For the first time ever, the world’s largest free literature festival reaches the American shores.
The Jaipur Literature Festival, which has now become synonymous with bringing a range of voices from the world of literature upfront, began in 2006 and is held annually in the titular city of Jaipur, Rajasthan. Touted as the world’s largest free literature festival, it has seen enormous success all across India. In the 12 years since its inception, the festival has welcomed over 2,000 speakers and about one million book lovers from India and the globe. The alumni of eminent speakers include Nobel Laureates, Orhan Pamuk and JM Coetzee, Man Booker Prize winners, Margaret Atwood and Paul Beatty as well as Sahitya Akademi winners Girish Karnad, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar.
It has been described as a gathering of a diverse mix of some of the greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, sports people and entertainers on one stage to champion the freedom of speech and expression by allowing them a platform to express and engage in thoughtful debate and dialogue.
The long-awaited festival, promoted as the world’s largest free literary festival, kicked off at the Asia Society of Texas on September 14 with a performance by Sufi singer Zila Khan which was followed by riveting discourses on a wide range of current social issues of importance. The cold and rainy Texan weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of literature lovers who had been waiting in enormous queues to meet their favourite authors and poets at the first ever Jaipur Literature Festival to be held outside India.
Among the panelists present, one of the more recognizable faces was Indian National Congress leader and writer Shashi Tharoor engaged in a discussion about his book “Why I am a Hindu” with fellow writer Namita Gokhale.
“I am proud to speak about a faith which says I respect your truth please respect mine… Hinduism as society shouldn’t be conflated with Hinduism as a religion. Even in our oldest scriptures, Hinduism as a faith has been comfortable and accepting of a certain level of doubt and incertitude even about the Creator itself,” Tharoor said.
The festival which has gone global will also touch down in Australia, England and other American cities like New York, then Boulder in Colorado this week. The New York edition is set to be organised from September 19-21, while the Boulder edition is to be held from September 21-23.
“Engaging our diverse city in an array of international topics and speakers aligns perfectly with our deep commitment to promoting cultural understanding,” said Bonna Kol, president of Asia Society Texas Center.
The audience reaction has overwhelmed the organisers and they are now more confident than ever in their decision to bring the festival over to the USA and in its continued popularity in the future.