Bhutan's Mountain Echoes lit fest turns 10, focuses on homegrown talent
In a refreshing change for such events, Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Festival of Art, Literature, is focusing on homegrown talent - and a great deal of informality - as it aims to put its speakers and guests in the same space as its audiences at its 10th edition in Thimpu August 23-25, with the inaugural on August 22.
"With Mountain Echoes, we've created an open and intimate space, where as much happens between sessions as on stage, where you can just walk up to your favorite author and have a freewheeling conversation over a cup of coffee. We don't confine our speakers and artists to green rooms or lounges," festival producer Mita Kapur, who heads the Jaipur-based literary agency Siyahi, told IANS.
"There are, in fact, no limited access areas at Mountain Echoes. It is a space where you break into impromptu readings and performances on the steps of the courtyard, where people previously unknown to each other meet and continue to collaborate with each other on projects even after five years. It is warm and fuzzy and happy, just like the country Mountain Echoes calls home.
"The soul of Mountain Echoes lies in exploring stories from Bhutan, where we find fascinating myths, legends and tales in different mediums: Lozey - the tradition of Oral Ballads and comedy, Khuju Drin Yang - a traditional Bhutanese mask dance that tells you the story of the birth of HRH Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the belief in Guru Rinpoche leads to a discussion on the life of the lotus-born Guru, tales of the Zhabdrung - the revered founder of the Bhutanese state and creator of Bhutan's spiritual and temporal laws, teachings of the divine madman Drukpa Kinley, the legacy of Pema Lingpa - the spiritual father and cultural hero of Bhutan.
"One of the major focuses of the upcoming edition are the three most exciting aspects in Bhutan right now - modern Bhutanese music, a fresh take on Bhutanese food and drink and the plethora of modern Bhutanese lifestyle and cultural products," Kapur explained.
"It has been a transformative process to have been associated with Mountain Echoes from the very start, and to share perspectives on writing, poetry, music and life learnings from across the Himalayas and beyond," said founder and co-director of Mountain Echoes and celebrated author Namita Gokhale.
To this end, in its 10th edition, Mountain Echoes is setting out to showcase many lives and the many stories they hold, and through such stories, the festival will explore and celebrate the many elements of personal, professional, mental and spiritual success. They can be stories of a traveller, a spiritual leader, tales of a celebrated river, a civilisation, a venerated mountain; each one of them with elements that make this pursuit meaningful.
Presented by the Jaypee Group, the festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan
Foundation and is known for bringing together literary stalwarts from across the world in the lap of the Himalayas.
This year, the festival will welcome almost 80 writers, thinkers, journalists, academicians and cultural icons from different nationalities. Confirmed international speakers attending the festival include Xyza Bacani, a Filipina documentary photographer based in Hong Kong; Neil MacGregor, director of the National Gallery, London (1987-2002) and director of the British Museum (2002-2015); and Australian digital rockstar Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales; amongst others.
Among the Indian speakers will be the Venerable Kabir Saxena, founder and
director of Root Institute for Wisdom Culture and a monk since 2002; actress Bhumi Pednekar; principal economic advisor to the Government of India Sanjeev Sanyal; and Shivya Nath, author of the bestselling travel memoir "The Shooting Star".
Eminent Bhutanese personalities from different spheres such as Lt. Colonel Kesang Choeden (retired), the founder of Chuniding Food, an organic and heritage food enterprise; Khenpo Karchung, a monk and a Sanskrit teacher at Tago Dorden Tashithang Buddhist University; Lopen Lungtaen Gyatso, President of the College of Language and Culture Studies and the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan; author Chador Wangmo and the multi-faceted Sonam Pelden, who has featured in the FORBES 30 under 30, will be holding sessions on various subjects.
"Mountain Echoes is a wonderful brand that we can collectively be proud of, and for which I congratulate Siyahi. On its 10th anniversary, it returns to Bhutan bigger and better, as we celebrate this remarkable friendship as two countries," Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Ruchira Kamboj said. IANS