Echoes of the Himalayas and Wayanad at Bhutan’s Drukyul Literature Festival

Held annually under royal patronage in Bhutan, Drukyul’s Literature Festival is an open and independent not-for-profit event that celebrates literature and the arts.

Updated - August 05, 2023 02:32 pm IST

Published - August 05, 2023 02:25 pm IST

Writers at the 2023 edition of the Bhutan Echoes literary event opined that the “mountains have to be left alone a little bit”. Which is exactly what Bhutan has done, with 70% of the land covered by forests and a total ban on mountaineering. Image used for representational purposes only.

Writers at the 2023 edition of the Bhutan Echoes literary event opined that the “mountains have to be left alone a little bit”. Which is exactly what Bhutan has done, with 70% of the land covered by forests and a total ban on mountaineering. Image used for representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: Reuters

With picturesque, cloud-kissed mountains as a backdrop, the first few sessions of Bhutan Echoes’ Drukyul’s Literature Festival, 2023, on Friday paid tribute to the Himalayas.

The Queen Mother, Gyalyum Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who is also the royal patron of the festival, now in its 12th edition and renamed in 2020, spoke about her 2015 book Dochula: A Spiritual Abode in Bhutan, documenting how the Druk Wangyel Complex came to be built. Pointing out that a society without the arts is ‘soul-less,’ she stressed on the importance of sharing stories, on everything from culture to the environment.

In a session moderated by Mita Kapur, who has long been associated with the Bhutan Literature festival, Namita Gokhale and writer Tsering Tashi said the “mountains have to be left alone a little bit”. Which is exactly what Bhutan has done, with 70% of the land covered by forests and a total ban on mountaineering. Both agreed that Bhutan has been able to keep the mountains a mystery.

Out of the mysterious mountains have emanated many tales which Kunzang Choden, the first Bhutanese writer to have a novel out in English (The Circle of Karma), has brought to life through the years. In her Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti and Folktales of Bhutan, she preserves stories she heard in childhood for the benefit of future generations.

Writer Geetanjali Shree, whose novel Tomb of Sand won the International Booker Prize in 2022, said it was good to know one’s mother tongue but also as many more languages as possible. “There’s no reason to have only one language... Polyphony gives a culture its richness.” Asked which language other than Hindi or English she would choose to learn, she said, “It may be too late to learn a new language, but given a choice I would want to learn a South Indian language.”

Sheela Tomy took the audience to Wayanad and the Western Ghats while discussing her much celebrated novel, Valli. “The Wayanad I knew is almost lost, and I wanted to preserve it in my story, which tells the journey of migrants and the original dwellers, the Adivasis.”

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