Republic Day Weekend happened and all people went on about was Obama coming to town, and fleeing Delhi for the Jaipur Literature Festival. Unfortunately many of us either didn’t have secret meetings with Namo and Obama, or we were busy working, or we simply just didn’t book tickets ahead of time for Jaipur. But hey, Jaipur isn’t the only place to experience some amazing Indian literary offerings. Here I present the top 5 literary festivals across India to mark on your calendar for the upcoming year.
Jaipur Literature Festival
An annual literature festival held in the month of January at the exquisite Diggi Palace in Jaipur. This festival, which first began in 2006 with around 30 writers and around a 100 people in attendance, is today the biggest free literary festival on the planet. Noble Laureates, Booker Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners and more are some of the type of people you can meet here. Each year, there are interesting sessions held around contemporary topics. There also some brilliant live musical performances. The numbers of attendees keeps on growing, and it’s no surprise when the festival can also offer speakers such as Salam Rushdie, Pico Iyer, Orhan Pamuk, Amartya Sen and many more. The 2016’s line-up includes the likes of Stephen Fry and Margaret Atwood.
Apeejay Kolkata Literature Festival
One of India’s biggest literature festivals, the Apeejay Kolkata Literature Festival will be in its sixth year in 2016. It’s a very famous festival showcasing the best of Kolkata, and alongside eminent speakers, journalists, musicians and artists, the festival also organizes workshops for budding writers and brilliant traditional dance performances. It is the first literature festival of the year and begins early in January. If you happen to be in Kolkata, do visit to enjoy some interesting conversations and enthralling music and art performances. Past speakers include former UN Under Secretary Shashi Tharoor, historian Ramchandra Guha.
Hyderabad Literary Festival
The Hyderabad Literary Festival , held in January, is famous throughout the country. The festival schedule includes conversations with authors, reading, panel discussion, workshop and book launches as well as cultural programmes –all for free. Each year, they invite a foreign nation to attend and showcase its literature and culture. In 2015, it was Poland. The festival also picks one regional language each year and promotes it, Urdu was the language chosen in 2015. Past speakers include Arun Shourie, Alexandra Buchler, Jan Zabeil and many more.
Tata Literature Live
Tata Literature Live is held annually in the first week of November at the National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai. This literature festival has grown to become India’s finest festivals, with over 120 speakers attending the four day event and debating emerging trends and issues, new forms of literature and writing, old authors and epics. It’s a real thrill. Past speakers include Ashwin Sanghi, Devduut Patnaik, Gurucharan Das, Martin Moran, Nicholas Johnson, Thomas Friedman and many more.
Times Literary Carnival
The brainchild of journalists Bachi Karkaria and Namita Devidayal, the Times Literary Carnival has blossomed into one of the best literary festivals in India. A three-day event, India’s best speakers and writers descend here every December. Held at Mehboob Studios, this festival has the best of Mumbai meeting together for superb conversation and debates and is awaited eagerly by many Mumbaikars. You can expect to bump into a few Bollywood stars or top businessmen here without the fuss and security.
A mention may be made that,
More often, writers and other participants who form the key ingredients of this lit fest boom seem to be playing a game of musical chairs given the number of fests they are invited to across India.
Urvashi Butalia, author and publisher says, “The crowd at most lit fests even if not always literary is an engaged and curious crowd, and if that interest brings them closer to books, then I think that’s enough reason for us to be there. It’s also really useful to meet actual or potential readers and listen to them, which is what we tend to do a lot of at lit fests.”
India’s mushrooming lit fests are, of course, about books and writers and ideas and thoughts. But what they really are, are culture camps, for the ‘cultured’ as well as for those who want to wear some of that literary pixels dust.