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SRI SRI WORLD CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN WASHINGTON DC

America is truly massive: landing in Newark, one witnesses from the air, this enormous, huge, movement, on the multiple highways, with their thousand of cars, constantly on the move, on sea channels, boats with endless containers, and in the airport itself hundreds of planes parked, taxying, landing or taking off; Whatever feelings one has about the United States, this vibrant urgency shows that it's still THE nation to reckon with...

 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the famous guru who founded the Art of Living and modernized as well as repackaged pranayama and meditation, made no mistake about it: his fourth World Culture Festival, after Bengaluru, twice, and Berlin, was in the capital of the United States, Washington DC ! Not only that, but it was organized in the beautiful setting of Washington DC National Mall, between the White House and the Washington Monument Obelisk.

 

Washington is without doubt, with Boston, the most European city in the USA, with its parks, cafés, terraces and wide shaded avenues - contrary to cities like Dallas or Atlanta, or even Los Angeles, which have no centers to speak off and where you have to drive ten miles to buy a bottle of milk. This is why without doubt, why Sri Sri chose DC, which apparently wasn't the only city to place a bid to welcome the festival - Los Angeles, where the Art of Living Foundation has a huge center and Albuquerque  had also  been interested to host the World Cultural festival. It is in great part thanks to the support of  DC Mayor Muriel Bowse who announced earlier the festival in a press release, explaining that "Guru Shankar's message of diversity aligns with the city's values".

 

The first evening nearly 500.000 people milled around: from the huge stage in front, to the lawns far away, one could  a sea of humanity, moving, clapping, dancing... we were told that a 1,000-member gospel choir would sing, and about 2,800 dancers from more than 35 countries were scheduled to perform. It was a grand spectacle, though at times a bit long, for those who had witnessed earlier events, but as Sri Sri often says: "Music and meditation go together, because Music unites people, and it is the juice of life."And at the end of the first day, we were therefore all treated to a 20 minutes meditation by the Master

 

On the second morning, Gurudev as he is fondly called, led a morning meditation at 8 a.m. because as he has often repeated: “Meditation and yoga calm you down — it uplifts your spirit and gives you energy,” . He adds:. “It’s good for our body and physique, but also our mental fitness.” In the evening, again at least 30.000 people were milling around in the alleys, where more than 50 food trucks from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia companies — such as Koshary Corne, Arepa Zone,, or Taste of Montreal —  served international dishes all through the three days festival. Dance after dance succeeded one another from Africa, the Caribbean (one of the best), Punjab, Ukraine (that looked very Russian to me). So many artists from all over the world: Sri Sri wanted  to give them a platform because, he feels " they are really not in a good shape. Their depression rate is 17 times more than normal people who are not artists. So, this is a very big crisis that we can see in our society, that artists are more depressed than the others. In fact, they are supposed to take away the depression of other people.”

 

On the stage, next to him,  one could see jain monks, hindu swamis, christian priests, etc. We thus were served with  an interfaith discourse from all of these, including a parsi priest. To quote Sri Sri: "Post-Covid, I felt that this is so much needed, specially when there is so much polarization that’s happening, fear, uncertainty and violence in society that can only be countered by celebration and bringing people together. And he elsewhere said: "Let’s get everyone to sing OM all over the world. nd dance and dine together.’” Which we did all together in one voice !

 

One did not see on the stage that many acting Congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, nor the Vice President, Kamala Harris, who has Indian roots, which is a pity. But to my mind, without doubt,  Sri Sri's coup de maître, masterstroke, was to have reached successfully to the Black American community.  On the third day, there was a long Hip Hop show that retraced the history of this pioneering rap dance. The dancing and rhythm was so good that everybody was swaying to the tunes. Later the hip hoppers came to the stage for a photo Op with Sri Sri. No doubt they were conquered by his charm and smile. I believe more and more that the future belongs to these people, who were enslaved and today, karma maybe, are slowly emerging as a political and economic force to reckon with. And if you see adds on television, you will notice that market studies have understood that phenomenon

 

It is said that more than 1 million people from 180 countries attended the World Culture Festival in the National Mall in Washington DC for  3-days of wild  celebration of unity in diversity. Nearly 17,000  artists, entertainers and speakers spoke from  the largest stage ever built in Washington .According to inside sources, the world Culture festival generated nearly $30 million in revenue for tWashington city.

 

Let us hope then, that thanks to initiatives like the World Cultural Festival, one will see closer and closer relations, both economical and geopolitical, between these two great democracies that are India and the United States. They would both benefit immensely from it: America with Indian ancient dharmic knowledge - and india with US technology and know how. Tank you Sri Sri !

 

François Gautier

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