming from all over the world. They added that as a measure of the early buzz about the event, more than 50,000 people have already registered to attend.
The three-day festival will be packed with cultural performances and culinary offerings from around the world — including dancers and performers from India, China and Ukraine — and a long list of world leaders have already committed their presence and participation such as former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and former Indian Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu.
The Art of Living is bringing the festival for the first time to the US — the previous three iterations were held in Bengaluru (2006), Berlin (2011) and New Delhi (2016). Upwards of seven million people attended these events altogether, the organisers have said.
The National Mall is an iconic location — called, as noted, America’s Front Yard. It’s home to the Washington Monument, Memorials to Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, and to World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars.
The Art of Living had considered other venues as well such as Los Angeles in California and Albuquerque (home to epic TV show ‘Breaking Bad’) in New Mexico. But they chose Washington D.C. When asked by Washington D.C., Sri Sri countered with another question, rhetorically: “Why not Washington DC.”