Just two days before its inauguration, the World Culture Festival—organised by Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar—is already in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The three-day event will mark the 35th anniversary of Shankar’s The Art of Living Foundation.
Organisers say the gala will be staged on the world’s largest such platform, spread across seven acres. Massive structures are being raised on the banks of River Yamuna in New Delhi. Even the mighty Indian Army found a role in the extravaganza, having built two floating bridges across the river.
While some 3.5 million attendees—including India’s prime minister Narendra Modi—are expected to throng the festival, authorities and environmentalists aren’t pleased. Over the past few days, Shankar has faced backlash for flouting green norms, and not having necessary clearances.
Today (March 9), India’s opposition parties even raised the issue in parliament. The Modi government, though, seemed unperturbed. “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is committed towards protecting the environment. It would be wrong to doubt his commitment towards nature,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, junior minister for parliamentary affairs, said.
Meanwhile, a video showed a supporter of Shankar openly threatening to kill an environmentalist who has created an online petition against the event.
Here are some pictures that show how the banks of Yamuna are being deck up for the guru’s carnival: