Literary Festivals in India

What do the cities of Mumbai, Jaipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, Ranchi, Jaisalmer, Aurangabad, Coimbatore, Guwahati, Panchkula, Kasauli and Dehradun have in common? They are all cities that are hosting Literary Festivals in India! From one-off Literary Festivals held in metropolitan cities a couple of years back drawing small crowds, Literary Festivals have now become numerous and many are held in cities well beyond the metros.

The well-known Literary Festivals in India are as follows:

1. Jaipur Literature Festival

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) occupies the pride of place. From modest beginnings in 2006, the JLF has become arguably the world’s biggest literary exhibition. It has been described variously as ‘part circus, part post-graduate seminar’ and ‘most fabulous literary love-fest on the planet’. It is now not only organised in its home city of Jaipur but boasts of JLF editions in nine cities worldwide including London, Colorado, New York, Houston, Toronto, Adelaide, Belfast, Doha and Soneva Fushi (Maldives).

The last JLF Jaipur to be held physically was in Jan 2020, which saw an attendance of 400,000+ visitors at 226 sessions. In 2021, all the JLF were conducted virtually at Jaipur, London, Adelaide, Colorado, Houston, New York and Toronto. Over the past several months, these online series have featured as many as 416 speakers spread over 248 sessions. This led to approximately 5 million views across continents, with a reach of 27 Million and exceeding more than 40 million Impressions! The JLF 2022 is being held from Jan 28th to Feb 1st 2022, followed by those in other major cities of the world.

2. Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival

Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) is India’s only literary festival created by a bookstore and Kolkata’s first literary festival, reflecting its vibrancy of thought and engagement with the literary world large. The festival explores literature as a part of our tangible and intangible heritage. That is not all besides books it celebrates music, art, film, with the finest creative minds in the nation and globally, at the city’s magnificent heritage sites.

The AKLF has been organised since 2011 and its 11th edition was held virtually in 2021. Spread over three days in January, the events are recognised for delivering an incredible combination of panels for writers, workshops, music and dance, and many other amusing activities. It also organises workshops for young authors, which is a unique feature of the AKLF. 

3. Times Litfest

The Times Litfest is now five editions old and has become one of the country’s leading literature festivals. It attracts authors, poets, theatre artists, lyricists, scriptwriters, filmmakers and thinkers from across the country and the world. The exchange of views on literature, books and ideas at this festival celebrates the written word and set the agenda for further debate.

This year the Times Litfest is an online celebration of inspiring literature every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from Aug 27th 2021, to Oct 17th 2021.

4. Bangalore Literature Festival

The Literary Festival of Bangalore has been held every year since 2012. It celebrates reading and writing and takes place in ‘Namma Bengaluru’ in winter every year. Under the winter sun, bookworms and bibliophiles are welcome to meet writers from all around – local, national, and worldwide. The festival honours the city’s creative energy and celebrates the diversity of literature, engaging some of the brightest brains in India and outside conversation. The festival is usually held in December.

5. Valley of Words

Valley of Words (VoW) brings together the best writers, critics and listeners from the worlds of fiction, non-fiction and poetry in a three-day Literature and Arts Festival in the quaint town of Dehradun. It started in 2017 and opened up a world for young adults, storytellers, bloggers, balladeers, puppeteers, thespians, photographers, artists, and craftspeople. It also organises concerts and walks, supports local handicrafts through its exhibitions and celebrates creative expressions across all genres. VoW is structured through Four Knowledge Verticals: English Literature, Hindi Sahitya, the RS Tolia Forum for Himalayan Ecosystems and Governance and the Military History and Strategy sessions. Apart from this, three exhibitions are held every year: (a) Iti Kriti – for pan-Himalayan sustainable arts, crafts and fashion (b) Iti Smriti – VoW’s own ethically-sourced and up-cycled memorabilia, and (c) Iti Lekh – the book bazaar for especially curated reading lists, conversations with editors, publishers, and much more.

6. Kerala Literature Festival

The Kerala Literature Festival (KLF) is regarded as the “most prominent celebration of word, story, and idea” and is situated along the coast of Kozhikode, facing the Arabian Sea. Except for the literary festival, this is a cultural show with performances by famous artists worldwide. The festival offers a series of seminars and interactive activities to engage participants in vital dialogues concerning literature, environment, culture, art, film, music, and technology. On the nights, several performers and bands celebrate and play music from all over the world. The KLF was started in 2016 and the 5th edition of the festival was held in Jan 2021.

7. Tata Literature Live – Mumbai Litfest

Tata Literature Live! is Mumbai’s well-known international literary festival. An intellectually stimulating event for people of all ages, featuring authors, poets, thought leaders, and more. The sessions range from book launches, panel discussions, straight talks, debates, and performances to workshops for kids and adults.

The thirteenth edition a virtual festival celebrating real books, it takes place in November. A festival celebrating real books.

As the pandemic abates and India and the world opens up with greater surety, the number of book festivals is only likely to grow providing an unparalleled peek into the writing and thinking of some of India’s and world’s greatest writers. Each festival is an opportunity for book lovers, writers, students and more to expose themselves to newer and diverse viewpoints in an environment that is not only intimate and warm but also organised and structured.

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