New Delhi: This year, the much-anticipated Jaipur Literature Festival will have a special touch of spirituality with an underlying theme of Buddha's influence on the literary. And who better than the Dalai Lama to throw open this discussion.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will grace the festival this year and will share with the attendees his pearls of wisdom and philosophy.

The five-day literary event will discuss through a series of sessions this year the influence of Buddhism on philosophy and literature and how writers view the influence of this ancient religion on their writings.

The festival that hogged much attention last year due to Salman Rushdie's planned visit - that ultimately did not materialise - is scheduled to take place from January 24 to January 28 at its regular venue, the Diggi Palace.

Besides a long list of national and international authors, an added attraction this time will be the Dalai Lama, the festival organisers announced on Monday.

"Literature has played a major role in my life," the spiritual leader said. "Since childhood, reading has been of great importance to me and I am often reminded of the immense kindness of the scholars of the past who translated a vast array of Buddhist literature into Tibetan.

"I look forward to attending the Jaipur Literature Festival and meeting people writing and reading today," he said on his plans to attend the literary jamboree.

Organisers said the Dalai Lama's visit adds a special touch to one of the festival's focus themes of this year – of The Buddha in Literature.

The festival will also be enriched by Buddhist devotional songs. A number of renowned Pakistani authors are also scheduled to attend the festival, despite the recent stiffening of relations on the LoC that have spilled over to the cultural realm.

Authors of the likes of Mohammad Hanif and H M Naqvi from across the border have traditionally drawn significant audiences at the festival each year. Hanif is set to return again this year, so is Nadeem Aslam who has attended the festival earlier.

Jamil Ahmad, the author of the critically acclaimed "The Wandering Falcon" is also scheduled to attend.

The festival in general will have some of its focus on women's issues and Buddhism of course.

A session called "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road" will have discussions between several authors on their experiences with Buddhism and their exploration of the many paths of the Buddha's dharma, while in another session authors like Ajay Navaria and Kancha Ilaiah will share the Dalit perspectives on Buddhism.

"At Jaipur we have a long tradition of studying the confluence of the two great streams of Indian literature and spirituality. Up to now, we have concentrated on the Sufi and Bhakti traditions; now we have the pleasure of wandering through the rich pastures of Buddhist literature.

"The presence of the Dalai Lama is a particular honour for the festival and a delight for me personally," said festival co-director William Dalrymple said.

Among the speakers that will be part of several sessions on the theme of the Buddha are Victor Chan, Karma Ura, Siddiq Wahid, Ranjini Obeyesekere, Nayanjot Lahiri and Benoy Behl.

"Gautama the Buddha's impact on humanity lies beyond religion and theology... Today Buddhism is a way of life for many people around the world. The internal journey of awakening and personal evolution is mirrored in the literature, art and cultural practice of Buddhism.

"Our sessions on 'The Buddha in Literature' are a tribute to the way of seeing and knowing taught by the Buddha," said festival co-director Namita Gokhale said.

Besides, Victor Chan, co-author of The Wisdom of Compassion with the Dalai Lama, will also share his insights on meditative practice and the importance of humour, optimism and forgiveness in a session also to be attended by renowned Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden.


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