All roads lead to Bhutan this August, as one of the happiest nations in the world gears up for the eighth edition of the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival.
As the Land of the Thunder Dragon gets set to celebrate ' Untouched Beauty, Unexplored Ideas and Unstoppable Voices', here are the eight reasons to visit this distinctive literary, arts and culture festival, from 25 to 27 August.
1. The Dance of the Drums
One of Bhutan's best kept secrets, the DRAMETSE NGACHAM or dance of the drums, is a sacred dance performed to honour 8th century Buddhist master, Padmasambhava. The traditional dance sees sixteen masked male dancers and ten musicians represent the revered deities as they perform to a symphony of cymbals, trumpets and drums. Divided into two parts, a calm, contemplative part to represent the peaceful deities, and a rapid, athletic part for the wrathful ones, the dance is woven into the fabric of Bhutanese lives and has been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
2. Tete A Tete with Titans
The festival will see the presence of over 70 literary titans from Bhutan, India and across the world. Some of the most popular names attending are acclaimed Australian author Markus Zusak, best known for his novel The Book Thief, Phuntsho Namgyel, the first director of Bhutan's Election Commission and author of the acclaimed book 'Forest for Gross National Happiness,' Indian film director and writer Imtiaz Ali, and leading mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik, who will each give audiences a glimpse inside the minds of an writer.
3. Women and the Secret of Success
Powerful women from across the world will come together on the same platform and share their inspiring stories of success. Contemporary fiction writer Amrita Tripathi; eminent journalist and Emmy nominated author Barkha Dutt; archaeologist and advisor to the Centre for Archaeology and Historical Studies at Sherubtse College, the Royal University of Bhutan Kuenga Wangmo, Justice Tashi Chhozom, former chairperson of the Royal Judicial Service Council and Tandin Wangmo, CEO and Executive Director of RENEW, a one of a kind organization dedicated to the empowerment of women and children in Bhutan, will talk to audiences about the role women play in the work place and how skewed structures can be fixed across organizations.
4. Fashion Fables
Stories from the world of fashion take center stage at the festival this year. Celebrated names from the Bhutanese and Indian fashion worlds, including Chandrika Tamang, Chimmi Choden and Abraham and Thakore. The designers will come together to curate collections which intersperse their nation's textile heritage with contemporary fashion, with an aim to build a common thread between the two countries.
Also present at the festival will be Malika Kashyap, founder of digital publication and creative agency Border and Fall, who will present her pioneering work 'The Sari Series', a cultural documentation of India's beloved apparel. The anthology aims to document the various regional drapes in India and detail their journey through India's cultural landscape.
The festival will also host a unique exhibition, titled Handmade in Rajasthan, curated by Prasad Bidapa that will celebrate the indigenous craft forms that give Rajasthan its distinctive identity. The exhibition will present a 360-degree view of Rajasthani textiles and a unique perspective of the designs that have been developed in the state by the local weavers, artisans and craftsmen.
5. History, Tradition and Conversations
Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Khenpo Sonam Bumdhen, lecturer at Thimphu's Institute of Science of Mind will pay tribute to the legacy of Zhabdrung. The session will discuss the continued presence of Zhabdrung in every aspect of Bhutanese life in the past four centuries.
Celebrated Bhutanese writer, Pawo Choyning Dorji, author of 'Seeing Sacred: Lights & Shadows along the Journey,' will take audiences through the history and significance of Bhutan's preeminent terton, Pema Lingpa using an engaging visual presentation.
6. The Mistress of Spices
Author and television host Padma Lakshmi will be seen in candid conversation with Barkha Dutt about her childhood in America, the kitchen gods that inspire her and her personal philosophy of food.
7. A Tryst with Bhutanese Tunes
The stage is set for Bhutanese performers at this year's edition. The spotlight will shine on popular local performers such as singer Sangay Lhaden, pop band The Baby Boomers and dance troupes Druk Jackson and Waki Nation Crew at the Clock Tower on Saturday, August 26.
8. A Digital Journey into the Past
Art restorer and author of books such as The Lotus Light Palace of Guru Rinpoche: Visions of the Buddhist Paradise in the Sacred Kingdom of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang Choden T and Pema Abrahams, Founder of Project Denjong, a collection of initiatives focused on facilitating scholarship and encouraging creativity amongst Sikkim's youth, will discuss their dedication to sustainable preservation and the trials and triumphs faced when working with reminders of a bygone era, in this unique session.