New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) In the #litfest age of selfies and celebrities, Bhutans annual literary retreat resonates with a mix of the old-world charm and the contemporary vibe. Set to take place in the coming week amid the surreal setting of Thimphu, the extravaganza will open its doors to over 75 eminent personalities from the fields of writing, film and theatre.
Over the course of its previous eight editions, the festival, organised by the India-Bhutan Foundation (IBF) and Jaipur-based literary consultancy firm Siyahi, has set the pace for discussions on ancient cultures and contemporary issues.
While Siyahi is headed by Mita Kapur, a literary agent representing some of India’s biggest authors and a no mean writer herself, the India-Bhutan Foundation has an intriguing story as it was born out of the wealth of our two nations and is a landmark investment of its kind.
Established in August 2003 during the visit of the present King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (then Crown Prince) to India with the aim of enhancing people-to-people exchanges in focus areas like education, culture and environment protection, the body has the ambassadors of Bhutan and India as its Co-Chairpersons.
The Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of India have contributed Rs 5 Crore each as the main IBF corpus and the entire amount of Rs 10 Crores has been kept in a fixed deposit in Bhutan.
The interest earned from the fixed deposit is used for financing proposals received from Bhutanese/Indian citizens and NGOs on studies, research, and similar activities. Mountain Echoes has enjoyed the support of IBF on similar lines.
“Come, be a part of Bhutan’s homegrown literary retreat and experience a mesmerising blend of art and culture,” the orgainsers said.
The festival will be inaugurated on August 22 and will reach its culmination on August 25, and will be spread across five venues, hosting over 35 sessions.
As the neighboring countries enter their 50th year of formal diplomatic relations, the shared history will manifest itself in the form of an engaging tete-a-tete between Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, General V. Namgyel, and India’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar.
This will only be a prelude to what Mountain Echoes will etch over the three days.
Bollywood veterans Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah and Sanjna Kapoor will bring alive the magic of theatre at the festival; celebrated names such as Daniel C. Taylor, Valmik Thapar and Dave Goulson will regale audiences with stories of their adventures with nature; and one of Bhutan’s best kept secrets — its bustling music scene — will also come alive during the festival.
Two prominent art exhibitions, “Colours of Nature by Green Pigment” and “Tree of Life: The Tree of Immortality” by Penjor Dorji and Malvika Singh will enthrall the festival attendees with their grandeur.
“Tree of Life: The Tree of Immortality” will be represented across wall hangings, tent panels and tribal art amongst other forms. It has been painted by the inmates at the Jaipur Central Jail and will be brought to the festival by Rajasthan’s Department of Tourism.
As each year, it will celebrate “Untouched Beauty, Unexplored Ideas and Unstoppable Voices” from the heart of the Himalayas.
Mountain Echoes enjoys the patronage of Bhutan’s Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. Pramod Kumar KG, Tshering Tashi and Namita Gokhale are co-directors of the festival.
Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the nation and distinguishes it from its larger neighbours.
The weather is just perfect at this time of the year in Thimphu; the flowers in bloom and majestic mountains will give company to its many visitors. Buddhist chants and meditative prayers come together to lull the surrounding in a spiritual bliss.
Druk Air is the only operational carrier for travel into Bhutan, operating a single flight daily from New Delhi. Hotels are available in most parts of Thimphu at decent rates. More details are available at the festival website: www.mountainechoes.org.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])