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Almora Literature Festival ALF

ALF 2023

               30th June- 2nd July, 2023. MALLA MAHAL.

The Almora Literature Festival was born out of a shared passion for literature, culture, and the art of storytelling. It has now emerged as a platform to celebrate the diverse literary traditions of Uttarakhand and beyond, while also providing a nurturing space for emerging writers and artists. The journey from envisioning this festival to witnessing it come alive has been nothing short of a profound experience!

At the heart of the ALF is the spirit of inclusivity and collaboration. It was a collective effort, bringing together established authors, emerging talents, scholars, artists, and most importantly, the warm and receptive audience from Almora and beyond. The festival thrived on the support and enthusiasm of the community, and we are grateful for every individual who became a part of this literary journey.

Almora Literature Festival ALF Pt Uday Bhawalkar


Morning Dhrupad with Pt Uday Bhawalkar (Concert)

ALF  took its first breath with the mesmerising Dhrupad concert by the legendary Pandit Uday Bhawalkar. The performance began with Pt Bhawalkar’s masterful rendition of the morning Raga Vibhas filling the cool mountain air with the chants of “Nar-Har Narayan”. Pt. Bhawalkar was accompanied by Shri Pratap Awad on the Pakhawaj, his daughter Ms. Meghana Bhawalkar and his disciple Ms. Meghana Sardar accompanied him on the tanpuras and backing vocals. 



The inaugural ceremony of the ALF  started with the traditional invocation of gods in the form of “Shakunakhar” by Smt. Radha Tiwari and group . This was followed by a simple lamp lighting ceremony and a welcome address was delivered by Dr. Deepa Gupta, Festival Director of ALF 2023.

Almora Literature Festival ALF Lalit Pande


Environment & Ecology of Uttarakhand
Lalit Pande, JC Bhatt and JC Kuniyal in conversation with Vasudha Pant

The opening session of the ALF  2023 kicked off with an intent to spread the awareness that a healthy environment is the basis of our existence and everything else follows. Mere technological innovation may not be sufficient to ensure environmental sustainability. There is a pressing need to develop  eco-consciousness and reader friendly literature plays a significant role in this regard. Padma awardee Dr Lalit Pande emphasized on a responsible fusion of literature and environment. 


Book Launch & Discussion: Ranis and the Raj by Prof Queeny Pradhan

In conversation with Dr. OC Handa

At the first book launch of the ALF 2023, we were introduced to Ranis and the Raj by Queeny Pradhan  describing six queens who faced the British Raj. Unlike the biographical convention in traditional history writing, the research in this book  may be placed in the realm of 'microhistory'. The life stories of these queens are fragmented due to the 'silences' and 'invisibilization' in political history of the time, and this book aims to fill these gaps.

The audience  was treated to a  novel crash course in microhistory where the author introduced the subject to the curious listeners in her  unique way.

Almora Literature Festival ALF Prof Queeny Pradhan
Almora Literature Festival ALF Prof Queeny Pradhan
Almora Literature Festival ALF Krishna Kalpit Richa Pathak Sadhana Agarwal


Katha aur Kathetar: Kitne Dur Kitne Paas

Sadhana Agarwal & Krishna Kalpit in conversation with Richa Pathak

Explaining the difference between fiction and non-fiction, Sadhna Aggarwal defined katha (loose translation of fiction) with the use of imagination, for example 'Mallika' by Manisha Kulshreshtha based on Bhartendu Harishchandra and his lover which utilised very few facts.

Much of the session revolved around the evolving interplay of non fiction, fiction and the ever blurring lines between them.


Aapada ya Avsar: Media and Uttarakhand

Dinesh Kandpal, Ramesh Bhatt and Kulsum Talha in conversation with Ashutosh Pant

Almora Literature Festival ALF Ashutosh Pant Dinesh Kandpal Ramesh Bhatt Kulsum Talha Rashmi Selwal

This illuminating session moderated by Ashutosh Pant revolved around the role of media  in projecting the opportunities and threats which the people encounter in Uttarakhand. The participants  comprised two renowned journalists from Uttarakhand -  Shri Dinesh Kandpal, the star anchor of India TV and Shri Ramesh Bhatt, former information advisor to the then chief minister of Uttarakhand, and the third participant was a senior journalist Ms. Kulsum Talha, from Lucknow, who provided an outsider’s perspective.  The positives and the handicaps of Uttarakhand’s media and its role in projecting the local issues were analyzed. The senior journalists portrayed a positive picture of the avenues for development and exhorted the youth to carve their own path for growth. “Our human resources combined with nature’s bounty would lead to a prosperous future” was the condensed outcome of the speaker’s thoughts.


Almora Literature Festival ALF Jaimitra Singh Bisht Anup Sah Threesh Kapoor photography


Photographing the Himalayas

Threesh Kapoor & Anup Sah in conversation with Jaimitra Singh Bisht

One of the most fascinating and extensive session with the  much revered trinity of Himalayan Photography captivated the audience with their experiences in travel and photography. Padma Awardee Anup Sah and Threesh Kapoor regaled the audience with their adventures and nostalgia laced stories of photography through the times!


Cyber Encounters

Ashok Kumar in conversation with Mamta Bisht

Almora Literature Festival ALF Ashk Kumar IPS Mamta Bisht

The book discussion on  “Cyber Encounters” by Ashok Kumar was very captivating and well attended . The session was moderated by Ms Mamta Bisht  who engaged the audience in an enthralling discussion about cybercrime. The complex world of cyber threats was discussed and valuable insights were provided on how to be safe in the world of cybercrime.The audience engaged actively, posing thought-provoking questions, resulting in a dynamic and interactive atmosphere. With minds enlightened, the session left attendees with a deeper understanding of the gravity of cybercrime and its implications in our interconnected world.

Harsh Kafar Almora Literature Festival ALF


ALF Open Mic

The Open Mic at the ALF  turned out to be an engrossing and enthralling affair for the participants. . Hosted by the inimitable Harsh Kafar in his unique style of reciting poems and his ability to interact with the audience gave an edge to the event. Each creator  added value  with their priceless contribution -  be it songs, poems, nazms or ghazals.  The themes centred around  varied aspects of life,  e.g., love, inspiration,  patriotism, hijr, etc.


Thumri in the Hills

Samrat Pandit

Samrat Pandit’s concert was scheduled to begin from 6:00 pm , but the weather intervened.  The  program began with the rendition of a thumri ‘Tore Naina Jadoo Bhare Re’. Despite the rains threatening to play spoilsport, the performance went on for an hour. Just as the concert reached its crescendo with ‘Yaad Piya Ki Aaye’,  nature showered  its blessings with a light drizzle and there was a thunderous applause in sync with the thunder of clouds. Unfazed,  the audience flocked the stage and surrounded Samrat Pandit, elevating the experience of the concert to a surreal level.         

Samrat Pandit Almora Literature Festival ALF
Basanti Bisht Almora Literature Festival ALF
Almora Literature Festival ALF


Invoking the Gods: A Jagar Concert         

Basanti Bisht

Day 2 began with a lot of fanfare with  showcasing of Kumaoni culture and in the midst of this, folk singer  and Padma awardee Basanti Bisht began her Jagar performance. The glimpses of Krishna Leela, Anchhari Nritya and her invocation of various Gods and Goddesses in the Jagar style of singing mesmerised the audience. An all women troupe accompanied Basanti Bisht in her Jagar,  and she won over the audience with her words, demeanour and performance alike.



Himanshu Bajpai

Despite the drizzle over the open air stage, Himanshu Bajpai's Dastangoi held the ALF audience spellbound. The star performer recounted the story of Kakori Action by freedom fighters and portrayed a dramatic picture of the socio-cultural situation of pre-independent India. The sacrifices of revolutionaries and the communal brotherhood reflected the ideal Ganga-Jamuni 'tehzeeb'. Bajpai’s account of the trial of the revolutionaries and their family's trauma reminded the audience of the many sacrifices our freedom fighters made to attain independence. The patriotic fervour blended with the historical ambience of  the  Malla Mahal  and the patriotic tradition of the hills!

Himanshu Bajpai Dastangoi Almora Literature Festival ALF
Almora Literature Festival ALF Sriparna Pathak Ashutosh Pant


Way Forward in a Difficult Neighbourhood

Dr. Sriparna Pathak, Col. Ravi Pande & Group Capt. Ashutosh Kulshreshtha in conversation with Ashutosh Pant

The session on foreign policy and national security issues faced by India focused on two dominant themes. First, the growing power of China and INDO-US alliance to counter balance the Chinese technological and financial muscle. The second aspect of the debate was the military threat perception on the Chinese border. The participants included Prof. Sriparna Pathak of Jindal University, who threw light on the diplomatic aspect of geo-political equations and Col. Ravi Pande and Group Captain Ashutosh Kulshrestha, who focused on the military threat perception. Dr. Sriparna Pathak opined that the Chinese mindset is aggressive in nature and their outlook is practical and business oriented. Hence, India needs to be wary of their intention. The audience actively participated in the debate with their questions and even inputs at times!


Revisiting History

OC Handa & Queeny Pradhan in conversation with Anil Joshi

The topic highlighted the need for analysis and discussion  by all the scholars so that  a true account of the people’s history, rather than harping on the colonial myths, is presented. It was emphasised  that the  traditional knowledge system of India  is the need of the hour. 

Siddharth Warrier Almora Literature Festival ALF


Science in Literature     

Dr. Siddharth Warrier and Preeti Mathur in conversation with Rakesh Bisht

This session explored the relationship between science and literature which is rich and multifaceted. The panelists discussed how literature has the power to reflect on, explore, and even influence scientific thought and progress. Similarly, scientific discoveries often provide authors with new ideas and perspectives for their literary works. This interplay between science and literature continues to shape our understanding of the world and ourselves. 


Sahitya Mein Kalatmakta    

Ashok Vajpeyi in conversation with Manisha Kulshrestha

The audience was expectant  about this session. Listening to the veteran Ashok Vajpeyi was an enlightening experience.  The presence of many dignitaries and guests from outside in the audience added lustre to the session and made it  worthwhile. People were influenced  by the exposition of Ashok Vajpeyi on various facets of his literary compositions and the philosophical underpinnings thereof. He shared his memories  of Kumar Gandharva, Swaminathan, Habib Tanveer, Raza Sahab and Rajendra Yadav.  The session was informative and thought provoking.

Ashok Vajpeyi Manisha Kulshreshtha Almora Literature Festival ALF


Arun Dev Ira Pande Deepa Gupta Almora Literature Festival ALF

Sau Saal Shivani Ke

Arun Dev & Ira Pande in conversation with Deepa Gupta

This was  a special session on writer laureate Shivani's centenary year. Writer-editor Arun Dev, Shivani’s daughter and columnist Ira Pande and author Deepa Gupta discussed this topic  comprehensively. Referring to his acquaintance with Shivani's writing, Arun Dev called her the first popular fiction writer of Hindi and illustrated how her writing stood firmly behind the marginalised women. Ira Pande discussed the influences that shaped Shivani, recounted some of her dominant traits and characteristics  and narrated  the experiences with her both as a mother and a writer in personal life. The audience found an instant connect and the interaction touched upon the living conditions and problems of the hills as well.


Himalaya Darshan: Of Gods and Yogis

Swami Dhruveshanand in conversation with Romola Butalia

“Of the immovable, I am the Himalaya”, says Sri Krishna in 10.25 of Bhagwat Gita. This quote encapsulates the upshot of this powerful session with Swami Dhruveshanand and Romola Butalia. The session went into the mythological significance of Kumaon and how it became known as the Devbhoomi. The session further went into how Almora became a global melting pot of thinkers including R D Laing, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Robert Thurman, his daughter Uma, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Cat Stevens and D H Lawrence. 

The panelists  highlighted why it is important to maintain the ancient traditions and the sacrosanct nature of this space.

Romola Butalia Swami Dhruveshanand Almora Literature Festival ALF
Romola Butalia Swami Dhruveshanand Almora Literature Festival ALF
Vivek Sachdeva Almora Literature Festival ALF


The Biryani Shop

Dr. Vivek Sachdeva in conversation with Nikhil Jain

Written over ten years, a few stories included in this book are based on actual incidents that the author had witnessed or experienced. Set in different cities of India such as Delhi, Calcutta, Chandigarh, Batala, Amritsar, the collection offers stories of ordinary people who suffer, struggle and live. The lives of the characters in these stories are complicated by political, social, or economic circumstances. A story of a homeless Sikh minority in Jammu, a lonely musician's struggle for survival during the lockdown, complicated man-woman relationships, and terse tales that tell long stories of suffering in short. The discussion around this book took many a fascinating segue into themes such as separation, memories and nostalgia!  


Storytelling for Children

Sunita Pant Bansal in conversation with Kalyan Mankoti

This fascinating session with Sunita Pant Bansal was about storytelling, the author’s journey as a storyteller, and inculcating reading habit in children. The questions  were thought provoking and the engagement with the audience was such that the 30-min session extended to more than 75 mins. A truly joyous homecoming for everyone attending!         

Sunita Pant Bansal Almora Literature Festival ALF
Kasturika Mishra Almora Literature Festival ALF


Andaaz e Sukhan  

Kasturika Mishra

On the evening of Day 2, another facet of ALF  was presented to the audience by Kasturika Mishra in the form of ghazals, poetry recitation and Kumaoni singing. Accompanied by Bhaskar Bhauryal on Hudka and Dara on the flute, Kasturika captivated the hearts of hundreds of people present.


Kavi Sammelan

The ALF Kavi Sammelan was a star studded affair with an enviable lineup of poets including Kunwar Javed, Deepa Gupta, Neeraj Pant, Meenu Joshi, Neelam Negi, Mani Naman, Rajendra Rawat, Nilotpal Mrinal, Harsh Kafar, Ambar Kharbanda, Diwa Bhatt, Krishna Kalpit, and Afzal Manglauri. Hosted by the inimitable Rahul Awasthi, the Kavi Sammelan represented a diverse set of genres and languages including Kumaoni, Hindi and Urdu!

Almora Literature Festival ALF
Almora Literature Festival ALF Harsh Kafar Kavi Sammelan
Ravi Joshi Shambhunath Bhattacharya Siddhant Negi Almora Literature Festival ALF
Ravi Joshi Almora Literature Festival ALF


Sagun Nirgun Pad: Live in Concert                                    Dr. Ravi Joshi

The concert was delayed by the rain but as soon as the sun came out there was no looking back! Dr. Ravi Joshi is a disciple and leading proponent of the Kumar Gandharva style of Sagun Nirgun verses. The singing of Tulsidas ji’s “Main kehhi kahun vipatti ati bhari” and “Hirna samajh boojh ban charna” and accompaniment on the tabla by Shambhu Nath Bhattacharya and backing vocal by Siddhant Negi and Nupur Joshi mesmerized the whole venue.


Almora Jail- A Peep into the Bastille of Kumaon

Col. Ravi Pande in conversation with Anil Joshi

Another fascinating session around a pivotal structure, literally, of Almora’s history,  was on the Almora Jail. A number of  stories and factoids were discussed by the panelists  comprising the eminent historian Anil Joshi and Col. Ravi Pande, a descendent of  the legendary Pt. Badri Dutt Pande who was an inmate of this jail! . The session took a number of segues into the lives and times of the many other celebrated  inmates of the Almora Jail including  Pt. Nehru, Pt. GB Pant, Pt. Hargovind Pant, Acharya Narendra Dev, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and others. 

Anil Joshi Ravi Pande Almora Literature Festival ALF


Deepak Ramola Deepa Gupta Diwa Bhatt Vasudha Pant
Deepak Ramola Deepa Gupta Almora Literature Festival ALF

Book Launch: Karwaan Ka Shauq Hai

Deepak Ramola in conversation with Diwa Bhatt

The much anticipated book launch of poet-lyricist Deepak Ramola was a starry affair indeed. The author recounted and discussed his journey behind his new book. He also regaled the audience with his many stories from the tinsel town as well as his journey as a young lyricist writing for major Bollywood production. Deepak Ramola truly inspired the young budding authors and poets in the audience with his wise words and anecdotes.

The conversation with Diwa Bhatt was a powerful experience. Her questions, along with the enthusiastic response from the audience and the surreal setting of Almora, all combined to shape a memorable launch . The author confessed  he could not have asked for a better book launch!


Hudkiya Baul      

Bhaskar Bhauryal

Bhaskar Bhauryal, a young  distinguished folk artist from Almora reintroduced the audience to the folk music of Hudkiya Baul, traditionally performed in the fields during the sowing season. Accompanied by Radha Tewari and troupe, the young performer transported the audiences to the sowing fields of Kumaon singing paeans in a traditional folk style that is now dying out with time and the onslaught of modernity in  rural settings.

Bhaskar Bhauryal Hudkiya Baul Almora Literature Festival ALF


Book Launch & Discussion: Almora Ki Anna 

Deepa Gupta in conversation with Priyadarshan

Eminent literary critic and journalist, Priyadarshan led the conversation with the author Deepa Gupta on her story collection 'Almora Ki Anna'. It was a very candid conversation. What particularly pleased the audience and the moderator alike was that the author very politely listened to the moderator’s criticism and responded to it readily. The hindi literary world is not known to be usually so generous!


The Living Temples of Kumaon

Sunita Pant Bansal & Romola Butalia in conversation

Mythologist Sunita Pant Bansal took us through an enigmatic  journey across the various spiritual centres of Kumaon located atop the mountains, inside forests and caves, along the riverside and in remote inaccessible areas. She delineated and defined the terms such as  “jagrat mandir” , “dhuni” etc., and the connotation of other sacred spaces e.g., teerthsthans, and places of sadhana, tapasya, dhyana and swadhyaya. In particular, the significance and sanctity of Patal Bhuvaneshwar, known as Moksha Dham its connection with the story of Nala, Damayanti and Rituparna, and Golu Deva, as king and god, to whom the people appeal for nyaya or justice was discussed and explored at length.

Romola Butalia Almora Literature Festival ALF
Sunita Pant Bansal Almora Literature Festival ALF


Basanti Bisht Himanshu Joshi Almora Literature Festival ALF

Heritage on Stage: Deep Dive into the Folk Arts of Uttarakhand             

Basanti Bisht & Himanshu Joshi in conversation with Navin Bisht 

Padma Awardee Basanti Bisht and Himanshu Joshi of Indian Ocean fame took the audience through the length and breadth of Uttarakhand’s cultural heritage and history as they spoke about their respective craft. The legends and history behind the various Jagars and their evolution through the ages was explored by Basanti Bisht while Himanshu Joshi evoked the cultural heritage of Kumaon in this evocative session which was full of many a musical moments!


Indian Poetics, English Literature & Urdu Poetry
Prof. Shrawan Sharma & Dr. Ranu Uniyal in conversation with Prof. Syed Ali Hamid

An enriching and well received session on the aesthetics of poetry in which it was demonstrated how rasa, alanakara, riti, dhvani, vakrokti and auchitya in poetry connect the reader with the poet and vice versa and how both of them undergo aesthetic experience (a state of realization of the Absolute, a state of bliss where all difference crumble down). While Prof Shrawan K Sharma demonstrated this experience by reciting some ghazals, Prof Ranu Uniyal recited her poems from her Hindi and English collections. The session was moderated by Prof Hamid who made the session interesting by his witty interventions.


Vasudha Pant Diwa Bhatt

Mera Jeevan Mera Anubhav: Lok Vigyani Chandrashekhar Lohumi Ki Kahaani

Harihar Lohumi in conversation with Prof. J.C. Bhatt

The book launch of Mera Jeevan Mera Anubhav: Lok Vigyani Chandrshekhar Lohumi Ki Kahaani by Harihar Lohumi was held in the august presence of Dr. Vasudha Pant and Dr. JC Bhatt. The author dedicated his work in the memory of his father who was a folk scientist not by training but by practice, making many a valuable contributions in the field of agricultural innovation. Dr. Vasudha Pant described the scientific thinking of Shri Lohumi  as inspirational for the present generation and advised  them to move forward while doing their respective tasks with dedication and determination. Dr. Diva Bhatt, Dr. Hayat Singh Rawat, Mr. Uday Kiraula and many intellectuals and students were present on this occasion.


Poets of the Fall: Conversations Around Stories and Lyricism 

Syed Ali Hamid, Madhu Raghvendra & Dr. Siddharth Warrier Moderated by Sugandha Das

Siddharth Warrier Madhu Raghvendra Almora Literature Festival ALF

The English poetry session was very engaging with anecdotes from writers on their writing process. The importance and relevance of poetry in today’s time came in for focus. Also, the session  witnessed performance by the featured poets. Poet Madhu highlighted that India has a rich culture of poetry since Vedic times.e There is need to go back into our culture to appreciate and realise that what the western world is now discovering  about mindfulness and  balanced living has always been an integral aspect of the Indian cultural heritage. The multifaceted discussion went forward with Prof Hamid and Dr. Siddharth Warrier reciting their respective poetry and providing an account of their  personal journey in this field .

Himanshu Joshi Almora Literature Festival ALF



Himanshu Joshi

The session with Himanshu Joshi, a legend in his own right, proved to be intimate, absorbing,  and mesmerising for the audience. . The session was devoted to  the musical traditions of the Kumaoni Ramleela, which originated from Almora and spread across Kumaon to  find a mention in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Himanshu Joshi took the audience on an eclectic ride through  the various scenes of the Operatic theatre of the Kumaoni Ramleela, at times  rendering the complex classical compositions effortlessly  in his  mellifluous voice! 

An unforgettable ethereal experience for all music lovers whether religious minded or otherwise!


Regional Voices in the Mainstream  

Manmohan Chaudhary & Deepak Ramola in conversation with Sudarshan Juyal

An enviable panel of cine-maestros hailing from Uttarakhand discussed their work, their journeys and their work in cinema. A range of stories and insights came to the fore in this fascinating session that covered the ever expanding ground from theatre to cinema! 

Nilotpal Mrinal Almora Literature Festival ALF


Almora Ke Ladkon Tumse Yeh Mauka Na Chhute

Nilotpal Mrinal in conversation with Deepa Gupta

Bestselling author and poet Nilotpal Mrinal set the stage on fire in one of the last sessions of the ALF 2023 with his unforgettable compositions in his own rustic yet unique style. “Duniya Aisi Hua Karti Thi” and “Jagat Maati Ka Dhela Re” were some of the select performances that brought the audience to the edge of their seats as the sun set for the last time on the first edition of the ALF .


BK Samant Live in Concert

The final performance of the festival was led by the folk singer and composer BK Samant and his band with rendition of  superhit songs like Binduli, Tu Aeja O Pahad and their cult classic song Thal Ki Bazaara, which brought everyone in the audience to their feet!

BK Samant Meghna Chandra Maan Chaddha Almora Literature Festival ALF
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