A look at 10 years of Bhutan's Mountain Echoes literature and arts festival - Elle India

A look at 10 years of Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes literature and arts festival

A celebration that cuts across generations, cultures, religions and experiences.

BY Pramod Kumar | August 27th, 2019

As Mountain Echoes celebrates 10 years of enthralling literature lovers with standout speakers and cross-cultural dialogue, its co-director, Pramod Kumar KG, reflects on its storied history

Naseerudin Shah

In 2010, Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Festival for Literature, Art & Culture was conceived by the Ambassador of India to Bhutan at the time, Pavan K Varma, and writer Namita Gokhale. Since then, the festival has been under the aegis of the India Bhutan Foundation and the patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

 Mita Kapoor and Her Majesty The Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck

Every trip to Bhutan is an adventure, right from the edge-of-the-seat descent into Paro airport to the thought-provoking, interactive sessions we programme. These past 10 years have seen a galaxy of storytellers, writers, intellectuals, cultural practitioners, and performers travel to Druk Yul, the land of the Thunder Dragon. These include Pico Iyer, Amitav Ghosh, Sarah Kay, Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, Jerry Pinto, Marcus Zusak, Vikram Seth, Prayaag Akbar, Anuja Chauhan, Nilanjana S Roy and Ruskin Bond, among other notable names.

Kunzand Choden and Nilanjana Roy

Their many voices informed Bhutanese audiences of the literary traditions of the world, ranging from oral histories to prose, poetry, folklore, chants, and ballads. In turn, these wordsmiths were exposed to the rich traditions of the landlocked Himalayan kingdom. Most movingly, the increased presence of younger Bhutanese, who in a bid to attend keenly traversed mountains and valleys, sometimes on foot, is testament to literature’s universal appeal.

A performance by the students of Royal Academy Of Performing Arts

The easy camaraderie of the Bhutanese and their innate dignity have charmed even the most celebrated writers. But the benchmark of every successful edition has been the number of giddy speakers who, inspired by what they have witnessed over three days, line up to perform at the open-mic sessions that round-off the celebrations at Mojo Park, our final pit stop and unofficial watering hole.

Sarah Kay

This month, as we complete a decade of bringing together literature lovers from all over the world, here’s looking back at the faces who have made this festival what it is—a celebration of all things literary that cuts across generations, cultures, religions and experiences.