Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday praised the World Culture Festival, organised by the Art of Living foundation, being held on the Yamuna river floodplains, and said it was so diverse it was like the Kumbh Mela of all cultures. Modi also said India should be proud of its cultural heritage, and that the world had gotten to know more about India through the foundation. The first day of the three-day event saw thousands of visitors despite rain in the capital. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will reportedly attend the second day of the festival.

The festival came under the scanner after a petition was filed in the National Green Tribunal, against the Art of Living foundation for harming the Yamuna floodplains ahead of the event. The NGT on Friday gave the foundation three weeks to pay the Rs 5-crore fine imposed on it for damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains by its World Culture Festival. The organisation had claimed it was a charitable group and could not come up with the entire sum at short notice. The NGT agreed to the Art of Living's limitations and said it could pay Rs 25 lakh on Friday, and the rest within three weeks, PTI reported. It also said if the foundation did not pay Rs 25 lakh today, the government's Rs 2.5 crore contribution to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's charities will be attached. The tribunal had earlier said it can revoke its clearance for the event if the fine was not paid.

On Thursday, activist Manoj Mishra had approached the NGT saying Art of Living had not got the right clearances from the police, the fire department and the central public works department. The green body had penalised the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led organisation for the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains in the run up to its World Culture Festival, which is will begin on Friday evening.

Earlier this week, the foundation had said it will appeal against the tribunal's order. An NGT panel had originally recommended imposing a Rs 120-crore fine after an inspection and study of the area, but the green court had imposed a penalty of Rs 5-crore and allowed the controversial event to take place as planned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the festival, though many world leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee have opted out.