A Literary Confluence On The Banks Of River Brahmaputra

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The literati and glitterati converge on Guwahati to be a part of the first Brahmaputra Literary Festival.

Writers from India and from across the world converged on the historic city of Guwahati to be part of the first Brahmaputra Literary Festival – the first of its kind literary festival that put this lesser know region of India in the spotlight.

Named after River Brahmaputra, the lifeline of Assam, the festival put Guwahati on par with important literary festivals venues of India such as Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Ajmer, Jammu etc.

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The three-day festival (January 28 to 30) was witness to the literati and glitterati who gathered at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra in the northeast of the country. The confluence of writers, journalists, filmmakers, theatre personalities, included 15 eminent authors from 10 foreign nations along with over 150 writers from different parts of the country. Organised by the National Book Trust India (an autonomous organisation under the Union Human Resources Development ministry) in association with the Assam government, the festival hosted over 50 panel discussions, book releases and readings, and a number of cultural events, including film screenings.

The festival was inaugurated by Union Human Resources Development Minister, Prakash Javadekar, who appealed to the litterateur and writers to do their bit in building a culturally sound society that reflects the truth. Javadekar, who had also been a journalist, assured the government's support in ensuring free speech in the country.

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Citing the rich cultural heritage of India since time immemorial, Javadekar said the country draws its strength from its diversity, and asserted it would grow stronger with the true spirit of pluralism.

He urged the young people to inculcate the habit of reading and emphasised the need to revitalise the library movement across the country that was home to a rich library tradition of the Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila era.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the festival would provide a rare platform for interaction and exchange of ideas between readers and litterateurs from all over the country and abroad. Commenting that the literature is the mirror of the society, the young chief minister asserted that it also has the power to transform the society. He paid tributes to River Brahmaputra, which he said, remains the essence of life for millions in the fertile valley. Legendary Assamese singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika drew inspiration to create his many masterpieces in praise of the misty river, the chief minister said.

The State education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while welcoming the participants to the ‘land of blue hills and red river’, said that the festival was a dream come true for everyone in the region. The minister pointed out that the literature is “the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary”.

“Since time immemorial, the human civilisation has thrived mostly on the bank of a river whether it is Indus, Nile, Mesopotamia, Huwang He or the Thames. Brahmaputra has also been at the core of Assam’s folklore, inspiring literature, art and music even though often left behind a wave of destruction during the monsoon. Thus Brahmaputra Literary Festival seeks to recreate the magic of convergence of literature from all over the world to create stronger ties,” commented Sarma. Recalling the 15th century saint, philosopher, cultural icon Mohapurush Srimanta Shankardev, 19th century authors like Ananda Ram Dhekial Phukan, Hem Chandra Barua , Lakshminath Bezbarua, Chandra Kumar Agarwal , Jyoti Prasad Agarwala etc, Jnanpith awardees Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya and Mamoni Raisom Goswami, the minister said that the Assamese creative writing is among the most vibrant regional literatures in India.

Celebrated Japanese author Randy Taguchi, Konkani author Damodar Mauzo, Arunachali writer Mamang Dai, NBT chairman Baldeo Bhai Sharma and its director Rita Choudhury, the State chief secretary VK Pipersenia also addressed the gathering. Eminent authors including Neal Hall from USA, Carlo Pizaati from Italy, Francois Gautier from France, Subramani from Fiji, Dhunpal Raj Heeraman and Ramdeo Dhorundhur from Mauritius, Selina Hossain, Shaheen Akhter and Urmi Rahman from Bangladesh, Rajiva Wijesinha from Sri Lanka, Raj Heeramun, Ramdev Dhoorandhar & Niranjan Kunwar from Nepal, Yugyen Tshering from Bhutan along with many others joined in various discourses and shared their thoughts on relevant issues.

Many prominent writers from the mainland India including Narendra Kohli, Rami Chhabra, Vimala Morthala, Khalid Mohammed, Subhash Kashyap, Makarand Paranjape, Bhagirath Mishra, Amar Mitra, Binod Ghosal, Angana Choudhury, Mirza Ali Baig etc also participated in different sessions of the festival. Similarly resourceful personalities like Manju Borah, Sanjoy Hazarika, Leena Sarma, Khalid Mohammed, Jahnavi Barua, Dipa Choudhuri, Bela Chandrani, Utpal Borpujari, Rabijita Gogoi, Arup Jyoti Choudhury, Nanigopal Mahanta, Arup Borbora, Shiela Bora, Basab Rai, contributed to the various discourses.

A number of well-known north-eastern creative personalities and journalists, including Arup Kumar Dutta, Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, Dhruba Hazarika, Kula Saikia, Jnan Pujari, Prabuddha Sundar Kar, Wasbir Hussain, Phanindra Kumar Debachoudhury, Pradip Phanjoubam, Monalisa Chankija, Dileep Chandan, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Maini Mahanta, Mrinal Talukdar, Prasanta Rajguru, Aniz Uz Zaman, Sananta Tanty, Monikuntala Bhattacharjya, Nilim Kumar, Suparna Lahiri Baruah, Geetali Borah, Monalisa Saikia, Juri Borgohain etc were present.

As a part of the festival, some acclaimed movies including Adajya (Assamese feature film, directed by Santwana Bardoloi), Mirzya (Hindi film, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) etc were screened. Distinguished filmmaker Mehra, Bollywood film stars of yesteryear Asha Parekh and Shatrughan Sinha and film writer Shahid Rafi interacted with the art connoisseurs.

Earlier, the NBT director Choudhury expressed hope that the festival would focus not only on languages and literature, but also on culture, society, politics, performance traditions, music, identity and the regional media. A Sahitya Akademi Award winner, Choudhury said Assam aimed to make the festival a landmark event in the country's literary calendar. She said that after years of conflicts, the people of the region received a fresh air of friendliness, accomplishment and joy.

The curtains came down on the festival with a poetry reading session held during an exotic cruise over the misty Brahmaputra.