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Here’s what to expect at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2020

The 13th edition of the ‘Greatest Literary Show on Earth’ – The Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 will take place at the iconic Diggi Palace from 23rd– 27th January, featuring over 300 speakers for 20 countries and 35 languages. Whether you have attended JLF before or this is your first time – this is one festival that never fails to overwhelm. Here is some help navigating the festival to ensure you don’t miss what’s important.  

Cross over from the security gates and stand at the colourful central atrium that directs you to each of the stages. This is best place for selfies if you can dodge the crowds that have the same idea. From there on, its festival time. 

At Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 this year you can 

Hear some great literary minds speak: 

Shashi Tharoor and Pavan Varma in conversation with Sreenivasan Jain

Coming from a range of diverse fields, there will be several stimulating talks that you can attend. Eminent speakers such as recipient of the 2010 Man Booker Prize Howard Jacobson, Pulitzer-winning authors Stephen Greenblatt and Dexter Filkins, celebrated culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert (of ‘Eat Pray Love’). Shashi Tharoor who recently won the Sahitya Akademi Award in English for his book ‘An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India’ will be on several panels. You also can hear from women who have reported from the front lines of war like Åsne Seierstad and Lindsey HilsumAlso present will be Francesca Cartier discussing her book ‘The Cartiers’ 

‘Behind the stories’ with Oscar-winning lyricist Gulzar

This year, the Festival host speakers from the vast canvas of Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Nagamese, Oriya, PrakritRajasthani, Sanskrit, Santhali, Tamil and Urdu writing. The programme explores the magnificent legacy of these languages while examining contemporary trends in writing 

Listen to some soul-stirring music:

Music sessions with Barnali Chattopadhya

Each day’s sessions open with music sessions by well-known performers. Listen to Nirali Karthikwell-known Hindustani Classical Vocalist on Day 1. Veena artist Saraswathi Rajagopalan open Day 2. January 25th, Day 3 has Trayama music ensemble made up of classical musicians BC Manjunath, Praveen D. Rao and Varijashree VenugopalSunday, Republic Day has composer Supriya Nagarajanthe founding member and CEO of Manasamitra, a UK-based arts organisation taking over the stage. The final day has sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee coming on.  

Indie rock band Indian Ocean

When at JLF

  • Always have your participant badge on you (you get this at the registration desk. There are separate counters for those who have registered online for free. At the venue, you will have to pay a small fee once past the registration date. 
  • Pick a copy of the schedule and mark out the sessions you want to attend for the day. 
  • The best way to attend overlapping sessions is to head out to the next venue half way through the Q&A sessions.  
  • When popular celebrities (think Bollywood) personalities come in, the crowds get intense and sometimes gates to the venue may be closed. If you are claustrophobic, stay at the periphery, close to the gates.  
  • Make sure to find the chai and Rajasthani snacks counter that is usually at the Front Lawns venue. You can thank us later.  
  • The food counters are usually packed to the gills, do carry a snack in your bag to tide you over.  
  • Take some time walk around the many stalls that set up shop during the festival – you will find a lot of local art, crafts, fashion, food and more here.  
  • Head on to the bookstore at the end of all the sessions you attend. It helps you make a better choice.  
  • Most cab service providers offer a special discount code for trips to and from the venue of JLF, going up to 50%. Make sure to check at their respective counters set up at the gate.  

When you take a break from the sessions:

  • As part of the literary fest is the Jaipur Music Stage, which organizes several musical shows across the city, which you can book tickets for and head out to.  
  • Get into tourist mode and visit Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. Once done with Hawa Mahal, grab a kullad chai at the Wind View café and take in the views. Both night and day are spectacular. 
  • Have a Lassi at Lassiwala on MI Road; the Kheema Bhaati at Handi Restaurant and the Junglee and Laal Maas at Spice Court near Civil Lines.  
  • Try and visit the Amber Palace for the sound and light show in the evenings. Be sure to take warm clothes with you.  
  • Walk around Hawa Mahal Bazar for Jooties and DupattasJohari and Tripolia Bazaars for jewellery, particularly Kundan. Chandpole Bazaar for Rajasthani marble crafts and make sure to pick up some Blue Pottery as well 
  • Call in advance and ask for a tour of the Jaipur Rugs centre It’s worth the trip. 

 All images: Courtesy previous JLF events 

Ruth Dsouza Prabhu

Ruth is an independent journalist based in Bangalore. Always in pursuit of the next story that interests her, loves her food and drink, bookworm and a sucker for sunsets and airplane journeys.