New Delhi, December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2007

Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs; Ministry of Culture; the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore; Sangeet Natak Akademi; and the cultural organisations and Governments of the SAARC countries, organized the first-ever SAARC Folklore Festival on December 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, 2007.

The Festival was formally Inaugurated on December 5, in a unique way befitting the occasion, by Vasumally Pothily, a member of the ancient and dying tribe of the Todas from the Nilgiris, by breaking a coconut.

She was presented with shawls by the chief guest Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India, and a painter and poet, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, the doyen of cultural studies and eminent and rare research scholar of cultural evolution in the SAARC region, and Ajeet Cour, the Founder President of FOSWAL, and eminent Punjabi writer.


The Inaugural event of the Festival took place at the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, the thirty four year old parent organization, which has a Multi-Cultural Centre at 4/6, Siri Fort Institutional Area, New Delhi, with two large Art Galleries, a Library and Reading Room; two Museums of Rare Ancient Miniatures and Tribal Arts-Crafts; an International Centre for Women's Literature; an Amphitheatre and a Conference Hall for Literary Gatherings, Music Concerts, Plays, Dance Performances,Seminars, Book Release Functions, Discussions and Group Workshops; Research Centre for Visual Arts and Literature : not only of India but of all the eight SAARC countries; a SAARC Library; Library and Research-Documentation Centre of the writings of women and dalits and tribals;


Ms. Vasumally Pothily, the tribal belonging to the Toda Tribe from the Nilgiri Hills, breaking the ceremonial coconut for the Inauguration

Bharatnatyam / Kathak Hall; space and infrastructure for Painting Classes, Art Pottery and Sculpture Classes; infrastructure for Aesthetic Awareness Lectures; free space for Theatre and Dance Rehearsals; and a Women's Empowerment Centre : for providing education and vocational skills to economically marginalised women living in slums and urban villages.



The roots of all cultures lie in their oral lore—in the form of folk songs, folk tales, folk dances, folk theatre and folk paintings, besides folk cosmologies, theologies, belief systems and folk religions, folk myths and legends, festivals and rituals that together constitute folk knowledge systems which are as ancient as the stars and the planet, and folk skills that once formed the foundations of people's material lives. They represent the childhood of humanity, and to know them is as important as knowing one another's childhood to cultivate abiding friendships.

Soul of the people lies and palpitates in their folklore.

It is in this context that research on folklore, exchanging notes, viewing one another's folk performances and listening to one another's songs and tales, and collecting, codifying, classifying and publishing them become extremely important for cultivating lasting relationships among the countries of South Asia.

The work acquires urgency because in the whirlwind of globalization, the indigenous knowledges are being blown away, historical and cultural memories contained in our folklore are being sniffed out, rich traditions of self expression are fading away!


Ajeet Cour welcomes the guests in the Inaugural Session in the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature


Celebrating the vision : Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan and Ajeet Cour

In 1984, the folklorist A.K. Ramanujan wrote a report on the state of the arts in India which stated that he was overwhelmed by the rage he found "all over India for recording, classifying, archiving folklore, doing it almost as if in a panic fear that it would all be lost if every scrap is not held down and preserved". He recommended setting up networks and consortia of scholars and practitioners of folklore, and promote the practice of regional ethnographies.

Our folk culture determines our identity : the sum total of our beliefs, attitudes and habits, of our historical and existential memories. Our oral traditions, our folk songs and folk tales tell the tale of the way our civilization has evolved, of our social-religious-political evolution, of our myths and legends, of our beliefs and our relationship with our surroundings, of the influence our environment and ecology have on us, of our relationship with our earth and sky, with birds and animals, with plants and trees, with rivers and forests, with our oceans and myriad forms of life in the depths of oceans, with the changing seasons, and with nature's bounties and furies, and how we deal with them, and how not to tilt the delicate balance between man and the ecology around him.

Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature had been dreaming of exploring the intertwined roots of our cultural connectivity in the SAARC region through its folklore, ever since its Founder President Ajeet Cour initiated the dialogue between writers and intellectuals of neighbouring countries in 1987, and particularly since our FOSWAL took shape in the year 2000.

The Foundation has eventually launched this extremely important project with the FIRST-EVER SAARC FOLKLORE FESTIVAL, in the first and second weeks of December 2007.


Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, wife of the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, watching the Folk Performances, along with Ajeet Cour, Dr. Nihal Rodrigo, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka, and Arpana Caur, the eminent painter

Background work involved years of deliberations and hard labour by a team of renowned folklore scholars and committed comrades of our Foundation.

The Festival had two sections, running simultaneously : a serious Academic Seminar, with over fifty scholars and researchers of folklore from all over the SAARC region.