March 29, 2016
World Culture Festival, also known as the Olympics of Cultural Art, is a showcase of the rich traditions of dance, music, and art of over 37,000 artists from more than 100 countries, to promote global peace and harmony.
The event is a celebration of the 35 years of the Art of Living's service to humanity, which was founded by Guru Ji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
We were amazed at the magnitude of the event and the participation of different dancers from all around the world.
The Buyogan Festival Dancers from Abuyog, Leyte represented the Philippines to show the community's collective hope and determination to recover from the devastation of typhoon Haiyan and in honor of Señor Santo Niño.
We started our day with Bhastrika breathing and a moment of peaceful meditation.
We arrived before lunch to get our media passes and in anticipation of the heavy afternoon traffic during the festival's opening ceremony.
It was entertaining to see the dancers practicing, which made us more excited for the event.
Lunch was served in the dining tent for the different coordinators, artists, and members of the media.
It was a vegetarian packed lunch of naan, rice, curry, yogurt, and more curry.
Security was tight when we entered and we even had to show that our cameras were working. Any foreign gadget was prohibited.
It was awesome to participate in this event with my lovely wife, Rache.
The grounds had red and green carpets, which helped a lot with the mud when it rained.
There was an initial estimate of 3.5 million attendees for the 3-day festival.
The stage was massive even from a distance. It's hard to see the performances from this angle so we had to rely on the mobile LED screens all around the venue.
There were 650 drummers from South Africa that participated in the festival.
It was quite hard to imagine how massive the event was until we experienced it firsthand.
I want one of these colorful umbrellas!
A panoramic perspective of how massive the stage and the venue was for the World Culture Festival. (Photo by WCF-Art of Living)
The world's largest oval shaped stage setup over an area of 7 acres, with the lowest step at 6 ft high and the highest at 47 ft.
Imagine these performances from different groups:
1000 Bharatnatyam performers trained by 3 Padma awardees
1000 Kathak dancers choreographed by Kathak maestro, Pandit Birju Maharaj
650 drummers from South Africa
More than 1000 Odissi dancers
More than 1500 Kuchipudi dancers
About 1620 Kathakali and Mohiniattam dancers
1000 Ghoomar dancers from Rajasthan
More than 1000 Bhangra dancers
Over 1500 Garba dancers from Gujarat
Over 1000 singers from West Bengal to perform Rabindra Sangeet
1500 Haryanvi folk artists
About 1000 Naati dancers
1000 Panthi dancers to perform
1000 Dhangari Dhol players
Artists from across the world also performed Brazilian Samba, Argentine Tango, Hip-Hop, Rap
Bulgarian Folk artists and Swiss Alphorn players
Cosmic Rhythm with 4,6000 artists performed 30 dance forms
Contemporary Sufi (From Pakistan)
Kandyan dance (Srilanka)
Glow of Planet (Taiwan)
The team behind the Buyogan Dance delegation: Mayor Octavio Traya, Artistic Director Victor Hao Cuenco, Choreographers Frenil Palang and Johnney Collamat, and Siaw San Liew and Madel Pajarillo of the Art of Living Philippines.
The weather was lovely on the last day of the festival. We were proud to be part of the Philippine delegation to this One World Family celebration.
The Pakistan delegation was very bubbly and made their presence felt to share the message of peace and unity with India.
It was a bit surreal watching all these traditional cultural dances performed on one single stage.
A look at the back of the massive stage designed and built specifically for the World Culture Festival.
Elephants flanked and guarded the stage and became instagrammable photo subjects for the delegates.
We had the chance to go near the stage and watch the performances up close!
The young Indian women are proud to wear their traditional clothes and to be able to perform their traditional dances.
It inspired me to know more about other cultures in a much deeper way and to welcome the differences from our own.
The stage itself is a mesmerizing masterpiece with the LED screens showing visual arts throughout the performances.
People were smiling despite the challenges of organizing a big event like this. It was amazing that nobody got hurt. :)
The Tango dancers were performing side by side with the Indian dancers.
Watch out for the Buyogan dancers feature by Caroline Howard on ANC for ABS-CBN.
As the sun set over the horizon...
...the stage lit up providing an impressive backdrop to the performances.
Couldn't help but take a souvenir photo with my wife Rache with the spectacle in the background.
People from different countries united and happily experiencing the biggest cultural art concert in the world!
In the finale, all the dance groups including the Buyogan dancers, performed individually for one last time.
The best moment during the grand finale is when ALL the dancers performed a synchronized choreography of the Grand Art of Living Symphony dance.
The event ended with the world’s largest Peace Meditation with all 3.5 million attendees!
Here is an excerpt from H.E. Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo's message from Pope Francis during the World Culture Festival:
Greetings from Rome - Greetings from Pope Francis
I want to thank Sri Ravi Shankar for inviting me here today, which reflects a certain symmetry because last year I invited him to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences of which I am the Chancellor at the Vatican. I must also thank the very important group of volunteers who have worked so hard to make this festive a great success.
There are great areas of collaboration between The Art of Living Foundation and the Pontifical Academy of sciences, and I would like to see these areas developed and strengthened in the years ahead.
I will certainly do my best in my own role to work towards that end, and specifically for peace. There are also evidently great similarities in outlooks between His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Christians believe that the human being is made in the likeliness and image of God, and you believe the divine can be found within each human being. I have asked Neet Diwan, who is one of the members of The Art of Living Foundation and at the same time president of the International Committee On Human Dignity to explore the greater areas of potential collaboration.
By the way, I note with great satisfaction that The Art of Living is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. I would like to wish you all, and of course Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar many more years of growth in working towards promoting peace and human dignity.
One of the great ways to foster peace and harmony in the world today is through the work done at a person to person level. To know each other's religion and to reduce the differences. The Art of Living has shown by example over 3.5 decades that it has earned its place as a leader in this important work and I congratulate you for this work. The people gathered here today have such visible joy and serenity, that it is a testament of this fact.
Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and of course people from the religion I share, Christianity, give an incredible testimony that The Art of Living helps people to get more in whatever faith or tradition they follow. You help people to live in their faith ever more intimately and personally. Your work in promoting and fostering international peace within the religions and between the nations of the world based on the interior peace of human beings is to be commended most highly. Master, Lord Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God".
As I hear more and more about the good work of The Art of Living, I am more and more convinced that Gurudev is more an authentic reflection of what it meant to be truly called a child of God.
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: Our World Culture Festival trip was courtesy of Arf of Living Philippines. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. At the end of the festival, some of the delegates were kind enough to give their shawls as souvenirs. :)