Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a swipe at critics of spiritual guru Ravi Shankar’s cultural festival held on the fragile floodplains of the Yamuna on Friday, asking them to have “pride and honour” in the country’s legacy.
Modi described as “cultural Kumbh Mela” the international event which environmentalists are opposing for allegedly causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the heavily-polluted river.
The controversial event got official sanction at the last moment after the National Green Tribunal asked the organisers, the Art of Living Foundation headed by the spiritual guru to immediately pay Rs 25 lakh of a Rs five crore fine . The rest will be paid over three weeks.
“We can fulfil that demand (exporting India’s culture) to some extent, but that will be possible only when we take pride and honour in our legacy. If we keep calling ourselves bad, criticise everything, then why will the world look at us,” he said while addressing the gathering at the festival.
Modi hailed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for “giving a positing image of the country and its culture to the world” in the 35 years of the foundation’s existence.
He said that through Art of Living Foundation – which has millions of followers across several countries -- the world has known a distinct facet of India.
Giving the foundation the credit for exporting India’s “soft power” to the world, Modi said in international relations, it reaches where diplomacy cannot.
Modi recalled a visit to Mongolia, where he said Mongolians were carrying the Indian flag at a reception hosted by the foundation.
“When the nation is seen through its culture, its true identity is revealed. This is art of living. Sankaton se jujhate, tab art of living; jab doosron ke liye jeete hain, tab art of living; jab main se hum tak chalte hain, tab art of living,” Modi said, alluding to a metaphor of life well lived as the true art of living.
Talking of India’s journey from “Upanishad to upgraha”, he said India has travelled from being an ancient civilisation to a country that is launching satellites.
In his inaugural address, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also took a dig at his critics for describing the festival as his “private party”, noting that obstacles do come when something great is done.
“Somebody said it is the guruji’s private party. I said yes. It is true because (the) entire world is my family. When one needs nothing for himself, then he belongs to the entire society,” he said.
Heavy rains marred the start of the festival which lost some of its sheen after President Pranab Mukherjee and other dignitaries pulled out following the controversy over environmental damages.