The environment was the focus in the build-up to the World Culture Festival, and the weather had its say on the opening day of the three-day event organised by the Art of Living Foundation in the capital.

The event kicked off after the National Green Tribunal ordered Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living to pay Rs 5 crore as compensation for holding the festival on the Yamuna floodplains. The green court had cleared the event on Wednesday but imposed conditions and fines while observing: "Flood plains have been drastically tampered with, the natural flow of the river has been destroyed and reeds, grasses and natural vegetation on the river bed have been removed."

When the event finally got underway on Friday, it was greeted by a couple of hours of rain and a freak hailstorm. Thousands of participants were stuck on roads owing to traffic snarls and the pathways leading to the venue on the Yamuna floodplain turning into mush. At the venue, people used plastic sheets to protect themselves from the downpour.

As the rain came down, an interesting scene played out on social media. There were starkly different interpretations of the weather pattern. Those outraged over the environmental risks posed by the event claimed it was punishment of sorts for the organisers, whose plans stood to be jeopardised by the weather.

However, supporters of the Art of Living Foundation saw things rather differently.

At the event, former Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti thanked the Hindu god Indra for the rain. "Yamuna pyaasi hai (the river is thirsty)," he said, adding that the rain had quenched its thirst.

There were others who followed the same train of thought. Meanwhile, weather disruptions are expected on Saturday and Sunday as well.