The 16th edition of the Kochi International Book Festival got off to a colourful start at Ernakulathappan ground here on Saturday.

The inaugural function of the 10-day festival began with a performance outlining the evolution of Indian literature by students of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kochi.

Valmiki, Kabir, Tagore, Ezhuthachan, and Changampuzha, shared the stage with famous literary characters such as Shakunthala, Unniyarcha, Pathumma and her goat, and Swami and friends, during the performance.

Excise Minister K. Babu was the chief guest of the function. The Minister said the strong literary tradition of the State, a culture of reading and knowledge, and campaigns such as the library movement had contributed greatly to the development of the State.

Mr. Babu said the reading habits of people had changed over the years.

“Conventional reading, where people read all kinds of novels, poems, and short stories has, perhaps, come down. People go for a more specialised reading these days,” he said.

The Minister said Kochi was second to none in its appreciation for literature.

Kochi had produced literary and cultural greats such as G. Sankara Kurup, Changampuzha, Yesudas and Ponjikkara Rafi, he said.

Writer C. Radhakrishnan; PSC chairman K.S. Radhakrishnan; Justice K. Padmanabhan Nair, who is the president of the book festival samithi; C.P. Thara, chairman of the samithi; and E.N. Nandakumar, director of the book festival, were among those who spoke.

Daily bulletins

Mayor Tony Chammany released the first edition of the daily bulletins that will be brought out during the festival. Hibi Eden, MLA, received the first copy.

Books by over 300 publishers will be exhibited at the festival, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. from Sunday. A literary discussion led by writers, critics and intellectuals will be held on Sunday morning. A session on stories in Konkani will be held in the evening.

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