The sixth edition of the annual Mountain Echoes which has now become an institution in itself was this year dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King. The festival itself from August 19th to 22nd is a part of the 60th birth anniversary celebrations.
The festival was formally inaugurated at India House in 19th August. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck said she was pleased that this year’s festival is dedicated to a King who has given so much of himself to this country.
Her Majesty said that as His Majesty the Fourth King turns 60, Bhutan is celebrating the life and service of an extraordinary King.
Her Majesty was pleased to note that the number of participants from Bhutan have increased this year. Her Majesty thanked all the speakers, sponsors and organizers for going the extra mile to make this year’s festival befitting the 60th birth anniversary celebrations of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
Her Majesty exhorted the children and youth of Bhutan to attend the festival and take advantage of the workshops on reading and writing. She thanked His Excellency Ambassador of India Gautam Bambawale and his wife for being such gracious hosts.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay welcomed the speakers and guests and thanked them for sharing their time, friendship and talents with the people of Bhutan. He submitted his reverence and gratitude to the vision of Her Majesty, whom he described as “not only a queen of destiny but also an exceptional artist among artists”. Narrating several anecdotes, he illustrated Her Majesty’s compassion, bond with her people and her extraordinary personality.
Indian Ambassador Gautam Bambawale mentioned that 2015 has been designated as National Reading Year in Bhutan and said that while Mountain Echoes would benefit from the resurgence in the habit, the festival could also be proud of its contribution in spreading the love for reading.
The festival is being held inthree venues of the Royal University of Bhutan Hall, Tarayana Centre and the Nehru Wangchuck Centre.
One of the first sessions was on Ashoka: The Compassionate and Communicative Emperor. Sudhir Kakar, a psychoanalyst and writer, introduced Prof Nayanjot Lahiri, said it was a pleasure to talk about “an enlightened monarch in a land with an enlightened monarchy”.
Gakey House performed a special prayer, Pawo Pelden Drukpa, in honour of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
Writer Rupert Arrowsmith talked about how he became a Buddhist, and read out his poem, called The Way to Bhutan, detailing his spiritual journey
Beyond The Earth and The Skyhad Canadian author Jamie Zeppa in conversation with Neha Tara Mehta. Jamie’s book grew out of her musings in her journal. She read out hilarious sections from her book chronicling her misadventures with cooking and Class 2C, the division she taught in a school in Bhutan.
In The Light of the Moon: The Legacy of xuanzang, photographer Pawo Choyning Dorji spoke of how he retraced the legendary journey of Chinese monk xuanzang. As he travelled from China to India, through punishing deserts and forbidding mountains, he chronicled everything he saw.
According to Pawo, Buddhism was largely forgotten in South East Asia after the 9thcentury, and it was the translation of xuanzang’s chronicles into English in 1842 that re-sparked interest in the Buddha and his teachings. He summed up his journey in stunning pictures from China, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. He ended with pictures of devotees, scholars and monks visiting Bodhgaya, whose stories, he said, would not have been possible without xuanzang.
The afternoon saw a laughter riot with the hilarious with The Highwaymen Unleashed! Foodies and best friends Rocky and Mayur brought a healthy appetite and a large serving of irreverence to food journalism in their show Highway On My Plate. In conversation with Suhel Seth, the duo talked about their 200,000-km journey across India, eating local cuisines and street food. With a philosophy of “When in doubt, eat it”, their aim is to get people to appreciate their own cuisine.
Green Wars: Defending the Wildsaw Bahar Dutt and Tshering Tempa in conversation with Lily Wangchuk. Environmental journalist Bahar testified to the power of a good story in bringing about change. With India losing 333 acres of forest everyday, she said that it would be better if the country learned from Bhutan, where the forests are preserved, rather than China, which focuses on development.
Marcus du Sautoy revealed the fun and fascinating elements of mathematics in The Number Mysteries: The Symmetry of Mathematics. “Symmetry is the language nature uses to convey important information,” he said, talking about how the ability to detect symmetry allowed species to survive.
Bollywood actor and theatre personality Kalki Koechlin gave a powerful performance through her monologue Just Another Rant, about the complexities and contradictions of being a woman.
Bhutanese authors Rinzin Rinzin, Chador Wangmo and Pema Gyaltshen sat together for the second session to share their experiences as emerging writers. They spoke of the Bhutanese tradition of storytelling, an activity that is increasingly being replaced by T.V. and computer games. Rinzin Rinzin said, “We Bhutanese jumped from an oral tradition of storytelling directly
to tech gadgets. We missed the reading step. We have poor reading habits.” Chador Wangmo said, “In order to become adult readers one must instill the habit in childhood.”
Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck presented Karma Tenzin Yongba’s newest book The Darkest June.
Friday saw the release of Serena Chopra’s The Ancients: Bhutan Diaries by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
Her Majesty said Serena Chopra has touched, understood, loved and given back to people from the remote areas of Bhutan. “This is a very special book, well produced book, and the best part: her travels are so beautifully told through black and white photos,” said Her Majesty.
Serena Chopra said that Bhutan was a life changing experience for her. She said that Tarayana (a CSO started by Her Majesty) is trying to empower people within their own cultural ethos, to be self-reliant where they are.
Her Majesty revealed that Serena Chopra herself has adopted a boy and a girl, she takes care of them.
“There was this need in me to reach out to places that are very far off. I wanted to feel it, live it, the experience of people who don’t live this life in Thimphu which is very different,” Her Majesty added.
Her Majesty said, “Through the Tarayana foundation, we’re serving the people I met in my travels, of about 120 villages.”
A program to look forward on Saturday will be Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Dasho Karma Ura in conversation with Patrick French on Dochula: A spiritual abode in Bhutan at 5.40 pm in Hotel Taj Tashi.
There will also be a Release of Marg: Arts of Bhutan by Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck at 12.25 pm also at Taj Tashi.