At the National Mall on the second day of the World Culture Festival, a touching moment transpired as people from 180 countries united in prayer for peace in Ukraine. Amidst a backdrop of hundreds of flags waving harmoniously, the prevailing sentiment was one of unity. Attendees from 180 nations came together to celebrate global cultures through the arts, including dance, music, and cuisine. This event showcased India's remarkable ability to serve as a unifying force on a global scale.
The day commenced with a remarkable gathering of a thousand individuals on their yoga mats at the iconic Lincoln Memorial. They participated in a distinctive session of yoga, focused breathing, and meditation guided by the renowned global spiritual leader, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This set the stage for an evening filled with soul-stirring performances, inspiring speeches, and an undeniable sense of human connection. Former President of India, Ramnath Kovind, observed, "People from mountains to coastal plains, river valleys to deserts have congregated here. In doing so, you, Gurudev, have created a microcosm of the global family."
Among the various artistic expressions featured was a traditional Ukrainian song conducted by the renowned Ukrainian musician, Olena Astasheva, who had left her homeland due to the ongoing war. Deeply moved by the performance, the audience spontaneously joined in a prayer for peace for the people of Ukraine, led by Gurudev.
In an electrifying speech, Rev Gerald L Durley proclaimed, "We need to change the name of the Art of Living to the Art of Living Proof, because you, Gurudev, are proving that you can love, you can share, you can have compassion."
Tim Draper, the American venture capital investor, added, "Under Gurudev's leadership, we've brought people together, and no longer is anyone on Earth an alien. But if there were an alien on this Earth and they said, 'Take me to your leader,' I would point them to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar!"
Day two also featured distinguished speakers, including Prithvirajsing Roopun, President of Mauritius; former President of India, Ramnath Kovind; Akie Abe, former First Lady of Japan and wife of the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, among others.
Cultural highlights included a vibrant Garba performance led by Grammy-winning artist Falu Shah, a spirited Bhangra performance, Irish step dance, enchanting Afghan melodies, a spectacular showcase featuring 1,000 Chinese American vocalists and dancers, complemented by Kung Fu demonstrations and captivating dragon and lion performances. There were unforgettable presentations from Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, and various Latin American countries. The event also featured hip-hop and breakdance performances led by legends like Kurtis Blow, a 1,200-member Gospel choir, and a mesmerizing performance by the Pakistani contingent.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, reflected, "Celebrations like today (WCF) are powerful because they remind us of how essential our connections to one another are... loneliness and isolation have become epidemics that are fueling mental health issues and contributing to physical illnesses, like dementia and heart disease, and now threaten the very well-being of our communities."