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What, Exactly, Is the World Culture Festival on the Mall This Weekend?

A famous Indian guru is behind the massive event.

Photograph courtesy the Art of Living Foundation.

A stage the size of a football field. Performances featuring thousands of participants. Planned appearances by Kurtis Blow, Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley, and the presidents of Fiji and Suriname. The World Culture Festival, scheduled to take place on the National Mall this weekend, is shaping up to be a large addition to Washington’s usual fall slate of events.

It’s organized by the Art of Living Foundation, which offers meditation and yoga instruction all over the world. It has a center in DC, another in Los Angeles, and a large retreat center in Boone, North Carolina, among many other locations. It’s led by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who’s popular on social media and who will lead meditations at the festival.

Is there an official festival theme song, you ask? Oh yes, there is:

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The foundation has put these festivals on before in New Delhi, Berlin, and Bangalore, and says the events have drawn millions.

The DC festival is free, but you have to reserve online if you’d like to attend. The festival says that more than 450,000 people have reserved, though it’s impossible to know how many people will show up. Probably quite a few! Parking restrictions and street closures are already in effect in some places near the Mall, and Madison and Jefferson drives will be closed from Thursday through Sunday. The police say they may close more streets if needed. Here’s a list. Take Metro, etc.

Wait, you ask, isn’t this Sunday the day the US government is likely to shut down? Oh yes, it is. Festival organizers say they’ll announce Thursday whether they’ll have to make any adjustments to programming on Sunday.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.