“There are as many stories in India as there are grains of sand.”
So says the landing page of a storytelling festival due to start on 24 February in Udaipur. The three-day event called Udaipur Tales, which seeks to celebrate storytelling as an art, is an addition to the many festivals—from Jaipur to Ranthambore and Alsisar—that have increasingly begun to dot the landscape of Rajasthan.
“We have been working in Udaipur for a while now and have seen much work being done for heritage,” says Sushmita Shekhar, director of Udaipur Tales, and president of NGO called MA—My Anchor Foundation. “But there’s only been work with tangible heritage. Storytelling is an intangible heritage… it is fascinating, especially (when you see it as) an oral tradition that carries history from one age to another,” she adds. Her foundation, which is presenting Udaipur Tales in association with BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is focused on sanitation, and women and child issues.
Through the duration of the festival, a whole range of traditional storytelling practices will be unveiled to audiences at Udaipur Tales through artistes, authors and journalists from various parts of India and the world. This includes, from India, Fouzia, the first and arguably the most popular woman practitioner of Dastangoi, the fabled art of Urdu storytelling; popular Hindi writer and translator Swayam Prakash; journalist Shantanu Guha Ray; Boul singer Madhusudan Samantha; and storyteller and shamanic healer from Eastern Himalayas Koitso Salil Mukhia. International artistes include Liu Jinxiu from China, currently a PhD research scholar attached to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, who will present the story of Mulan the female warrior; and an award-winning Russian folk ensemble called “Russian Beauty”, which will perform folktales through dance, music and lyrical ditties.
The premise of the festival is very similar to the Kathakar International Storytelling Festival in Delhi, which has already seen six iterations here. “With Udaipur Tales, there’s been a conscious effort of bringing in artistes from places with strong storytelling traditions,” says Shekhar. “The aim is also to cover genres like literary storytelling and historical storytelling,” she adds.
While researching to plan Udaipur Tales, Shekhar and her team also met a few members of Rajasthan’s royal families. “We realized that the food in each of their palaces too has many stories to tell,” she says. “Perhaps the stories of Rajasthan’s many royal rasois too will find their way into the next few editions of our festival.”
Udaipur Tales: International Storytelling Festival will be held in Udaipur from 24-26 February. Delegate passes priced at Rs3,000 (for sessions held at Tribute by the Lake); the sessions at Gulabh Bagh are free. For further details, schedule and booking, visit Udaipurtales.in.