The three-day festival with three parallel sessions each day, a cultural-spiritual immersion program in the morning and a cultural program in the evening attracted about 70 authors, discussants and artists from across India and abroad and hundreds of cognoscenti from Bhopal and its environs, particularly college going students and teachers.
The Literary Festival was a buzzing cornucopia of Padma Shri and National awardees. While all 56 sessions were curated thoughtfully some of the popular and more notable authors and discussants who attended this literary and artistic extravaganza were: environmentalists Pradeep Krishen, Bittu Sahgal, Pranay Lal and Vivek Menon; diplomat/civil servants Pavan Varma, TCA Raghavan, Rajiv Mehrishi, Amitabh Kant, Anthony de Sa, Rajni Sekhri Sibal and SY Quraishi; military, intelligence and diplomacy experts General Ata Hasnain, General Mohinder Puri, Shiv Kunal Verma and AS Dulat (an international expert on South Asai, Professor Barnett Rubin came all the way from the United States to listen to the discussions); social commentators Keki Daruwalla, Bachi Karkaria, Vinita Dawra Nangia, Anil Dharker, Seema Goswami, Vinita Bakshi, Ashali Verma and Koral Dasgupta; historians/mythologists Shonaleeka Kaul, Ashali Verma, KK Chakravarty, Rima Hooja, Christopher Doyle; researcher/scholars like Madhavi Menon who is an authority on human behavior and sexuality, Radhakrishan Pillai who has written extensively on the learnings from Chanakya, Babli Moitra Saraf who has written literature keeping children in mind, Santosh Mehrotra Professor of Economics in JNU, Ila Pattnaik Professor in NIFP, Simran Chadha who has analysed the conversion of literature into cinema; management experts like Sachit Jain, Ashwini Lohani, V Kumaraswamy and Animesh Parihar; art scholars and artists like Manish Pushkale, Akhilesh, Bhajju Shyam, Jyotindra Jain, Alka Pande, Anubhav Nath, Tara Douglas, Gita Wolf, Vivek Tembe, John Bowles, Erwin and Christine Neumeyer; Hindi poets and writers like Udayan Vajpeyi, Ashok Chakradhar, Nandkishore Acharya, Arun Kamal, Ratan Thiyam, Ramesh Chandra Shah, Santosh Chaubey, Purushottam Agarwal. There were sessions on food and fitness as well with the noted architect Sunita Kohli talking about her book on Awadhi Cuisine, Kavita Devgan discussing from her book Ultimate Grandmother Hacks and Meera Dass narrating the discovery of Neematnama a fifteenth century recipe book from Malwa, which travelled from Mandu to Tipu Sultan’s court in the seventeenth century.
There was also involvement of young and old civil servants and writers: Hariranjan Rao, Pallavi Govil, Tejaswi Naik, Sufiyah Quraishi, SC Behar and R Parasuram and most importantly of civil servant wives: Seema Raizada, Suchita Malik, Preeti Chandra and Atima Mankotia.
What distinguished this literature and art event from others of this ilk was its unremitting conformity to literature and art. Notably, it discussed cinema without depending on film stars to give it glamour.
The Literature Festival saw multiple book launches, varied art exhibitions and Cultural Programs. The key exhibition was on tribal art, centered around the works of the noted tribal artist Bhajju Shyam, a Padma Shri awardee who has exhibited his art all over the world and is one of the leading exponents of the Pradhan Gond art movement. These works, assembled thanks to the efforts of Gita Wolf publisher, Tara Douglas animator and Anubhav Nath art collector were truly mesmerizing. These included paintings that had led to the publishing of the famous London Jungle Book when, in 2002, Bhajju Shyam had gone to London on an invitation to do the murals of a restaurant in London’s fashionable Islington district. Amongst those who advised about curating this exhibition were Meera Dass and John Bowles, a former Professor of art in the United States and now a prominent art collector.
An artist Nicola Strippoli (he was nicknamed Tarshito by Acharya Rajnish, meaning 'thirst for inner knowledge') from Bari in Italy carried a 10-meter-long canvas with himself, half-completed in Italy and completed it on the site in Bharat Bhawan with the help of several Gond tribal painters. The central message was "A sense of peace and union between India, Italy and all the nations of the world as art unites people."
A discourse on prehistoric rock art of India by Austrian experts Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger helped the audience to understand the inscriptions at the famous UNESCO heritage site of Bhimbhedka near Bhopal.
Amongst the book launches were the following:
The three-day festival began with an invocation of Goddess Saraswati by the famous Dhrupad singers, the Gundecha Bandhu. It also included a retrospective of songs from Hindi cinema spanning the life and work of OP Nayar presented by the husband wife couple Ajay and Atima Mankotia. The second day started with a philosophical, though pithy, discourse on Achieving Happiness by Geshe Dorji Damdul, the Director of the Tibet House and ended with a musical evening curated by reputed jazz singer Joe Alvarez and his daughter Shefali Alvarez. The third day ended with a local band called Upswing, comprising of enthusiastic youngsters from Bhopal. The festival was inaugurated by the Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannanthanan in the presence of dignitaries like the State Minister for Culture Vijaylakshmi Sadho and Member of Parliament Pavan Varma. The valedictory on the third evening was conducted in the presence of the State Minister for Public Relations Shri PC Sharma in the presence of participating authors like SY Quraishi, KK Chakravarty, Ratan Thiyam and Dr Santosh Chaubey. All the citizens of Bhopal who attended the festival appeared unanimous in their acclaim that this festival should become an annual feature. The general feeling and perception was that this event not only pleased their cultural sensibilities, but, for once they also felt intellectually provoked, stimulated and energized. The print media and electronic media welcomed the festival with great enthusiasm and paid it deserved attention. The fragrance of this provocative and enticing event will resonate wide and far for a long time to come.
Saraswati Vandana by Gundecha Bandhu (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
Inauguration + Announcement of Sushila Devi Award (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
INAUGURATION OF ART EXHIBITION curated by Bhajju Shyam and Meera Dass, Advisor: John H. Bowles
Antarang: John Bowles in conversation with Gita Wolf, Anubhav Nath and Tara Douglas on The London Jungle Book, Bhajju Shyam.
Vaagarth: Bandhavgarh Inheritance and Wild Madhya Pradesh, Bittu Sahgal in conversation with Madhu Verma
Abhirang: The Spy Chronicles, RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, AS Dulat in conversation with TCA Raghavan
Antarang: The Path Ahead : Transformative Ideas for India, a panel discussion between Rajiv Mehrishi, Amitabh Kant and Ila Patnaik, moderated by Santosh Mehrotra
Vaagarth: Shringara : The many faces of Indian beauty, Alka Pande in conversation wtih Rakesh Agarwal
Abhirang: Infinite Variety : A History of Desire in India, Madhavi Menon in conversation with Anil Dharker
Antarang: Performance by Bastar Band
Vaagarth: Making Growth Happen in India, V Kumaraswamy in conversation with Pratap Verma and Animesh Parihar
Abhirang: Book of Rachel, Esther David in conversation with Ashali Varma
Antarang: Adi Shankaracharya : Hinduism's Greatest Thinker, Pavan K Varma in conversation with Raghav Chandra.
Vaagarth: Prithviraj Chauhan : The Emperor of Hearts, Anuja Chandramouli in conversation with Rima Hooja.
Abhirang: Shahrukh Khan : The Power of a Common Man, Koral Dasgupta in conversation with Sukriti Sharma.
Antarang: Despite Stolen Dreams, Anita Krishan in conversation with Kaneez Razavi and Vinita Dawra Nangia
Vaagarth: Indian Mammals, Vivek Menon in conversation with Ajoy Bhattachary
Abhirang: Race Course Road, Seema Goswami in conversation with Nutan Manmohan
Antarang: Love in Lutyens' Delhi, Amitabh Pandey in conversation with Pallavi Govil
Vaagarth: Cuisine and Intangibe Culture - Sunita Kohli, The Lucknow Cookbook in conversation with Nita Khanna and reading of Neematnama by Meera Dass
Abhirang: Love Is Always Right, Vinita Dawra Nangia in conversation with Anuja Chandramouli
Immortal Music, down memory lane, performance by the Mankotias (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
Antarang: Lines on Stone : Prehistoric Rock Art of India, Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger.
Vaagarth: Indian Mythology and heritage, Christopher Doyle in conversation with Tejaswi Naik
Abhirang: Stories by Civil Servant's' Wives - Indian Memsahib: The Untold Story of a Bureaucrat's Wife, Suchita Malik + Staring at the Square Moon, Atima Mankotia in conversation with Seema Raizada
Antarang: Jungle Trees of Central India, Pradip Krishen in conversation with Abhilash Khandekar
Vaagarth: The Making of Early Kashmir : Landscape and Identity in the Rajatarangini, Shonaleeka Kaul in conversation with Rima Hooja
Abhirang: Stories of Love: I Tagged Her in My Heart, Anuj Tiwari in conversation with Richa Sinha
Antarang: Jaltrang, Santosh Choubey in conversation with Ashok Mishra and moderated by Pankaj Subeer
Vaagarth: Kargil : Turning the Tide, Lt. Gen Mohinder Puri in conversation with Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain
Abhirang: Kamdhenu : Cows of India, Rajni Sekhri Sibal in conversation with Sharad Chandra Behar
Antarang: Eternal Wisdom of the Tribes, Raghav Chandra in conversation with Sufiya Faruqui Wali.
Vaagarth: In Hot Blood, Bachi Karkaria in conversation with Shailaja Srinivasan.
Abhirang: The Victoria Cross : A Love Story, Ashali Varma in conversation with Mala Sen and Preeti Chandra
Antarang: Winning at Work Against All Odds, Ashwani Lohani in conversation with Hari Ranjan Rao
Vaagarth: Aprahn, Nandkishore Acharya in conversation with Jaishanker
Abhirang: Priyanka Chopra : The Incredible Story of A Global Bollywood Star, Aseem Chhabra in conversation with Babli Moitra Saraf
Antarang: Indica : A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent, Pranay Lal in conversation with Pradip Krishen
Vaagarth: Love Across the Salt Desert and For Pepper and Christ, Keki N Daruwalla in conversation with Anthony de Sa
Abhirang: Love Across the Salt Desert and For Pepper and Christ, Keki N Daruwalla in conversation with Anthony de Sa
Antarang: The People Next Door : The Curious History of India's Relation with Pakistan, TCA Raghavan in conversation with Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain
Vaagarth: Speaking with Children : Nursery Rhymes and Stories, Babli Moitra Saraf in conversation with Kaneez Razavi
Abhirang: Naye Ilake Mein, Arun Kamal in conversation with Aastik Vajpeyi
Book launch of Gitanjali Jain's A Fools Creation by Ashok Chakradhar
Lec / Dem with Joe Alvares and PERFORMANCE BY SHEFALI ALVARES (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
The Way to Happiness : Geshe Dorji Damdul in conversation with Shalini Mahajan (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
Antarang: Jangarh Singh Shyam: A Conjuror's Archive, Jyotindra Jain in conversation with Annapurna Garimella
Vaagarth: Rajasthani Stories Retold, Rima Hooja
Abhirang: Chanakya In You, Radhakrishnan Pillai in conversation with M M Upadhyaya and Tejinder Bhogal
Antarang: Film - Bhajju
Vaagarth: Paagal Ganitagya ki Kavitayein, Udayan Vajpeyi in conversation with Mahesh Verma and Premshankar Shukla
Abhirang: Indo - China War : Shiv Kunal Verma - 1962, the War that Wasn't, in conversation with Brig. Sanjay Agarwal
Antarang: An Undocumented Wonder The Great Indian Election, S Y Quraishi in conversation with R Parasuram
Vaagarth: Margot : Sister Nivedita of Vivekananda, Reba Som in conversation with Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty
Abhirang: Fitness and Food : Kavita Devgan, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks in conversation with Pradeep Kapoor and Amita Singh
Antarang: Leading Leadership : Ready For Take Off, Sachit Jain in conversation with Animesh Parihar.
Vaagarth: Vinayak, Ramesh Chandra Shah in conversation with Urrmila Shirish.
Abhirang: Padmavat : An Epic Love Story Purushottam Agrawal in conversation with Rima Hooja
Antarang: Book reading and discussion on Prayag Shukla's, Swaminathan : Ek Jeewani by Udayan Vajpeyi, Akhilesh Verma, Vivek Tembe and Manish Pushkale.
Vaagarth: 31 Miles, Vinita Bakshi in conversation with Kaneez Razavi.
Abhirang: Maut ki Kitab, Khalid Jawed in conversation with Rizvan-ul-Haq.
Antarang: Unheard Cry, Ratan Thiyam in conversation with Sangeeta Gundecha.
Vaagarth: Walking with Shiva, Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty in conversation with Narayan Vyas.
Abhirang: Bollywoodizing Literature Forging Cinema : Adaptations & Hindi Cinema, Simran Chadha in conversation with Navni Parihar.
Valedictory Function and Book Unveilings (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
Musical Performance by Band : Upswing (VENUE: BAHIRANG)
NAMITA GOKHALE RECEIVING THE SUSHILA DEVI LITERATURE AWARD FOR THE BEST BOOK OF FICTION WRITTEN BY A WOMAN AUTHOR (written in English and published in 2016 or 2017