Rajasthani artist Nathu Lal Solanki, troupe present cultural recital

The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), one of the biggest congregations of global litterateurs in South Asia, opened here on Thursday with an impressive ceremony and sans any controversies, much to the relief of the organisers.

The inauguration was preceded by a rendering of chants by monks of the Drepung Loseling monastery of Tibet. Then followed a thumping score of Nagaras by Rajasthani folk artist Nathu Lal Solanki and his troupe.

Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Tourism Minister Bina Kak inaugurated the ceremony by lighting lamps.

“We are all against terrorism of the mind and we thank the Rajasthan government for their whole-hearted support in ensuring the festival started off peacefully,” JLF producer Sanjoy Roy told a motley gathering of lovers of literature from all over the country and abroad.

“These are very difficult times, but art gives us a chance to sit together and debate and discuss them. Writers don’t write to please. They write because they have volition to do so,” said Mr. Roy.

Celebrated author Mahasweta Devi was the highlight of the pre lunch sessions. She touched the audience with a candid key-note address in which she dwelled upon her life at Shanti Niketan and her growth as a people's writer.

“The right to dream is a fundamental right of the people,” she told a charmed audience.

Post lunch, Tibetan religious leader Dalai Lama spoke to author Pico Iyer on the “Kinships of faiths: finding the middle way” before an overflowing crowd, leaving the other parallel sessions rather thinly populated/attended.

Mr. Roy said the organisers were trying to invite Mahasweta Devi for the last five years. “We are glad that Mahasweta Devi and the Dalai Lama are here with us. This year’s edition will be focusing especially on the theme ‘Buddha and Literature’,” said festival co-director Namita Gokhale.

“The festival has been compared to the kumbh mela of literature, but I also believe it represents a great banyan tree that has found sustenance in Rajasthani soil,” said Ms. Gokhale.

Celebrated author and festival co-director William Dalrymple said the festival had come a long way since it was started by the Jaipur Virasat Foundation at a modest level eight years ago.

“The festival has swelled into a truly global and extraordinary congregation of authors from all over the world,” said Mr. Dalrymple.

Ms. Alva said it was the first time in her long public life that she felt any trepidation addressing a gathering. “You are indeed a formidable audience,” she said. She stressed on need to reflect on the effectiveness of the “Westminster model of democracy,” against a “strengthened grassroots democracy,” in view of the recent public protests in Delhi and other parts of the subcontinent, including the outpouring of “tens of thousands of people in Islamabad.”