Sixth edition of Mountain Echoes begins

Lit Fest: The sixth edition of the literary festival Mountain Echoes, dedicated to His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo in commemoration of His Majesty’s 60th Birth Anniversary celebrations, was inaugurated in Thimphu, yesterday.

Her Majesty The Gyalyum, Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who is the chief patron of Mountain Echoes, welcomed the participants at the inaugural of the festival at the Indian embassy.

The festival this year boasts of at least 80 speakers or participants, both Bhutanese and international.

“I feel extremely happy that Mountain Echoes 2015 is dedicated to a King, who has given so much of Himself to this country,”Her Majesty said. “As His Majesty turns sixty, Bhutan is celebrating the life and service of this extraordinary King,” Her Majesty added. “We are pleased that so many of you have come to be a part of the Mountain Echoes festival thereby joining in our celebrations.”

Her Majesty encouraged Thimphubs, especially children to attend the festival’s sessions which will cover a wide range of topics that include literature, poetry, art, food, and music, among others.

“I urge all our youth to take full advantage of the workshops on reading and writing,” Her Majesty said.

Besides noting the return of some familiar international participants, Her Majesty also expressed happiness that the number of participants from Bhutan has increased this year as a result of the efforts of the festival’s organisers.

“It is gratifying that every one of you walked the extra mile in making Mountain Echoes 2015 befitting the celebration of the sixtieth Birth Anniversary of the Fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck,” Her Majesty added.

“When I attended the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2010, I did not think that Bhutan would be able to host an event of this diversity and magnitude,” Her Majesty said. “But thanks to the support of all the sponsors, in particular the Reliance Group and the hard work and dedication of the organisers we made it happen,” Her Majesty added.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay also spoke at the inaugural event. “Today, in the spirit of Mountain Echoes, I would like to submit our reverence and gratitude to Her Majesty’s vision that has resulted in countless initiatives in the development of a creative and intelligent society,” he said.

Her Majesty The Gyalyum stimulates and encourages nation-wide poetry and essay competitions, music and reading festivals, among others.

“The five editions of Mountain Echoes has inspired and nurtured Bhutanese writers and poets, storytellers and musicians, journalists and filmmakers to new heights of creativity and achievement,” Lyonchoen added.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that as Bhutan negotiates the risks of moving from an oral to a visual society, the literary festival is providing the intellectual and artistic balance that is important for a society aspiring to achieve Gross National Happiness.

Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Gautam Bambawale, in his address, pointed out that the festival has been contributing to encouraging a reading culture in Bhutan.

This year is also very special for Bhutan as it has been designated National Reading Year. Five consecutive successful editions of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival have made an undoubted contribution to the spread of the love for reading in this beautiful country,” Gautam Bambawale, said at the opening ceremony. “Therefore, while this year’s festival will benefit from National Reading Year in Bhutan, it can also take pride for its contributions towards reading here,” added the ambassador.

The ambassador said that the festival, which was to a large extent initiated by the previous ambassador to Bhutan, Pavan K Varma, had his full commitment.

Co-director of the festival and local author, Kunzang Choden, pointed out that the festival is a chance for Bhutanese to express gratitude to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo who had prioritised literacy, education, and had enhanced educational opportunities for all. “Because of this, today Bhutanese are able to with confidence and ease to host and participate in literary forums such as the Mountain Echoes,” she said.

Kunzang Choden also quoted reading expert Amita Sathe Bambawale, who said “first we learn to read and then we read to learn”. She said that it is hoped that the process of learning to read and reading to learn becomes an ongoing process that continues beyond the National Reading Year to become a valued cultural practise.

Co-director Namita Gokhale stressed that this year’s festival celebrates, supports and finds inspiration in Dzongkha and other dialects of Bhutan.

A photo exhibition titled “Two Kings Meet” was inaugurated by ambassador Gautam Bambawale at the Nehru Wangchuck cultural centre as part of the festival, yesterday. Photographs taken by His Majesty the King and Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II of Jaipur (1834-1880) are exhibited.

Earlier in the week, an art exhibition by Bhutanese women called Her Expression II was also inaugurated and is on display at the VAST gallery at the Tarayana centre.

The festival’s venues are spread out between the auditorium of the Royal University of Bhutan in lower Mothithang, and the Tarayana centre in the first two days. A free shuttle bus service is available between the two venues free of cost. It will run every hour.

On the third day, sessions are divided between the Taj Tashi hotel and the Tarayana centre.

Films will be screened at the Nehru Wangchuck Cultural Centre from tomorrow.

Unique to this year’s festival, a puppet show and a stand up comedy will also be performed, besides performances by both local and Indian music bands.

Workshops on writing and publishing, and one on “good luck” will also be offered.

The festival’s schedule and registration for the workshops are available on its website (www.mountainechoes.org). It can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The festival runs until August 22.

This year’s Mountain Echoes is being sponsored and supported by Reliance and the government of Rajasthan. The festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

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