This year's Mountain Echoes literary festival in Bhutan's capital Thimphu promises to be an interesting affair with the guests list including the likes of Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Kalki Koechin, Sudhir Kakar and Janice Pariat. The sixth edition of Mountain Echoes, which began yesterday and is on till August 22, celebrates three things - the year-long celebrations of former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck's 60th birthday, literature and love of reading, says festival director Kunzang Choden. Presented by Reliance, the festival is an initiative of the India Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi and powered by the government of Rajasthan. "The sixth edition of the Mountain Echoes literary festival promises to be the most magical ever. Our festival has gained resonance and depth over the years. It is a privilege to be a part of this constantly evolving process in an ancient kingdom and young democracy," says festival co-director Namita Gokhale. "We celebrate His Majesty's contributions as an incomparable leader who has enriched not just the lives of his people but has been a statesman that the world looks up to," says festival organiser Mita Kapur, who is the CEO of Siyahi.
The various literary sessions include "Ashoka: The Compassionate and Communicative Emperor"; "The Highwaymen Unleashed", featuring food show anchors Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma; "Green Wars: Defending the Wild"; "Girl, Woman, Actor" featuring Kalki; "Writing Time: History, Myth and Modernity" featuring Sanghi; and "Boats on Land: Voyages Metaphorical and Physical" featuring Pariat. A number of books will also be released during the festival including Karma Tenzin Yongba's "The Darkest June", Serena Chopra's "The Ancients: Bhutan Diaries", Gokhale's "Mountain Echoes: Reminiscences of Kumaoni Women" and Pushpa Kumari Bagai's "Flavours of the Frontier: Forgotten Recipes from Dera Ismail Khan". In commemoration of the King's birth anniversary, 2015 has also been declared as the National Reading Year in Bhutan. Another highlight will be a photography exhibition titled "Two Kings Meet: His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan & Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II of Jaipur". The exhibition brings together a small selection of photographs of the present Bhutan king and Maharaja Singh, rulers united by their passion for the medium across geography and time. Wangchuck's photographs document the cultural and spiritual heritage of Bhutan and its people, and are a testament of his deep connection with his land. Sawai Ram Singh is known as a collector and patron in addition to his practice of photography, and the images that he produced and assembled offer unique insights into the history of early photography in India.