Report by Rashmi Ranjan Parida; Thimphu: The eighth edition of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival was formally inaugurated today by Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the royal patron of the festival.
His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan and His Excellency Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar, Ambassador of India to Bhutan, welcomed guests for the special inaugural evening at Thimphu’s India House.
The formal opening of the eighth edition of Bhutan’s distinctive literary, arts and cultural festival began with the traditional lighting of the lamp ceremony by Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, His Excellency Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar and Festival Co-Directors Namita Gokhale and Pramod Kumar KG.
The 2017 edition of the festival will embrace and explore globally relevant issues such as Environmental conservation, Natural history, Spirituality & Buddhism, and the global evolution of textiles and design traditions, amongst others, thereby bringing together a range of expertise and perspectives throughout the three days.
Mita Kapur, Festival Producer and CEO, Siyahi, welcomed audiences to the Festival and said that as the world increasingly seeks solace in the wisdom of writers, the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is a celebration of the power of ideas and the joy of imagination, with a touch of magic. She thanked Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck for her continued guidance and patronage and the Royal Government of Bhutan for their continued support.
Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck gave the opening address of the evening and said that India and Bhutan’s shared love of literature and arts brings the two countries together year after year. She also spoke about the positive impact the festival has on young Bhutanese minds and the increasing interest in literature and arts in Bhutan.
In his address, His Excellency Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar emphasized that both neighbours, Bhutan and India, have a lot to learn from each other and the Festival provides the perfect platform for audiences across the globe to experience the magic and mystique of Bhutan.
The highlight of the evening was a performance by His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay who recited a poem, along with a bright young 16-year-old student from Bhutan High School Dorji Gyeltsen. The poem, written by Charmi Chheda, revolved around the difference in the thought processes and opinions of the two generations, and how each takes a step forward to bridge the gap, uniting for a better tomorrow, and ends with “As we stand here, the voice is one, the thoughts are one but no one is old, and no one is young. Here we create a present, and call it a gift. This is that will be, the song that I sing, the anthem of the yellow and orange. As it flutters in the air, hear it now closely. Isn’t this but the mountain echoes? This is not an illusion, this is reality. This is not an illusion, this is reality.”
This was followed by traditional marchang and zhungdra performances by students of Sersang School.
Festival Co-Director Tshering Tashi then regaled audiences with tales of Bhutan and India’s decades-long relationship dating back to 1955, highlighting anecdotes about Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘the architect of Bhutan and India’s friendship’. He also said that the intimate festival is different from others around the world as it allows audiences to interact with speakers without any barriers, in a way which allows a free and two-way exchange of thoughts and ideas.
He also spoke about the increasing number of Bhutanese and international participants at each edition. The 2017 edition of the Festival will see 75 writers from across the world come together for debates, discussions and exchange of ideas. This includes 53 writers from Bhutan, 21 from India and 11 from other countries, including United States of America, Australia, United Kingdom, Czechoslovakia, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The evening concluded with a short address by Festival Co-Director Namita Gokhale where she said that the magical festival is full of joy, laughter, discussion and debates and that she is excited for the eighth edition to unfold over the next three days.
Presented by the Jaypee Group and powered by the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation and India’s leading literary consultancy, Siyahi.
The three-day festival commences tomorrow and the stellar line-up of speakers includes names from Bhutan, India and around the world. Headline speakers at this year’s edition include Australian author Markus Zusak, acclaimed for his international best-sellers such as The Book Thief; Francesca Beard, a London-based writer and performance poet; beloved children’s author Ruskin Bond; American television host and author Padma Lakshmi and Indian author Ashwin Sanghi.
The highlights from the Bhutanese contingent include His Eminence Kyabje Khedrup Rinpoche Ugyen Tenzin Thinley Lhendup, ace photographer and filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji, Khenpo Sonam Bumdhen of the Central Monastic Body, and front-runners of the Bhutanese fashion world, Chimmi Choden and Chandrika Tamang.
Other well-known names set to attend the 2017 edition include celebrated Bhutanese poet Ashi Sonam Choden Dorji; art restorer and author of books such as The Lotus Light Palace of Guru Rinpoche: Visions of the Buddhist Paradise in the Sacred Kingdom of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang Choden T; politician and Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner Dr. Shashi Tharoor; senior ecologist with the Royal Society for Protection of Nature and author of Wild Lilies and Poppies of Bhutan, Wild Rhododendrons of Bhutan and Threatened Birds in Bhutan Rebecca Pradhan; author and environmentalist Pradip Krishen; biochemist and author Pranay Lal; Phuntsho Namgyel, the first director of Bhutan’s Election Commission and author of the acclaimed book Forest for Gross National Happiness; Palden Tshering, former journalist & founder of Bhutan’s first literacy consultancy; K Anis Ahmed, co-founder of the literary journal Bengal Lights and author of the best-selling novels The World in My Hands and Good Night, Mr. Kissinger; acclaimed Indian film director and writer Imtiaz Ali; contemporary fiction writer Amrita Tripathi and eminent journalist and Emmy-nominated author Barkha Dutt.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is supported by an exceptional panel of advisors, which includes Bhutan’s Honorable Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications Dasho Karma W Penjor, acclaimed authors Kunzang Choden and Malvika Singh, publisher Meru Gokhale, Member of Parliament Pavan K Varma, and development specialist and writer Sonam Wangmo Jhalani.
For years, Mountain Echoes Literary Festival has set the pace for discussions on ancient cultures and contemporary issues. The three-day festival will continue till August 27, with engaging and insightful discussions being held across six locations in the city.