Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

February 19th, 2015

Jaipur Literature Festival

This was my second visit to Jaipur’s vibrant festival of literature. What brought me back a second time? In short, its colorful outdoor venue and upbeat vibe. It actually feels like a festival! Also, the fest’s big-name authors are another draw for me.

At last year’s event, I was thrilled to see Jumpha Lahiri, as well as Jonathon Frazen, Cheryl Strayed, and Reza Aslan. This year I saw Paul Theroux and William Dalrymple. V.P. Naipul was also there, but sadly, Elizabeth Gilbert cancelled due to health reasons.

Both this year and last, I traveled with my Dubai-based book club for the event. Last year we were six women and this year we were ten! It’s a wonderful thing to travel with a group of friends who share a common interest—in this case, a love of books.

Jaipur Literature Festival - Book Club

About the Jaipur Lit Fest

Considered the “Pink City” and the gateway to Rajasthan, the flamboyant city of Jaipur hosts the fest. The mostly-outdoor event is set in the Diggi Palace Hotel. With greenery, colorful tents, intricate interiors, and structures draped with bunting, the event has a truly festive feel. With an ambiance like that, people are chatty and it’s a great place to interact with fellow readers.

Jaipur Literature Festival

Jaipur Literature Festival

The largest free literary festival in the world, the Jaipur Lit Festival features both international and South Asian writers, including Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners and many celebrated Indian authors. The program includes talks, discussions, panels, debates, and music.

With a diverse showcase of writers, this year’s festival was a celebration of freedom of expression, religious tolerance, and diversity of thought—and occurring at a time when India faces various cultural and religious challenges.

I attended a variety of panels including “Writing Resistance: Of Battles and Skirmishes,” presented by UN Women as part of the Women Uninterrupted series (below).

Jaipur Literature Festival

I also attended the panel, “Matters of Faith,” which reflected the religious diversity of India (below).

Jaipur Literature Festival

Wanderlust and the Art of Travel Writing

However, my favorite panel was “Wanderlust and the Art of Travel Writing.” Reading from their travel memoirs, the writers included Charles Glass, Paul Theroux, William Dalrymple, Brigid Keenan, Sam Miller and Samanth Subramanian (below).

Jaipur Literature Festival - Wanderlust Panel

What a delight to see Paul Theroux! After reading so many of his travel memoirs and novels over the years, I was excited to see him on various panels, including this one where he read from his upcoming memoir about traveling stateside (below).

Jaipur Literature Festival - Paul Theroux

At the time of the lit fest, our book club was reading White Mughals by the India-based historian William Dalrymple, so it was a lot of fun seeing him, too. Along with Namita Gokhale, Dalrymple is one of the directors and founders of the festival. A prolific writer, Dalrymple was an animated reader as he read from his travel memoir From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East (below).

Jaipur Literature Festival - William Dalrymple

Of course, there were books to buy. This year the festival book store was sponsored by Amazon India, which meant (sadly) that there were fewer books for sale and more devices. I hope next year they bring back more actual books to the fest—as books are the soul of any literary event.

Jaipur Literature Festival - reader

Jaipur Literature Festival - Book Store

The event also had food outlets, stalls for shopping, including those wonderful Jaipur textiles, and my favorite—the tea wallahs selling masala chai in little clay cups.

Jaipur Literature Festival - tea sellers

To find out more about this event, see the Lit Fest webpage or read my post from last year. I’m looking forward to next year’s festival, and I hope to be there for the full four days and I hope Elizabeth Gilbert makes it next time!

Question: What are your favorite literature festivals around the world? 

  1. Carol
    February 21st, 2015 at 11:26 | #1

    You doubled next years attendance. Great blog

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 21st, 2015 at 11:38 | #2

      Thanks for reading, Carol. Maybe you’ll attend next year!

  2. February 21st, 2015 at 12:27 | #3

    The colors, the people, the literary giants, the people! Wow, the Jaipur Literary Festival looks fantastic. Two of my favorite writers are Paul Theroux and William Dalrymple. It sounds as if your group had a fantastic time. Must have been a feast for the eyes, the ears, the mind and the soul. Just thinking about all those wonderful books and their writers makes me excited, and to have it all take place in Incredible India! How I wish I could have joined you. Keep up the great photos and fascinating commentary.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 21st, 2015 at 19:22 | #4

      Hi Linda, yes it was a lot of fun. Can’t wait until next year. Thanks for reading.

  3. Susan Dibden
    February 21st, 2015 at 15:06 | #5

    What colorful photos! Your description of the discussions and the setting is enticing. I am sorry to have missed it and want to go to the next one, please.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 21st, 2015 at 19:21 | #6

      HI Susan, thanks for reading! I hope you can come next time. 🙂

  4. Francine Soltani
    February 22nd, 2015 at 16:33 | #7

    What an exciting adventure! I would love to attend something like this. Your photos are wonderful.

  5. April 14th, 2015 at 21:48 | #8

    Your description of this festival is so vivid and rousing–I would love to go some day!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 15th, 2015 at 05:33 | #9

      Hi Maureen, Thanks for reading! Holly

  6. April 28th, 2015 at 17:48 | #10

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    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 15th, 2015 at 07:47 | #11

      Thanks for your interest. I’ll check it out.

  7. December 9th, 2015 at 14:34 | #12

    So glad to stumbled upon this on your blog, which I really enjoy reading. Sounds like a great festival, and I am fascinated that it is free. I’ve never been to India. Maybe this is the excuse I’ve been looking for! Regarding Elizabeth Gilbert, a shame she couldn’t make it. Much as I enjoyed her book, Eat, Pray, Love, the section on India was the part I enjoyed least. I remember what my hometown newspaper said in a review of the movie: “This is a good time to visit the snack bar and get some popcorn”.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      December 17th, 2015 at 13:45 | #13

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for reading. I think you’d enjoy the Jaipur Lit Fest. Very welcoming & festive. I hope you make it there. India is one of my favorite places. 🙂

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