Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

DC’s 2023 World Culture Festival Presents a Diverse Array of Cultural Performances

Students, tourists and residents alike were given the chance to travel the world this weekend without ever having to leave Washington, D.C. Over 17,000 people performed at the National Mall during the World Culture Festival, which presented music, food and dance from a variety of cultures in a celebration of unity, peace, diversity and inclusivity.

The festival, which lasted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, brought together over 450,000 attendees from across the globe in a free event showcasing performances and cuisines from 180 countries. 

The Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit founded by humanitarian Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, coordinated the festival. The organization aims to create a stress-free and violence-free world by helping people find internal peace through meditation and celebration in multiculturalism. 

Annelies Richmond, director of university programs at Art of Living and one of the performance directors for the World Culture Festival, discussed how the festival plays an important role in these goals.

“The World Culture Festival is an outward display of peace, like telling the world that we can coexist with our differences,” Richmond told The Hoya. “And not just coexist, but celebrate the differences and celebrate the diversity on the planet, and that can be done peacefully or in a sense of celebration.”

Nidhi Somineni (CAS ’25) and Rushil Vashee (SFS ’25), two members of GU Jawani, Georgetown University’s premier noncompetitive Bhangra dance team, participated Sept. 30 in the Bhangra Dance Euphoria performance, which brought together 150 Bhangra dancers from across the country. 

Full disclosure: Rushil Vashee is compensation director at The Hoya.

“It felt crazy to be performing on the National Mall with that many people watching us and just the two of us wandering around, meeting people from all over the country who were on Bhangra dance teams and people from all over the country who were doing tons of different things,” Vashee told The Hoya.

Somineni and Vashee said performing at the World Culture Festival was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in their Bhangra dance careers.

“There was a live dhol there for Bhangra, which is like a two-headed drum, and we were just talking about how never again in our life will we probably perform with a live dhol, so it was just a really special experience,” Somineni said.

“Being able to dance with that big of a group of brown people, we will once again probably never have that,” Vashee added. “It was just so cool to see something from India get a stage that big and dance with that many people who are all excited to be there and to share one of the dances from India.”

Twitter_GurudevSriSri | Over 450,000 attendees from across the globe came to the 2023 World Culture Festival hosted at the National Mall.

Richmond said one performance she found particularly impactful was the Chinese song and a dance.

“Our Chinese culture performance was off the hook. We had 800 singers. The first choir director we met with really loved the idea. He brought every choir from Maine to New York to Florida, and we gathered all the choirs. It was neat for them to all sing together,” Richmond said. “Seeing the rehearsals in the last month or two and then seeing it on stage was absolutely beautiful.”

In addition to the performances, Art of Living taught yoga and meditation practices. Arun Sood (CAS ’26) attended the World Culture Festival’s morning yoga session Sept. 30 and described the experience as unreal.

“To see thousands of people all performing unified yoga in front of the Lincoln Memorial on their yoga mats took me aback,” Sood wrote to The Hoya.

“I have never seen or felt such good energy at the monuments, and it was nice to see people of all different backgrounds and ages pursuing the same goal: spiritual connection.”

Richmond said she felt the power of meditation during Shankar’s global peace meditations on Sept. 29 and Sept. 30.

“There was this huge crowd that extended all the way down the mall, and we just sat in silence for 15 minutes. I thought, this is bringing such a great energy to D.C. at a time when D.C. needs it,” Richmond said.

Gatherings like the World Culture Festival help shape national and global perceptions on multiculturalism and bring an overall sense of peace and positivity to today’s world.

“I think having something that’s on a global platform, happening right on the National Mall, right in front of the Capitol building, the world needs to see as a possibility that if you want peace on our planet right now, the peaceful people have to stand up and make a loud noise,” Richmond said. “It can’t just be the violence being heard.”

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    Anshul SamarOct 9, 2023 at 12:50 am

    Love this – got a chance to attend in person, it was a really touching and spectacular event.