The subjects range from myth, religion, art, architecture, archaeology, music and gardening

If there is an air of apprehension, there is an air of expectancy too as the Jaipur Literature Festival, termed the “Kumbh Mela” of Indian and international writing, starts unfolding at Diggi Palace here this Friday. The apprehension is about the scheduled protests over Mr. Rushdie's proposed visit while expectation is on the rich fare at the five-day event—which has been getting better and merrier by year.

The list appeared both tempting and baffling for its variety and vividness. The subjects range from myth, religion, art, architecture, archaeology, music and gardening, to mention a few. There is a conscious attempt to mix and merge great Indian traditions of music and spirituality such as Bhakti and Sufi movements with modern day writing. Those in focus are also Kabir and Meera Bai and Rajasthan's own Dadu Dayal.

The festival is starting on Friday with a recital from Guru Granth Sahib which will be followed by a formal inauguration by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

The festival organisers proudly noted that two of the Indian authors—Malayalam poet K. Satchidanandan and Rajasthani story teller Viajy Dhan Dehta—who have been associated with the event from its inception, were in the race for last year's Nobel for Literature. There would be sessions reflecting the changes in the Hindi language over a period of time. The discussion on prison diaries -- memoirs of Iftekhar Gilani, Anjum Zamarud Habib and Sahil Maqbool -- would bring about the hidden and hideous world of jails in the stories on incarceration.

“This year we have one of the best programming,” said Namita Gokhale interacting with media persons on the eve of the opening of the festival. “It is Willie's -- William Dalrymple's – line-up of international names,” she said pointing out that when it came to the art of persuasion the author of White Mughals and City of Djinns is a master. “William knows how to charm and bully authors into coming,” she noted.

However, Mr. Dalrymple clarified that he did not need to make much effort to bring authors to the Jaipur festival which has become a big draw for authors the world over. “It has been easy. Not a single author I contacted said no. If anybody did not come that was because he or she was busy completing a book or a project,” he said.

“The word has spread. Jaipur is more fun than any other literature festival in the world,” he asserted. “This year we have a list which I thought we would never be able to manage…”

Mr. Dalrymple listed two playwrights, Tom Stoppard and David Hare, at the JLF as a big attraction. Considered among the greatest of living playwrights, they would be interacting with Indian legends like Girish Karnad and Asghar Wajahat. Though no Nobel winners this time, well-known novelists Annie Proulx, Ben Okri, Kiran Nagarkar, Lionel Shriver and Michael Ondaatje are bound to be a major draw.