Literature festivals – a gathering of writers, readers, and book lovers – are undoubtedly the highlights of my year. Attending literary festivals with panel discussions involving my favourite authors, book launches and exclusive one-on-one book signings is what my book hoarding dreams are made of. I attended my first literature festival at the age of 16, a little late I know, but it changed my life forever. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how amazing it felt to be surrounded by people who had inspired me to write, to read more and become so invested in my words.
Most literature festivals in India aim at popularising the work of regional authors with support from famous international names. Every state has at least one literature fest that takes place in its capital, organised by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, so make sure you check out the next literary festival in your state.
There are some popular literature festivals that are held privately with the help of annual sponsors. These usually take place on a larger scale and you can buy passes to these events. Here is a list of the most popular literature festivals in India that you shouldn’t miss out on this year!
This five-day extravaganza held in the pink city at the Diggi Palace is a wonderland. Writers from around the world fly in to make this the one-stop shop for all book lovers. From book readings to panel discussions and inspiring lectures, this should be your No. 1 stop if you have never experienced literary festivals. Jaipur Literature Festival has writers like Call Me By Your Name author Andre Aciman, Life Of Pi author Yann Martel, and author of Calling Sehmat, the book that inspired the Bollywood film, Raazi, Harinder Sikka discuss their books and interact with readers.
Organised by Oxford Bookstore, the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival takes place every January and hosts a number of authors from around the world. From Pulitzer Prize winners to journalists, AKLF’s line-up is always a treat. The fest celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with author David Davidar, author Anuja Chauhan and actor Naseeruddin Shah, a few amongst the esteemed list of panelists.
Supported by the Delhi government, the Delhi Literature Festival takes place every year around the month of February. It started small with a few panel discussions, book readings, and workshops. However, after running successfully for five years, the festival aims at promoting art, culture, and literature on a bigger platform. The entry is free and the festival has been a platform for Sahitya Akademi Winners Ashok Vajpai and Munawwar Rana, Baldeo Bhai Sharma, Vikas Swarup, Navtej Sarna, Omair Ahmad, Sanjaya Baru, William Dalrymple and Dr. Kumar Vishwas in the past.
Organised by the Lucknow Society every year, the festival aims at conserving and promoting the culture, tehzeeb and heritage of Shaher-e Lucknow, as they like to put it. The festival invites the best of the poetry scene to perform and talk about their art. Contemporaries like Javed Akhtar, K P Saxena, Veena Talwar Oldenburg, Neelesh Misra, and Prasoon Joshi have also been a part of the Lucknow Literary Festival.
Held in New Delhi every year at the beginning of December, and Mumbai in the second week of the month, the Times LitFest has become an annual platform for writers, journalists, book lovers, and speakers. Each year, the fest has a new theme around which the sessions are held. Last year’s theme was Power As Hero and Villain, attended by authors like Arianna Huffington, Akhil Sharma, Amish Tripathi, Anupama Chopra, and Ashwin Sanghi. The entry for this event is free of cost.
As if we need another reason to go to Kasauli! This literature festival named after the legendary writer began as a tribute and is now on its seventh year, annually held every October. While sessions with writers take place on one side of this hill, the other has musical entertainment taking place alongside. You can register for the event on their website and enjoy books in the lap of nature.
For three days every year in the month of January, The Hindu LitForLife brings together the best of writers, novelists, journalists, and speakers to talk about the various issues taking place in the country. There are also street plays taking place at the center of it all, with food stalls lining the pathway of Lady Andal School. A small part of the fest is also the Children’s Fest, which was introduced in 2017 to draw in younger audiences and inspire readers.
Held in ‘Namma Bangaluru,’ this literature festival takes place in November every year and takes a deep plunge into the literary scene in the city. It has an array of international and Indian authors who come together to share their experiences and stories. The biggest event of the festival is the quiz, which excited bibliophiles from across the country attend. The quiz begins with written entries and the top 20 teams are chosen to compete in a round of intense literary questions that lead to a winning team.
Held smack in the middle of the hills, this literary fest is more than just an excuse to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. From authors like Anand Neelkanth and Sagarika Ghose to entertainers like Rahul Dev and Sorabh Panth, the fest caters to people from different fields of art and literature for three days in the doon valley.
Panel discussions, live performances, book launches, speeches, debates, workshops and awards, all come under one roof at the Tata Literature Live! held in Mumbai every year, with over 100 journalists, authors and performers who come together to put on a show every November. The highlight of their fest has always been the activists and journalists who are present at the panel discussions, setting them apart from the other literary festivals.
A literary fest by the beach - sound like the ultimate dream! GALF is a non-profit that is completely volunteer driven and has taken place annually since 2010. It has since become a hub for political and social dialogue amongst the best writers in the country. It takes place at the International Centre Goa in the midst of the culture this city represents.
Organised by Hyderabad Literary Trust, the fest is multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual. Every year, a foreign country is invited to the fest to showcase their art, culture, and literature. In 2019, the focus of HLF is China and delegates from the country will be seen showcasing their creativity. There is also an Indian language every year that the fest focuses on, the language of 2019 being Gujrati. The festival is open to all and takes place in January annually.
Defined as "The grandest celebration of words, stories, and ideas," KLF brings together writers, artists, visionaries, thinkers and achievers from different fields of art, culture, literature, dance, environment, science and technology to discuss the biggest issues in India. Like the Hyderabad Literary Festival, KLF also has a guest nation visit every year with authors and thinkers from various fields attending the festival. Held at the beginning of January every year, KLF in Calicut is a great way to meet like-minded people and celebrate culture by the beach.
Put together every year by the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya in Bhopal, the festival is to safeguard the textual and oral traditional literature of the country. Organised by the Government of India, their first festival was held last year in 2018, and will soon become an annual festival held in December. The festival invites tribal writers, poets, and storytellers in an effort to celebrate and preserve their craft.
A literary vacation made for your Instagram account, Kumaon Literary Festival is held in the hills of Uttrakhand every year. It aims at building leaders in the world of literature and educating writers about the literary scene in the country. The festival also promotes ‘responsible’ writing and hopes to frame young minds to do the same. They believe they aren't a festival, but instead an institution that will inspire a generation of refreshing writers.
The Military Literature Festival is quite an experience, a one-of-a-kind festival that has not just panel discussions and authors present, but also celebrate the military of India, predominantly the Punjab Regiment. The festival also has military combat episodes, an off-roading show, skydivers drop zone landing, bird watching, vintage car rally, arena polo match, army dog squad display, and a mega social evening with Gurdas Maan. A literature festival with Gudas Mann? Count me in!
Can you imagine a lit fest by the sea? Well, what if it was held ‘on’ the sea. Queensline Lit Fest is hosted by the cruise line, Queensline and is said to be the first of its kind, where readers get to spend three days in the lap of literature and the sea. Inviting the creative minds of India, this ship can hold about 400 people and will soon become a hot spot for literary debates and discussions. Inaugurated on the 29th January of 2019, it is one of the newest fests in the country and an exciting one for sure!
It's time to plan your next lit fest!
Featured Image: Instagram
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