A big hype always surrounds Bhutan’s annual Literature Festival, now in its 12 edition. Held at the Royal University of Bhutan, Thimphu & Thimphu Deluxe Hotel the Drukyul's Literature Festival by Bhutan Echoes, the three-day festival which ended on August 6th 2023, was a fabulous treat with 35+ in-person sessions and workshops celebrating the rich tapestry of literature, art, and culture.
With Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck inaugurating the show with its great gathering of writers, thinkers, journalists, academicians, entrepreneurs and cultural icons from Bhutan, India and worldwide sharing rich narratives and enlightening cultural verbal engagements, the ‘Lit Fest’ was packed to the rafters by attending culture buffs.
“Reconnecting and Reviving", this year’s theme, resonates well with Bhutan’s ongoing and inspirational pursuits as one the leading lights of the world’s sustainable living cultures.
The event offered a showcase of many aspects of Bhutan’s unique standing on the world stage for its natural beauty and cultural richness. It also shed light on its inspirational impact on the creative persuasion of writers, thinkers and artists and artisans of every hue.
Some highlights included a conversation on Her Majesty’s third book- ‘Dochula: A Spiritual Abode in Bhutan’ which documents the the Druk Wangyel complrx with its Lungchutse Lhakhang, 108 Druk Wangyel Stupas, the Druk Wngyel Lhkhang and the Druk Wangyel Tschehu.
Children’s writer Kungzang Choden shared thoughts about how Bhutanese folk tales and legends not only mould childhood but can also shape adulthood with the messages they carry. The searchlight also fell on Bhutan’s oral traditions which have played a pivotal role in Bhutanese culture down the ages. Conversations were opened up on how these stories can be shared with a wider audience with the use of modern-day tools of digital technology, while still retaining the core of their essence as classic tales.
An enlightening session drew the attention of the audience to ‘Bhutan’s Climate Stories’, something very dear to the heart of the country and an integral part of its cultural persuasions. It recalled Bhutan’s “Planet First” philosophy which serves as a potent force of its nature-first endeavours for a sustainable future for its people.
Bhutanese fashion designer Karma Tshering Wangchuk Lhari introduced the audience to the country’s take on street fashion, through his book, even as the emphasis was directed on Bhutan’s traditional clothing for men and women- the kira and the gho. Travelers who have visited Thimphu will recall its is traditional for students and workers are officially expected to don these during working hours, to preserve this integral part of Bhutanese lifestyle traditions. Conversations also touched upon the significance of Bhutan’s sizable textile traditions and the individual narratives of the fabrics one may pick up in the markets.
The sessions also revolved around the profound importance of the cultural landmarks and landscapes in the country and their significance which go far beyond material and tangible benefits. The session on ‘Reimagining Travel: Technology and Trends shaping the Future of Tourism” served also to be a rallying point for the resurgence of travel through hyper-local and hyper-personalised immersive experiences across Bhutan.
The Drukyul's Literature Festival is an initiative of the India-Bhutan Foundation. Over the years it has also celebrated Bhutan’s inspiration as a shining example as the world’s only carbon negative country.
If you plan on being in Bhutan next year, try and time your visit during the annual ‘Lit Festival’; it will surely provide fresh insights into the glorious offerings of this Himalayan kingdom through the interpretations of the thoughts and conversations of eminent authors, thought-leaders and change makers from around the world.