Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck lit the lamp with Lyonchhen Lotay Tshering, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj and the Festival Director Pramod Kumar KG

Mountain Echoes celebrates its 10th edition

The tenth edition of Mountain Echoes – Bhutan Festival of Arts, Literature and Culture was formally inaugurated today by Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the royal patron of the festival.

Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador of India to Bhutan, welcomed the guests for the inaugural evening at India House, Thimphu.

The formal opening of the tenth edition of the Bhutan Festival of Arts, Literature and Culture began with the traditional lighting of the lamp ceremony by Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan,  Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj and Festival Director Pramod Kumar KG.

The 2019 edition of the festival is centered around the theme Many Lives, Many Stories, and seeks to explore the depth of human experiences through narratives from distinguished speakers of Bhutan, India and the world. Speakers will explore contemporary dialogues ranging from ecology to travel stories that resonate deeply with individuals. Along with the perspectives on spiritual education and sessions illustrating the art of cinematic storytelling, this year’s programming will showcase engaging tales through food, fashion, wellness and business.

Mita Kapur, Festival Producer and CEO, Siyahi welcomed the dignitaries and audiences to the Festival and emphasized how a decade of voices resonating in the mountains has today thrown back a distinct echo—an echo of welcome, of resurgence and of renewed hope. Away from the humdrum of everyday life, Mountain Echoes offers a unique platform for language and literature unhindered by the many worlds we otherwise live in. She encouraged the audience to give freely to the many young Bhutanese who participate in the festival and look for interesting stories, poems, views, hopes and solutions to the many issues we must all face together. She thanked Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck for her continued guidance and patronage, for it is her vision that first gave the festival shape.

Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck said that Mountain Echoes has brought about a better understanding and bonding between Bhutan and India through the friendships that have been forged. She also stated that while at a political level Bhutan and India have always enjoyed a great friendship, this festival has played a significant role for the better understanding of each others’ cultures. Beyond being a platform for young Bhutanese to showcase their talents, she believes the festival encourages them to unearth their skills in the arts and literature.

In her address,  Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj emphasized the importance of art and how it unconsciously programs our minds to detect grace and finesse in reality, and that makes all the difference. She then paid tribute to Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, saying that this celebration of such unique grace and excellence couldn’t have been created without Her Majesty’s vision and guidance. She said that this is a journey where one can detach from everyday life; a journey for the essence, for the human soul, for the mind and heart, devoid of the weight of reality.

The highlights of the evening were a soulful performance by Indian world fusion music band Mrigya, followed by a dance performance by the talented Bhutanese group – GOKAB.

Reflecting on the festival’s decade-long journey, Festival co-director Pramod KG stated that the plurality of human expression is what Mountain Echoes seeks to celebrate. While 10 years is but a speck in the history of Mankind, he said that the experiences gained during this time have been truly humbling. From small but committed audiences, Mountain Echoes has over the years expanded the reach of the festival through multiple venues and sessions; this year’s festival began with a pop-up at Paro.

Pramod KG went on to read a message by festival co-director Namita Gokhale: “Mountain Echoes has been a joyous celebration of literature and the arts, where we have shared so much, learned so much, from the proud heritage of Bhutan. It has been a transformative experience for writers and readers from India and Bhutan and around the world. I know the next few days will be filled with magic and creativity, and that you will all be the wiser and richer for being a part of it.”

The three-day festival commences on August 23 and the stellar line-up of speakers includes Filipina documentary photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani; Australian digital rockstar and professor of Artificial Intelligence Toby Walsh and Neil MacGregor, formerly director of the National Gallery, London and the British Museum.

The highlights from the Bhutanese contingent include Dasho Karma Tshiteem, Dr Tiger Sangay, Karma “Lhari” Wangchuk, Kinley Wangchuk “Ganchu” and Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo.

Other well-known names set to attend the 2019 edition include prominent writer and editor Jason Quinn; noted author and director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla,Makarand R. Paranjape; diplomat and author Pavan K. Varma; eminent Indian film personalities Richa Chadha and Abhishek Chaubey; CEO of HarperCollins India, Ananth Padmanabhan; and senior curator at the National Museum of Australia, Jono Lineen.

The three-day festival will continue till August 25, with engaging and insightful discussions being held across six venues in the city.

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