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A0L turns 25, party begins today

IN ESSENCE, it is a mega rock concert. The spiritual extravaganza that unfolds here on Friday will be larger than life in every way. For the occasion ? the three-day silver jubilee celebrations of The Art of Living (AOL) founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ? merits nothing less.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 01:23 IST

IN ESSENCE, it is a mega rock concert. The spiritual extravaganza that unfolds here on Friday will be larger than life in every way. For the occasion — the three-day silver jubilee celebrations of The Art of Living (AOL) founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar — merits nothing less.

The spread includes a dais spanning 3.5 acres, 3,800 musicians, mega video screens, smooth acoustics, delicious food and starry nights at Jakkur flying school in the outskirts of the city.

A swarm of VIPs, heads of state, policy-makers, corporate honchos, heads of spiritual and religious outfits will add the necessary dash of glamour. Many of them, including the guru himself, will heli-hop to the venue to avoid rush-hour traffic.

Going by the magnitude of the event (2.5 million devotees from 146 nations are likely to attend), initial estimates suggest it will be the most expensive religious gathering ever. “The tab might run up to a couple of crores, but these are donations from devotees. We can’t give you the exact figure now. Our guruji will lead a session of guided meditation of a vast congregation to propagate the theme of Vasudaiva Kutumbikam (the world is one family) on Friday (the inaugural session),” an AOL spokesperson said. Ironically, the venue was mired in controversy in January 2005, when heads of several Hindu mutts demanded a ban on the ‘Festival of Blessings’ addressed by US evangelist Benny Hinn.

Says Dr Ali Khwaja, head of Banjara Academy, one of the oldest counselling cells in Bangalore, “Such shows will only help promote a movement or concept, nothing can be achieved because mass hysteria can’t help individuals.” But Dr Nandakumar Jairam, medical director, Columbia Asia Hospital, says more and more 30-something professionals are leaning towards new-age spiritualism and stress management.

The show of faith promises to be a stressful event for the police. It has decided to post 2,000 officials at the venue for the VIP guests.

The list includes President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, A.B. Vajpayee, Bill Clinton, US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, several presidents and vice-presidents.

“Some VIPs will be air-dropped as we can’t afford all of them free passage (by road),” police commissioner Dr Ajai Kumar Singh said.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 01:23 IST