Jaipur Literature Festival brings a diverse world of ideas to Boulder
When local psychotherapist Jessie Friedman and her husband were traveling in India a few years ago, they came across a free literary festival in Jaipur, Rajasthan, featuring authors of the highest caliber.
The couple were bowled over by appearances from literary titans like Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Kiran Desai, but Friedman says the real magic was in the crackling intellectual energy that ran through the audience.
“The excitement, the passion and the joy that was there,” Friedman says. “It was like, ‘This is amazing. What’s going on here?’
The faces of the crowd of thousands were smiling, peaceful, “as if they had discovered something not common in their daily experience – like finding water in the desert”.
And on the long drive back to the Front Range, Friedman couldn’t forget it.
“I decided I had to bring this event to Boulder,” she says.
So Friedman contacted Sanjoy Roy, general manager of Teamwork Arts and producer of the festival. He visited Boulder on a sunny summer day, and “he got it”.
“He saw what Boulder is – he understood. He found the people incredibly well-educated,” Friedman says. “Although he noted that there were a lot of white people.”
But Boulder fit Roy’s vision of what makes a good festival town. It was walkable and less than an hour from an international airport, for one thing, and the surrounding natural beauty spoke for itself. So in 2015, Boulder became the first location to host JLF in the United States.
The Jaipur Festival in India has been around since 2006 and bills itself as the largest free literary festival in the world. Since expanding a few years after its inception, events have taken place in London and Adelaide, Australia, and further US iterations have taken place this year in New York and Houston.
“Great joy, great celebration”
Someone attending the Jaipur Literature Festival for the first time should expect to be exposed to what Friedman calls “profound intelligence and knowledge with truly eloquent articulation.”
“They will experience a range of diverse viewpoints and perspectives from places around the world and from many different cultures,” she says. “They should expect a lot of intentional sharing of freedom of speech and freedom of thought. They should expect great joy, great celebration and the incredible experience of being a human community.
As for the unmissable sessions of the festival, Friedman highlights the appearance of the journalist and former Indian statesman Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The 77-year-old will talk about the letters the elder Gandhi wrote to his son Devadas, recently collected in his co-authored book burning love.
“We are the last people to have the opportunity to speak to someone who naturally knew [Mahatma] Gandhi,” says Friedman. “I just get goosebumps when I say that.”
Additionally, journalist Julian Rubinstein will talk about his documentary Hollybased on his 2021 book of the same name, which depicts the multi-generational story of a northeast Denver community, exploring the history of gang violence and the busting of activist Terrance Roberts.
“It’s a story of justice and inequity that’s mind-blowing in terms of the backstory and what’s going on in the justice system,” Friedman says.
Although the festival is free, Friedman encourages people to attend the festival’s fundraising gala in eTown (1535 Spruce St.) on Friday nights, which is a ticketed event starting at $80.
In addition to dinner and drinks, the evening will feature the Colorado premiere of the documentary Ahimsa-Gandhi: The power of the helplessa film by Ramesh Sharma on the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and his message of non-violence, with opening remarks by Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
The Jaipur Literature Festival—Colorado takes place September 16-18 at the main branch of the Boulder Public Library. The event is free. To purchase tickets for the benefit gala, visit: