Till the World Culture Festival happened, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Mr. Ravishankar was probably a figure from a very small group of religious gurus in India who were more or less non-controversial. Mr. Ravishankar enjoyed a widespread support with a reputation of being ‘an efficient mediator in conflict resolution’.

Not anymore!

And the sharpest reflection of that sentiment is addressing him as ‘Mr. Ravishankar’ and not as ‘Sri Sri’, something that had become synonymous with him. Yes, many consciously tried to do it after the controversy on the World Culture Festival erupted and the stand that Mr. Ravishankar took – like he would rather go to jail than paying the fine asked by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) or that it was not a fine but a cess that he agreed to give.

The impression went that he took on law, that he bent it and blatantly tried to convey that he was far beyond it, that he was above all. And there would be many more than the participants or the audience at the World Culture Festival to share this feeling.

There was also another development that didn’t go unnoticed from those who are open minded about society and its religious extensions – a large, urban middle class, the prospective target audience of a spiritual-religious guru like Mr. Ravishankar, that builds and nurture its opinion based on logical thinking and rational perceptions.

In addition to harbouring a natural grudge, a middle class phenomenon, on abuse of authority and power that went into organizing the World Culture Festival, there is another spectacle that can hardly go unnoticed – that further questions the ‘noble intent’.

I, personally, did not have seen television commercials of ‘Sri Sri Ayurveda’ products before it, before the row (or frenzy for some) over the World Culture Festival. But, in the run up to the event and during the event, I saw it many times on television channels. Obviously, for the organizers of the event, the millions of eyeballs were the target and thus the millions of expected footfalls in the days to come.

I cannot say and I don’t know about the part of India Mr. Ravishankar has his ashram in, but we in Northern India, so far, had not seen the ‘Sri Sri’ products advertisements on the channels televised nationally, be it entertainment, be it news, be it infotainment or any other genre.

Till the World Culture Festival happened!

There was a coordinated and well-oiled effort to reach that elusive ‘effective frequency’ of advertisements to build the outreach.

But would it help take the brand ‘Sri Sri’ further?

Also, was the decision to hold a mega event in Delhi to take the ‘Art of Living Foundation’ and ‘Sri Sri’ brand name across the country influenced by the rapid strides made by products of another religious guru – Ramdev’s ‘Patanjali’ brand?

Obviously, Mr. Ravishankar denied so and Ramdev would not speak on it but these TV advertisements speak a lot.

But they certainly belie the tall claims of world peace, unity and humanitarianism.

Why these advertisements now only?

If the event was organized with such a noble intent like the world peace then there was no place for these advertisements!

At best, the event can be termed a breathtaking cultural extravaganza aimed at making Mr. Ravishankar a pan-India religious guru – to massify his brand appeal.

And the event would have been a brilliant marketing exercise in doing so but for the ‘Yamuna’ controversy.

When every concerned authority, from the Supreme Court to the NGT, was opposed to the event being organized at the Yamuna floodplains, Mr. Ravishankar made it prestige battle to have his say and got his way.

Combined with the fact that the political establishments (including the Delhi government) and the administration extended the olive branch and went out of the way to ensure smooth organization of a private event that caused endless traffic nightmares to millions in Delhi, the World Culture Festival sent negative feelers, that in fact, caused a dent into the ‘holy aura’ of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

It is not that ‘holy’ anymore!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


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