World Cultural Festival: The good and ugly of Art of Living!

New Delhi , News Nation Bureau | Updated : 11 March 2016, 10:52 AM

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) courted controversy in March 2016 after his grand celebration to mark the World Cultural Festival on the Yamuna floodplain went viral in news.

The extravagant plan attracted criticism after activists and National Green Tribunal accused the organisation of violating green norms.

The matter went in the tribunal court for hearing where the event was given green signal but only after a hefty fine of Rs 5 crore.

Defiant Sri Sri while talking to News Nation claimed that he is ready to go to jail but will not pay fine as his organisation has done no harm to the environment.

He insisted that AOL is deeply concerned in case of environmental matters and will turn the event into a biodiversity park thus not violating any norms.

The matter even turned up in the Supreme Court which once again gave green signal to the Cultural fest terming that the issue should have been risen before as ‘now nothing can be undone’.

The mega-event is set to kick off today. Let us take a look at the good and ugly world of Art of Living.

The Good

Art of Living Foundation is a volunteer-based, humanitarian and educational non-governmental organizations (NGO), which was founded by Ravi Shankar in 1981.

It is spread over 156 countries and is considered the world's largest volunteer-based NGO as it work in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social  council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and focuses on the upliftment of human values at the grassroots level.

Their work is spread to Art of Living Foundation (U.S.A.), Vyakti Vikas Kendra (India), Die Kunst des Lebens (Germany), Art of Living Center (Canada), Art of Living South Africa, Art of Living Israel, Art of Living Brazil, and Art of Living Argentina.

The Foundation operates as a charitable organization actively conducting "Art of Living" stress-relief courses, based on yoga, breathing, and meditation.

Guinness Book of World Records

They have a Guinness Book of Records for a Mohiniyattam dance where several danced on the traditional Kerala dance form in Cochin.

Another sitar concert "Brahm Naad" also entered Guinness Book of Records of whose proceeds went towards rehabilitation of the victims of the Bihar floods.

"Taal Ninaad" held on 17 January 2012 at Sholapur, which included 1230 tablas and 318 pakhavaj also entered the Guinness Book of Records.

The mass recital of Jnanappana, a devotional poem written by the 16th century Malayalam poet Poonthanam, organized by the foundation on 2 February 2014, has also found place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Bad

AOL first hit controversy in 2010 when two anonymous bloggers, "Skywalker" and "Klim", were sued and accused of defamation, trade libel, copyright infringement and disclosing trade secrets.

Then in 2011 a public interest litigation petition was filed in the high court alleging that Art of Living had constructed huge structures, encroaching upon the water spread area of Udipalya tank. A show cause notice was issued to the foundation by the state government.

In March 2014, the organization's yoga center in Islamabad, Pakistan was burned down, even threats were issued to the organization by Taliban.

Hitting the deck was AOL controversy, which saw Sri Sri fighting a battle with the tribunal and Supreme Court.