In keeping with the SAARC Agenda for culture which envisages the diversity in culture needs to be acknowledged as varied experiences are reflected in the richness of cultural expression, the SAARC Cultural Centre organized a 3-day Literary Festival in Bhutan. The Festival was an open forum for writers as well as literary critics to discuss the current status of South Asian Novel and to indulge in exploring the unique cultural tapestry of the South Asian novel. It included presentations, book reviews, lectures, discussions and book reading sessions.
The SAARC Literary Festival, on the theme ‘Traversing the Cultural Contours through South Asian Novel’, was held at the SAARC Forestry Centre, Taba, Thimphu Bhutan from 18 to 21 December 2013. Delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka participated in the Literary Festival.
The Director of SAARC Cultural Centre hosted the Welcome Dinner on 18 December 2013 at Hotel Phuntsho Pelri. Dr. Sanjay Garg, the Convenor of the Literary Festival, welcomed the Delegates. After the introduction by the Delegates, Mr. Syed Shamsul Haq of Bangladesh made an introductory presentation.
Inaugural Session was held on the morning of 19 December 2013 with the patronage of HE Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Honourable Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs. The Festival stated with the Marchang Ceremony that was performed by reverend monks to obtain the blessings of the deities for the event.
Welcome address was delivered by the Convenor of the Literary Festival and Deputy Director (Research) of the SAARC Cultural Centre, Dr. Sanjay Garg. In his address, Dr. Garg outlined various initiatives taken by the SAARC Cultural Centre so far for promoting the literature of the region. He gave a background of the launching of the annual Literary Festivals, which are conceived as a platform for the authors, writers, poets and others engaged in the field of literary creation in the region, which will also bring together other stakeholders such as publishers, film-makers, translators, animators, etc. who serve as a vehicle for the dissemination of literary works.
Then the Chief Guest, His Excellency Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Honourable Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs to addressed the gathering. The Honorable Minister warmly welcomed the Delegates to Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. In his address the Honorable Minister remarked, Culture and novels are synonymous in the sense that without culture there can be no novel. Novels reflect our imagination and our sensitivity toward the human condition and the whole society itself. Novels embody the unspoken thoughts of their writers, and are the direct reflections of experiences, emotions, and outlook that have deep roots in – and also echo- the socio-cultural setting to which the writers belong. He elaborated the need to safeguard novels in South Asia as it is a linguistically diverse, with multiple ethnic groups, cultures, religions, castes and colours, and this diversity also finds reflection in the region’s literary heritage.
The Keynote Address was delivered by Mr. G.L.W. Samarasinghe, one of the most eminent Sinhala authors in Sri Lanka who has authored more than 50 books, including 8 novels, 20 translations and 4 social reviews. Mr. Samarasinghe’s Keynote address focused on the historical development of Literature in South Asia and the need to safeguard its rich heritage.
The Literary Festival included four Country Panels, namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka. In the country panels each delegation presented the historical developments and current status of literature in their respective countries.
Participants and moderators for the respective country panels were;
Prof. Syed Manzoorul Islam, Ms. Selina Hossain and Mir Jahurul Islam presented on the country situation of novels in Bangladesh. The session was moderated by Dr. Pratibha Ray (India)
Mr. Kuenga Tenzin; Ms. Tanni Bose and Dr. Karma Phuntsho were the panellists of the Bhutan Country Panel. The Panel was moderated by Mir Jahurul Islam (Bangladesh)
Shri Govind Mishra; Dr. Pratibha Ray; and Sri C. Radhakrishnan were the panelists for the India Country Panel. The session was moderated by Mr. Daya Dissanayake (Sri Lanka)
Dr. Sunil Wijesiriwardena; Mr. S. A. Udayan; Mr. Daya Dissanayake; Prof. Rohan Gunaratna; Mr. Piyal Kariyawasam participated in the Sri Lanka Country Panel. The session was moderated by Prof. Syed Manzoorul Islam (Bangladesh)
Authors were given an opportunity to read excerpts from their novels and to discuss their writing styles during the Reading Sessions. There were three reading sessions. Ten authors were given the opportunity to present their work. The three reading sessions were chaired by Mr. Harka Gurung (Bhutan), Shri Govind Mishra (India), and Dr. Karma Phuntsho respectively.
The Literary Festival also included three lectures
1. ‘Creating South Asian Harmony Through Literature,’ by Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, Sri Lanka;
2. ‘Women Writers Contribution in SAARC Countries’ by Ms. Sumithra Rahubaddhe, and
3. ‘Editing and Publishing Novels in South Asia’ by Mr. Vijitha Yapa, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Publishers Association.
Round Table and Plenary Session
The Round Table and the Plenary Session was Co-Chaired by Dr. Sanjay Garg and Mr. Harka Gurung. The session discussed the current issues related to development of literature in South Asia and developed recommendations to protect and promote South Asian Literature.
On 20 December 2013, a half day field visit was organized to the Textile Museum of Bhutan, the Buddha Point and to the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Dasho (Dr.) Pema Thinley, Vice Chancellor, Royal University of Bhutan graced the occasion as the Chief Guest of the Valedictory Session
The Concluding Remarks were made by Dasho Harka Gurung, Director, National Library and Archives, Royal Government of Bhutan. In his remarks, Dasho Gurung mentioned, it was certainly heartening to see that the 4-Day SAARC Literary Festival 2013 concluded with a positive note and impressive conclusion and recommendations. He pinned down high hopes from the galaxy of writers who gathered here for a common cause and purpose and who were determined to realize the objectives for which this festival had been organized.
The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Mr. Karma Wangchuck who thanked each and every individual who was part of organizing the SAARC Literary Festival 2013.
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