From modest beginnings in 2006, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. More than 100,000 people attend hundreds of sessions over the festival's five day duration. Such an influx of people means that it's important to start planning your trip a couple of months in advance, in order to arrange convenient accommodations and save on flights. Here's all the information you'll need.
When is the Festival Held?
In late January each year. In 2020, it will be on from January 23-27.
Where is the Festival Held?
At the historic Diggi Palace hotel. The hotel is located in Sangram Colony, Ashok Nagar, which is just off M.I. Road, around 10 minutes walk from the Old City of Jaipur. As Diggi Palace and its venues were overflowing in 2012, the music stage has been shifted to a different venue at The Clarks Amer lawns (around 15 minutes drive south of Diggi Palace). The previous music venue has been renamed "Char Bagh" and has been converted to host literary sessions that were being held in Durbar Hall at Diggi Palace. This has expanded the capacity by another 5,000 people per hour. Further venues including the Hawa Mahal and Amber Fort have also been added.
What Happens at the Festival?
Both Indian authors as well as those from abroad appear at the festival. The sessions consist of readings, discussions, and questions and answers. It's possible to buy the authors' books and get them signed. In addition, there's a range of stalls selling everything from food to handicrafts. There's also an outdoor lounge bar, for relaxing. Music performances are held in the evenings, after the literary sessions are over. In recent years, the festival has turned into quite a fashionable occasion, and attracts plenty of socialites from Delhi and Jaipur.
Jaipur BookMark, a platform for publishing professionals from India and around the world, was launched in 2014 and runs alongside the festival at Diggi Palace. It provides an opportunity for publishers, literary agents, translation agencies, and writers to meet and discuss business deals.
The main focus of the festival has been on gender equity, science, the scientific temper, speculative fiction, artificial intelligence and what the future might hold for the planet earth.
In 2019, 250 speakers attended the Jaipur Literature Festival. The list included two Pulitzer Prize winners: Andrew Sean Greer (who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his satirical novel Less, about a middle-aged gay writer on a worldwide literary tour of self-discovery) and Colson Whitehead (who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his gripping novel The Underground Railroad, about the life of a young girl who escaped being enslaved in the 1850s).
Other speakers have included Alexander McCall Smith, Amin Jaffer, André Aciman, Anish Kapoor, Anuradha Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Donna Zuckerberg, Germaine Greer, Hari Kunzru (acclaimed British novelist and journalist), Jeremy Paxman, Jon Lee Anderson (acclaimed for his portraits of politicians), Juergen Boos (President and CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair), Manisha Koirala (actress who recently returned to the screen after a transformative fight against ovarian cancer), Marc Quinn, Markus Zusak (international bestselling author of The Book Thief), Molly Crabapple, N.S. Madhavan (Malayalam fiction-writer and columnist), Narendra Kohli (playwright and satirist), NoViolet Bulawayo, Perumal Murugan (Tamil author, scholar and literary chronicler), Priyamvada Natarajan (astrophysicist and Professor at Yale), Rom Whitaker, Rupert Everett, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Tawfiq E. Chowdhury (adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh), Uday Prakash (one of the few Indian language writers whose work has been widely translated), Upamanyu Chatterjee (former civil servant and author of six novels), and Vikram Chandra.
The second lot of speakers included more courageous and powerful women with inspirational journeys. One of them was Mithali Raj, cricket captain and sportswoman, who discussed her journey to the top and the challenges she faced as recounted in her recent autobiography. In addition, Sohaila Abdulali discussed rape and the silence around it. She shared her story about being gang-raped as a teenager and also talked about her latest book that reached out to those affected by rape.
Keep an eye on the festival website for the announcement of the 2020 speakers.
How to Get to Jaipur
- Popular Trains from Delhi to Jaipur.
- By road, it takes around six hours to drive from Delhi to Jaipur.
- Check the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation bus timetable for buses to Jaipur from various locations.
- Search and book private buses online through Red Bus.
Where to Stay for the Jaipur Literature Festival
You can't get more convenient than staying at Diggi Palace, where the festival takes place. The hotel has 31 rooms and 39 suites. However, room rates are priced around 19,000 rupees per night. If this is outside your budget and you're looking for somewhere cheaper, the quiet residential district of Bani Park is an excellent alternative.
Bani Park is located around 4 kilometers west of Diggi Palace. There are plenty of characterful accommodations to choose from there, for all budgets. Many have small swimming pools, although the weather will be a bit too cool to swim. Notable ones include:
- Anuraag Villa -- one of the best budget hotels in Jaipur, it has a tranquil back garden complete with huge Buddha statue. I stayed here and it was delightful. Room rates start from 1,500 rupees per night for a double.
- Madhuban -- one of the best mid-range hotels in Jaipur, the highlights are the beautiful frescoes on the walls and rooms decorated with traditional Rajasthani furniture. Room rates start from 3,200 rupees a night for a double.
- Umaid Bhawan -- another atmospheric, traditional-style building with carved balconies, attractive courtyards, open terraces, lovely garden, and rooms with antique furnishings. Rates are around 6,000 rupees per night.
- Dera Rawatsar -- a family managed, impeccable boutique hotel with 16 rooms. It's been carefully renovated to amalgamate the past era with modern amenities, including a swimming pool. Expect to pay around 4,400 rupees a night for a room.
- Shahpura House -- owned by Shekhawat Rajputs, it's built in elaborate regal style. There are both poolside and terrace restaurants, and even a durbar hall with massive chandelier. Room rates start from 7,000 rupees per night.
If you'd prefer something a little more upmarket, the Radisson Jaipur City Center on M.I. Road is a good option for about 8,000 rupees per night.
Or, if you really want to splash out and have memorable stay, head straight to the opulent Taj Rambagh Palace. It's Jaipur's most magnificent palace hotel and was home to the royal family for over 30 years. It can be found among 47 acres of gardens a short distance south of Diggi Palace. Expect to pay around 70,000 rupees per night for a double room.
Not far away from Rambagh Palace is Narain Niwas Palace hotel. Room rates start from around 8,000 rupees per night for this grand old heritage hotel. One of the 8 Jaipur Shops You Shouldn't Miss is located here.
Alternatively, you may want to check out the official festival hotels. The benefit of staying at one of these hotels is that you can take the shuttle bus from the hotel to the festival venues. A Shuttle Bus Day Pass costs 1,500 rupees.
More Accommodation Options
Book Through a Travel and Tour Operator
Alternatively, if you're not comfortable making travel arrangements yourself, V Care Tours is a reputable inbound tour operator that's associated with the festival, and has some of the best rates for quality hotels and car hire.
Tickets and Registration
Registration for the festival is compulsory, and can be done on the festival's website, or in person. You can either register for General Entry or as a Delegate.
- General Entry -- provides free entry to all sessions at the festival.
- Delegate Entry -- provides full entry to the festival, private sessions, access to Delegate Lounge, lunch and dinner (unlimited buffet food and alcohol), cocktail evening, and music events. The cost is 6,300 rupees per day up to 23,800 rupees for five days.
Which option to choose?
If you're keen on meeting and socializing with authors and other important people, many of whom you'll find at the lunches and dinners, you'll need to become a Delegate. Otherwise, if you're simply interested in attending the literary sessions, General Entry will be enough.
The nightly music events are ticketed for those who aren't delegates. Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue, and cost between around 500 rupees
Sessions and Venues
The sessions at the festival are spread out over a number of venues of varying sizes at Diggi Palace, with the largest being the Front Lawns. You can get a complimentary event program at the festival or on the festival's website.
There are two main ways of attending the sessions. You can either wander from session to session depending on what interests you, or plan the sessions you want to attend in advance.
Do note, however, that the venues have become extremely crowded. In order to get a seat you'll have to arrive up to 30 minutes early, depending on how popular the session is.
What to Wear
Dress is casual. Although days will be warm and sunny, the night time winter chill starts setting in around 5:30 p.m. It is cold, so make sure you bring jackets and scarves.