Jaipur, Jan 24 (IANS) From Buddhist chants to a discussions on the religion featuring Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to a strident call from an octogenarian right crusader, the opening day of DSC Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 had plenty to touch the heart and soul.
The spirit of Buddha shone in all its glory as a group of Drepung Loseling Buddhist monks broke into sacred chant on the front lawns of the Diggi Palace, the heritage venue of the festival in the heart of Jaipur, to bless the congregation followed by peppy percussion rhythms.
A short recital by the lit fest's inhouse drummer Nathu and his cross-cultural drum ensemble replete with "firangs" (foreigners) attired in saris and the colourful tie-and-dye headgear brought the east and the west together.
Done up in marquees of pink, red and blue and sponsored by Tata Steel, the lawn welcomed the bold, important and beautiful of the pink city, Bollywood and the national capital, including Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and other celebrities.
Setting the mood of cultural amity - the theme of the festival, the governor said the festival has evolved into a platform not just for literature but also history, fiction and non-fiction.
"This is a celebration of freedom of thought and expression in all its diversity," and it was not possible for the governments alone to address issues such as the unrest along the border, the brutal killings in American schools and the devastating sexual assaults on women, Alva said.
"A deeper spirituality is needed in our approach to ethics and society," Alva said, urging writers to be voices for the voiceless.
Renowned writer and rights crusader, Mahasweta Devi, all of a frail 88, virtually brought the house down to its knees with her personal ruminations and her strident pitch to defend the marginalised with a touch of soul.
Later, she offered a rare insight in to her life, work and philosophy in a candid chat with her publisher Naveen Kishore and the audience.
Justice was the war cry even in the evening when rights warriors Binayak Sen and Harsh Mandar took the podium to address wrongs being perpetrated on the majority of Indian populace through "structural violence" and hunger.
The most visible face of Buddhism in the world, the 14th Dalai Lama added gravity of the day's causes calling for dialogue between hostile nations, saying this was the only way to stop the world from reaching the point of no return.
Elsewhere across the four venues, the voice of Pakistan, represented by a team of six writers and intellectuals sought to surmount the recent tensions with their overtures of friendship.
There is no bad blood in literature across the borders was the refrain with Musharraf Ali Farooqi saying that he understood the sentiment behind the anti-Pakistan din in India.
International literature flowed on as usual with heavyweights from the west (Britain, the US) as well from across Asia discussing their works and the new movements in literature.
The flood of intellect was accompanied by a surfeit of gourmet food from India and rest of the world in at least half-a-dozen vends scattered around the venue.
The evening capped with a cultural soiree at the hotel Clarks Amer.