Cultural Round-up 2023

Cultural Round-up 2023

Lalit Gupta
The hosting of G 20 Meeting in Jammu and Kashmir provided a unique opportunity to exhibit its market prospects in eco-tourism ventures and cultural assets to the leading global nations. The G-20 also offered a chance to the administration of Jammu & Kashmir to consolidate the benefits resulting from repealing of Article 370.
The Colors of Jammu Kashmir’ conceptualized, designed and directed by Balwant Thakur proved to be an ultimate attraction of the global audiences in the G20 conference held in Kashmir. Padamshree Balwant Thakur, the eminent theatre personality and master designer and presenter trained hundreds of dancers, singers to present scintillating music and dance shows.
In fact, the momentum of showcasing the myriad form of cultural expression has continued all through the year 2023. Led by (PIX) Dr Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, Secretary, Department of Culture, implemented by Bharat Singh, Secretary J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages, in collaboration with the Directorate of Tourism, the unprecedented holding of mega cultural shows in remote areas of Union Territory , has given a boost to otherwise neglected fields of folk arts and crafts.
Along with traditional arts, the revamping of hitherto neglected Kala Kendra, Jammu is likely to make the designated platform a serious place to foster and showcase creative expressions of contemporary visual artists. Before talking about the notable achievers of this year let’s pay homage to the personalities in different fields who have sailed into the sunset. These include:
Krishna Kumari, the eminent Bhakh singer who for more than four decades, remained the artist ambassador of Duggar’s emblematic folk music form.


Gyaneshwar, winner of Sahitya Akademi Award for his Book of poetry, ‘Baddali Kalave’ the renowned Dogri poet, lyricist, children literature writer, will be remembered as an ardent promoter of mother tongue, and regional cultural traditions.


Mushtaq Kak, Sangeet Natak Awardee and founder director of Amateur Theatre Group, Jammu, was one of the pillars of modern theatre in Jammu and Kashmir. A votary of Urdu theatre, he acted in popular movies of Indian Cinema between 2007 and 2022.


Prof Shiv Dev Singh Manhas, as a scholar, teacher of Dogri language, and the Head, Department of Dogri, University of Jammu, he trained scholars as Dogri teachers, researchers and translators. His pivotal research on the ‘Place Names of Duggar’ is a path breaking work on toponymy.


Shaikh Sajjad Poonchi, a poet of Urdu, Gojri, Pahari and Krishna Chandra’s last companion in Poonch, was the leading actor of Ram Leela in Poonch for 70 years. He will be remembered as a promoter of Poonch’s young talent for the past forty year.
Awards and Honours


Padam Shri: Dogri poet and activist, Mohan Singh Slathia for his contribution to literature and education, was conferred with Nation’s fourth highest civilian award.
Sahitya Akademi Award: Vijay Verma, was conferred the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award 2023 for Daun Sadiyan Ek Seer’, his book of Dogri ghazal.

Sahitya Akaemi’s Yuva Puruskar went to

Dheeraj Bismil
for an anthology of plays Ahlada.


Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar went to Balwan Singh Jamooria for his children’s poetry book ‘Kanjkaan’.
Sangeet Natak Akademi Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar was given to ‘Kashmir Files’ fame actor Bhasha Sumbli for Theatre.
Prof Ram Nath Shastri Memorial Award was conferred upon Promila Jamwal for her poetic anthology Phullein Ladoi Raatrani’.
Ramesh Mehta Memorial Award, was given to theatre personality Deepak Kumar.
Pancham Navlekhan Puruskar by Hindi Sahitya Mandal to Rajneesh Gupta for Hindi plays ‘Taandav’ .

J&K State Award






Vijay Singh Sambyal -Life Time Achievement Award, Dhayan Singh, Rajeshwar Singh Raju, and Neelam Sarin- all in Literature, Ravinder Jamwal -Art & Craft. Ministry of Culture’s Senior & Junior Fellowship/ Scholarship were given to Ravinder Jamwal, and

Bhasha Sumbli, Pawan Verma, Brajesh Avtar Sharma, (Natrang) Tarun Charak, Maneesha Rani, Meenakshi Bhagat (Natrang), Radhika Sharma and Vinay Sharma.

Tawi Festival








Adding a novel dimension to the cultural life of Jammu, ‘Tawi Festival of Arts & Ideas’ was held at the iconic Amar Mahal Museum & Library (AMML) Complex, Jammu. Hosted by Hari Tara Trust and conceived by Jyotsana Singh, the three day event consisted of shows and programs on visual and performing arts, literature, environment and INTACH’s heritage exhibition and a mela. The second edition of Tawi Festival is set to be held from March 1st to 4th, 2024.

Baljit Singh Raina

Films and TV Series: Rahat Kazami, son of the soil from Surankote, has made a name as director and writer. His latest film ‘Country of Blind’ is now being invited by the Oscar Library to be a part of the permanent collection at the Library of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. ‘Shakkar’ Masala’, the 32 epiosde series on JIO Cinema, produced by Rahat Kazami, Tariq Khan and Zeda Sadik, with star cast of Jammu actor and also shot in Jammu has also captivated the audience all over..
Produced, director, written and lyrics by Baljit Singh Raina, the Hindi feature film ‘Funtasiyan’, was released simultaneously at Jind (Haryana), Baddi (HP), Ludhiana, Sardulgarh, Batala on last 15th December 2023, and a week later at Jammu. It has garnered good reviews and given a shot in arm for the post-Corona revival of Jolywood.
Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages (JKAACL), led by Bharat Singh, broke the jinx of past few years and organized a continuous series of Seminars, Literary Festivals, Meet the Eminent Programmes, Kavi Darbars of different languages, music and dance programmes. The K L Saigal Hall, Writers Club of the Academy, Jammu, and various parts of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir were abuzz with cultural programs. JKAACL organized a ten days Calligraphy Workshop, National Painter’s Camp, The Academy also held Multilingual Short Story Festivals. Academy also reached out to Bani, Poonch, Ramban, Doda, Bhadarwah, and organized mega cultural shows. It also took up the publication of pending issues of Academy journal Sheeraja and other regular numbers.
Kala Kendra, Jammu: Thanks to Secretary, Dept. of Culture, who with posting of Dr Javed Rahi, as incharge, has paved way for the hitherto neglected Kala Kendra, Jammu to emerge as a coveted serious platform to foster and showcase creative expressions of contemporary visual artists of J&K.
Theatre: Natrang, the leading theatre group of J&K, held more than 100 events in current year which included 52 Sunday theatre plays,and continued it’s regular events like ‘Children Theatre Camps’, ‘Fresher Theatre Workshops’, showcasing of mega theatre show ‘Bawa Jitto’ in Jhiri Mela, ‘Mata Ki Kahani in Navratri Festival, and 30 screenings ‘Gulab Gatha’ it produced plays ‘The Mouse Trap’, ‘Jaal’ and also number of new play productions. Balwant Thakur was honoured by the Department of Education, Government of Kerala and invited to present six presentations in all the state Universities of Kerala.
Rangmanch, Rajouri, organised two days National Drama Festival in the auditorium of Boys Pahari Hostel and inaugural ceremony of the festival was held on Monday in which people from all walks of life took part
Viraj Kala Kendra: Performed Dogri play Shah Sahni, Nukkad Nataks, organised Kavi Goshthis, Achievements of Rajneesh Kumar Gupta, directed and wrote Hindi short movie ‘Teetwal’ . He wrote a long monologue ‘Buddha Ke Pita’ in Hindi language based on the emotional story of King Shudodhan, father of Mahatma Buddha.
Sudhir Mahjan, veteran theatre director, organised two theatre festivals. Under his direction, senior actor J R Sharma gave stellar performances in shows of the play ‘Bapu’ at Jammu and Srinagar. Samooh Theatre Group also held theatre workshops at different places and at Abhinav, Commerce College, and Degree college poonch , theatre and dance workshops and staged Nukkad Nataks. Raj Kumar Behrupia—a Vocalist, TV and Radio newscaster, actor, paper reader, anchor/host—had a busy calendar. His impressive multiple skills were visible in his recitals at snageet sandhyas, vocal and Harmonium support at dance recitals, hosting poetic symposia and music and cultural programs, and reading papers during book release functions. Usha Slathia, the theatre actor, made her presence felt with good acting in the JKAACL Theatre festival.
Translation: This year’s landmark translation is Dogri Translation of The Indian Constitution by a team composed of Prof. Archana Kesar, Prakash Premi, Yash Pal Nirmal and Nirmal Vikram, Dogri,and legal expert, Prof. Arvind Jasrotia.
Ace translator Suman Sharma translated Shivdev Singh’s Dogri play, for JKAACL’s Sheeraja, and Khalid Hussain’s Punjabi short story Ishq Malangi, and Dogri poems of Lalit Magotra for Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature. Manoj Sheri’s Sharda: The Fountain Head Of Kashmir Civilization, an English translation of Abdul Ghani’s Udru book, a well-researched attempt to present the cultural evolution of Sharada, enumerate architecture, University and the Sharada script.
New Books in Hindi released in this year include Manoj Sharma’s ‘Yeh Diyoon Mein Tel Dalne kas Samey Hai. Santosh Sangra,Koham (Hindi)–Manhole (Dogri) Rajeshwar Singh ‘ Raju’s’ four new books include Tawi Speaks, Essays in English, Astitva, Hindi, Shabdon Ki Shatranj , Hindi short stories, and Khtitiz Paas Hai Nahin Bhi Hindi poetry. Number of books by Kashmiri writers were released such as Prof. Amar Malmohi’s ‘Ban Tsen Te Bawath, Mk Santoshi’s – My poetry collection Gantantra Mein Goureyia, appeared this year, Agni Shekhar’s Hindi translation of selected works of Dinanatrh Nadim was published by Sahitya Akedemi, Kshma Kaul’s new anthology of poetry, ‘Udas Log’ was released, and her novel Daradpur was translated into English by Daleep Kumar Kaul.
Dogri Books: New books in Dogri: Om Goswami’s ‘Dogri Kavita Di Sunn Khanneyi (The Gold Mine of Dogri Poetry), is an important piece of academic research that traces the origin of Dogri language to 10th -11th century. Other books are Shambhu Nath payasa–Nayaney Badey Sayaney, Inder Jeet Kesar’s Novel Putliyan, Santosh Sangra’s Main Hole. Yash Pal Nirmal, released five books namely Bitti Tolla, Tatti Tawi Da Sach, Dogri Ramayan, Chete Pita De. Dogri Translation of Indian Constitution (Co-Translator) was published. Yash Pal Nirmal was awarded with Pt. Harprasad Pathak Memorial Children Literature Award, for his book “Diary” published by the National Book Trust, New Delhi, and awarded with the Bal Vatika Award 2023 by Bal Vatika, Bhilwara ( Rajasthan) for his significant contribution in the field of children literature. He also organized a number of literary programs under the banner of Jammu Kashmir Hindi Academy and Dogri Bhasha Academy, Jammu.
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, with Dogri’s eminent poet Mohan Singh, as the Convenor of Dogri Advisory Board, number of Dogri poets such as Darshan Darshi, Sushil Begana, Bishan Singh Dardi, Om Vidyarathi, Abhishap, participated respectively in International Poetry Day Celebrations, and online Dogri-Telgu, and Dogri- Sindhi Poetry programs. Akademi also organized Katha Sandhi with Girdhari Lal Rakhi, and Kavi Sandhi with Ashok Angurana.
Udhampur based ‘Meri Mitra Mandli: Ek Sahitiyik Kranti’, led by Surjit Hosh Badsali, held Goshthis, Mitra Sandhis, literary workshops. It published books; Prof. Tara Nath’s ‘Tara Dohavali’ (Dogri Dohas), Vipan Upadhyay’s Dogri stories-‘Buddha Amb’ and Sham Lal Agnihotri’s children’s poetry collection,’Furt Galehari’. The NGO distributed prizes to winners of ‘Bholiyan Shaklan Mitthe Bol’ (Dogri poetry recitation competition for young teens) and also started a virtual mode program ‘Bal Kavi Sammelan’.
Hindi Sahitya Mandal, Jammu, headed by senior writer Chanchal Dogra, presented Hindi Sahitya Mandal Navkekhan Tej Puraskar and Ramesh Mehta Smriti Puraskar, releasd special issue of Madhurima based on four part-memoirs about the Vatsal Nidhi Writers Camp 1985 held at Mansar. Mandal released the books Sofia Jangral.
Urdu: Spearheading the teaching of Urdu language and literature research, under leadership of Prof Ryaz Ahmed, the Department of Urdu , University of Jammu organized various literary programmes like International / National Seminars , Conferences, Book release functions , Mushaires , Urdu Day celebration etc . In these programmes the renowned scholars, poets, writers from the Urdu world were invited. Anjum-Farog-e-Urdu, the Jammu based NGO other than weekly meetings of Urdu writers, poets, held a program in memory of Jammu’s master poet Arsh Sehbai. Punjabi Sahitik Sabha (PSS), R S Pura conducted Punjabi literary meetings, Kavi Darbars and Seminar regularly during the year.
Visual Arts: Mandated to train young talent in Music and Visual Arts, Institute of Music and Fine Arts, with Shohaib Malik as principal, other than imparting regular professional training, the music and visual arts student participated in various festivals and programs like Utsah, Panch Pran, ‘Sangeet Rang Tarang – Varshik Utsav, and won accolades. Kathak Guru Priya Dutta’s student’s performances in public and auspicious spaces won appreciation. One day workshop on ‘ Paramparik Bandishon ka Praroop’ by eminent artist Pt. Hement Pendse, in which various bandishes of ragas were demonstrated, was one of the highlights.
Individual Artists
Milan Sharma’s paintings were exhibited at India Art Fair, New Delhi, and in Four Female Artists show HER by Gallery Art Explore, New Delhi. Jasleen Singh sculptor attended an International Art event at Shanghai in China. Jang Varman Singh, senior artist, participated in a number of painting camps and workshops. K K Gandhi, who has been nominated as Advisor to IAFA Centennial Celebrations for International Art Promotion, continued to attract spectators with his live paintings of natural landscapes made alive with human characters and a benign faunal species. He held shows and attended painters camps, including solo shows during art residency in Austria. Sunanda Khajuria, daughter of the soil, presently Wuhan, China, is showcasing her paintings in art shows such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Japan and the Art Heritage Art Gallery in Delhi, as well as other exhibitions in China. She has also actively participated in workshops and academic research conferences in Thailand and India, Sunanda’s work is now set to be showcased at the NADA Art Fair 2023 in Miami, Florida, USA. Amit Slathia, Delhi based Dogra artist’s works are a poignant critique of how technology is changing our lifestyle, is considered as a happening young painter.
Manoj Chopra, was ranked second in the National level competition under the theme LIfe Style for Environment, organised by Cartoon Watch in association with Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board. Chander Shekhar, earned his name in International Platform graphic designing with many big films. He design the “G-20 summit 2023” , held in Kashmir, and also for organizing the “BRICS conference in South” Africa, 36th Inter University Youth Festival “Antarnaad” “Tawi Festival 2023”, and solo show of his cartoons 2023 in Katra and in “Voice of Duggar 2023”.
Dogra Art Museum, the vanguard of art, culture and heritage of Dogra pride, organized a number of events such as a special exhibition on paintings on World Heritage Day (18 April), special exhibition on Doga folk art, on International Museum Day (18 May), special exhibition on rare archival documents was organized on World Heritage Week (19th-25th November), Series of lectures on Manuscriptology. Under the scheme for revival, restoration, preservation and maintenance of architecture and heritage in J&K, out of the 18 heritage sites selected in Jammu province,restoration work has been completed in 12 of these locations so far. The crowning glory of the Museum has been the acquisition of two 12th cent. ancient sculptures from Bhour Camp area, Jammu.
Shashvat Art Gallery, Museum & Manuscript Library, (MCC) Jammu, under initiative of Suresh Abrol, organized/participated in about ten Workshop/Utsav/Exhibition/Culture events, awareness programs on “Preventive Conservation of Manuscripts”. The Gallery participated with their collection of early 19th century Basohli Miniature paintings entitled “Ramayana, along with Dogra and Tribal Jewellery Ornaments at the festival at Basohli.
Anil Paba’s Udhampur based private Amar Santosh Museum, displayed his rare artifacts from Palaeolithic to Neolithic culture up to Dogra culture at Gulshan Ground Jammu and won appreciation of Dr Jitendra Singh MoS, who honoured Anil Pabha in recognition of his work in the field of Art, Culture. Anil Paba was also conferred with Rashtriya Prerna Award 2023 in the category of Archaeology by Indian Book of Star Records, at Indore.
Kirpal Singh, the freelance conservator, started a series of folder publications on Dogra festivals, rituals and customs, such as Rade, SPS Museum.He also set up a small library with a collection of about 1000 books on heritage and conservation and open only for students.
Himalayan Heritage Museum (H.H.M), run by Inder Singh, also organized programs on the occasion of World Heritage day, which attracted more than 400 students who enjoyed looking at rare art works and metal objects.

Talented Pahari and Punjabi poet Swami Anterneerav, got international recognition as the first ever Punjabi poet who represented Punjabi in Chair Poetry’s international poetry festival in Kolkata.