Bhutans annual literary gathering, the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival, and like no other thanks to its magnificent backdrop, will return this August for its ninth edition, featuring a diverse set of speakers who will participate in sessions ranging from spirituality and philosophy to films and environmental conservation.
The festival is scheduled to take place here from August 23 to 25 and will celebrate 50 years of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan, as also pay a tribute to the rich cultural ties between the two nations.
"Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literary Festival, is an exuberant celebration of cultural connectivities, resonating with the joys of books and cinema, the shared narratives of music and folklore , food and sport, as well as deep spiritual perspectives, and the challenges of our changing world," said Namita Gokhale, founder and co-director of Mountain Echoes.
"This year, we also have a special and important focus honoring the strong ties between India and Bhutan in their 50th year of diplomatic relations," Gokhale, no mean writer herself, added.
Organised by Siyahi, a Jaipur-based literary agency headed by Mita Kapoor, the annual event is known for bringing together literary stalwarts from across the world in the lap of the Himalayas.
This year's edition will open with a discourse on the five-decade friendship between India and Bhutan, where General V. Namgyel (Bhutan's Ambassador to India) and Jaideep Sarkar (India's Ambassador to Bhutan) will be in conversation with Dasho Chewang Rinzin (Deputy Chamberlain to Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck).
The literary extravaganza will be carried forward by names such as Andrew Quintman, a scholar of Buddhism in Tibet; authors and environmentalists Daniel C. Taylor and Dave Goulson; celebrated spoken word poet Sarah Kay; renowned Indian singer Usha Uthup; Indian actors and theatre veterans Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah.
The three-day festival will celebrate Untouched Beauty, Unexplored Ideas and Unstoppable Voices from the heart of the Himalayas, the organisers informed IANS.
"Mountain Echoes has become a key event in the Bhutanese calendar bringing both the curious and the intellectual minds together for three days of fun. The niche festival will spark the imagination of both local and global audiences through a diverse range of electrifying conversations," said eminent Bhutanese writer and festival co-director Tshering Tashi.
"We cordially invite all not only to be part of the conversations but also experience the beauty and rich culture and history of Bhutan. In 2018, we are all set to take the notch higher with an exciting canvas for all attendees, who will get a glimpse into our varied cultural heritage through the numerous gatherings planned over the three days," she added.
Other prominent speakers attending the three-day festival include Nilanjana Roy, author of "The Wildings", Kunzang Choden, Bhutan's first woman writer to write an English novel; L. Somi Roy, the author of "Binodini: A Photographic Memoir"; Chador Wangmo, author of various illustrated children's books; and, among several others, Kezang Dorji, one of Bhutan's most loved rappers.
Each session will witness noteworthy names being a part of engaging discussions with the audience, thereby bringing together a range of expertise and perspectives on stage throughout the three days.
Adding to the heritage and legacy of the festival will be popular names such as Tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar, theatre personality Sanjana Kapoor, celebrated dancer Sonal Mansingh and Ritu Dalmia, celebrity chef and author of popular culinary books.