Agra, Feb 2 (IANS) As the three-day literary festival began in the city of the Taj for the first time, writers, filmmakers, poets and critics were surprised that the event opened with a lecture in Sanskrit, instead of English, as anticipated.
Manjulata Sharma, who heads the department of Sanskrit at St John's College, Agra, spoke in chaste, musical Sanskrit about "Ghalib kavyam" (the poetry of Ghalib), quoted shlokas and compared the essence with many of the popular "shairs" (poems).
The packed open-air theatre at the Delhi Public School at Shastripuram, which served as the venue after some glitches at the earlier-decided venue, applauded and cheered poet and filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, photographer Raghu Rai, and several other guests gathered here late Friday evening. Ashok Chkardhar recited humorous verse, getting the audience roaring.
"We are surprised at the reaction and passionate involvement of the locals," said Meera Shankar, diplomat and former ambassador to the US, who hails from the city.
This festival is truly national with a local flavour, unlike Jaipur which is too elitist. We are particularly happy to note that the focus is on literature, poetry and romance, without stirring controversy," said political commentator and former teacher at Heidelberg University, Germany, Paras Nath Choudhary.
Unfortunately, Ruskin Bond is not well and could not make it, but we have a video message from him, Harvijay Singh Bahia, chairman of the Organising Committee told IANS.
Shivani Chaturvedi, spokesperson of the Festival, told IANS: "We have students, thousands of them, from all corners of the country here. This is what we had planned, to sensitise today's urban youth to the rich heritage of arts, culture, literature of Braj Mandal."
Singer Bhoomika enchanted the audience with a recital of 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. Ghalib, born in Agra, together with Meer and Nazeer Akbarabadi, are the pillars of Urdu "adab", commented Syed Jafri, who will lead a panel discussion Saturday on "Mohabbat ki Zuban Urdu" (Urdu, the language of love).