Promising cultural extravaganza

The enchanting Kingdom of Bhutan was abuzz with excitement yesterday, as Bhutan Echoes – Bhutan Festival of Arts, Literature, and Culture – was formally inaugurated by the Royal Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Royal Patron of the festival.

The event began with a captivating traditional lighting of the lamp ceremony, symbolizing the illumination of knowledge and wisdom, led by the Queen Mother herself. Accompanying her were distinguished guests, including Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering, Indian Ambassador Sudhakar Dalela, and the Festival Director, Sonam Wangmo Dukpa.

This year’s edition of Bhutan Echoes pays a heartfelt tribute to the exceptional local talents and acknowledges their invaluable contributions to Bhutan’s rich literary landscape. Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother expressed her profound belief in the festival’s significance as a unifying platform for everyone to come together in love and appreciation of literature.

“I truly believe that a society without the arts and literature is soulless. For a vibrant society to exist, we need stories to be told, traditions to be passed on, and both creativity and critical thinking to flourish,” Her Majesty articulated passionately.

She highlighted the powerful role of literature in bringing people closer together on a personal level, fostering harmony, and contributing to a more peaceful world. “I believe that a balance of both science and art enriches the meaning of life,” she added.

Her Majesty further extended her warm wishes to the Bhutanese youth, urging them to be inspired and motivated to venture into the creative world, be it through writing, art, music, or any other form of expression. With heartfelt concern, she emphasized the importance of mindful choices, especially in dealing with internet addiction, as it can lead to lost family time and hinder personal growth and progress.

The festival also provides a valuable platform for budding Bhutanese writers to exchange thoughts and ideas with visiting participants, enabling them to learn and grow together. Notably, prior to the establishment of the literature festival in Bhutan, there were hardly any writers penning their works in English.

Festival Director Sonam Wangmo Dukpa shared her reflections on the event, especially amidst the backdrop of the challenging COVID-19 pandemic. “Two years ago, it was hard to imagine that a gathering like this would have been possible. We are here to reconnect, discuss what makes us Bhutanese, and to learn and listen,” she affirmed.

The first day of the festival witnessed the highlight of Her Majesty the Queen Mother engaging in an insightful conversation with Dasho Paljor Jigme Dorji on “Dochula—a spiritual abode in Bhutan.”

The festival boasts an impressive lineup of speakers, including the renowned Indian writer, editor, festival director, and publisher Namita Gokhale, who shared her thoughts on “Searching the Himalayan Master.” Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden, the first Bhutanese woman to write a novel in English, mesmerized the audience with captivating insights into Bhutanese folktales and legends for children.

The first day of the festival also featured engaging talks by prominent speakers like Nepal’s first billionaire, Binod Chaudhary, who discussed leadership lessons for inspiring the new generation, and Geetanjali Shree, who eloquently spoke about embracing one’s mother tongue. Vikas Swarup, the acclaimed author of “Slumdog Millionaire,” shared the remarkable journey of his book.

Meanwhile, Drukyul’s Literature Festival, previously known as Mountain Echoes Literary Festival, now in its 12th edition, strives to foster a vibrant literary and intellectual community in Bhutan. “At a time of extraordinary change in our world, DLF 2023 will not only provide space to escape into great stories but also a forum to explore issues and the changing definition of travel, immigration, and the need for human and community connection post-pandemic, environment, and holistic wellbeing. The festival will be a place to learn, share, refresh, reflect, reconnect, and reimagine with ourselves and the world,” the homepage of the festival reads.

Created through the Bhutan-India initiative, the festival has been a resounding success, drawing writers, youths, and individuals who seek to make their mark in the literary world. The festival’s Royal Patron remains Her Majesty the Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, whose unwavering support has been instrumental in its growth and success.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu