From photo exhibition, storytelling sessions, panel discussions, to hands-on workshops, and more

Photo exhibition

Covering the story of a river as told through images and installations, the photo exhibition was at the very heart of the event. The panels depicted river basins through the eyes of individuals who collaborated with us from different parts of India.

Young students presented narratives using an array of mobile and professional cameras and NGO professionals warmly shared large repositories on conserving rivers. We attempted to present unique stories – of different rivers and of civilisations that sprung around them.

In this narrative, we imagined the stories that nature embraces, ones that shed shallow impositions of individuality and separation, for the rivers, it is all connected.

This photo exhibition, in some sense, was a call for us to take a step back and live within stories of threats, culture, biodiversity, conflicts, and positivity.

We felt that these transitions from stories of separation to hope were necessary for these stories gave us something to hold on to and to look forward to, from within both despair and hope.

Talks, workshops, and panel discussions

A series of talks and workshops were planned that invited practitioners, academics, students, and activists into a common forum. People from different backgrounds and affiliations came together not only to talk about life along rivers but also to run workshops that were unique in their approach to addressing pressing issues.

There were talks on the experience of walking along rivers, on conflicts that plague our rivers, on the spiritual importance of rivers, on ancestral stories, on biodiversity and threats, on ongoing, past, and future community-based conservation stories, on the art of being an eco journalist and so on.

The workshops were built from the vision of the festival as we made an attempt to include rivers in all our discourses.


Folktales explore the symbiotic relationship between humans and rivers. Bhatiyali singers from Cooch-Behar district of West Bengal presented narratives of boatmen and communities that live along the rivers in Bengal. Bhatiyali is a river song sung by boatmen going down the streams of the river. The word Bhatiyali comes from bhata’ meaning ebb or downstream.

Bhatiyali folktales performances were envisioned to revive stories and lives of people around rivers in Bengal. We went back in time and listened to tales found along riverbeds, love, and loss hidden in the description of boats, flowing waters and the lonely boatman, and many more stories sung by boatmen.

Baul Singers count Birbhum district of West Bengal as a cultural melting pot. The beauty of Baul is that many songs originate near the Ajay River in Bengal. They presented the mystic narrative of Sufism and Vaishnavism and connected the flowing nature of the river with the human body, mind, and soul. 

Their poetry, music, and dance are devoted to finding humankind’s connection with nature. They are admired for their freedom from conventional ways of living and telling stories. Baul singers brought seven art forms like Bhadugaan on traditions of Bengal, Tusugaan on harvest season of Bengal to take us back in time and see the interconnectedness of rivers with humans in each and every aspect of their living and traditions.

Minket lepcha and a group of activists from different northeastern states came to share stories of communities living along rivers in Mizoram, Sikkim, Darjeeling Hills, and Arunachal Pradesh. Lepcha folk tales use stories to educate young generations on how to connect with rivers and nature. Their lyrical story narration forms provide experiential learning around rivers.

Along with these creative groups, we were also accompanied by a team of activists and singers narrating stories of Narmada Bachao Andolan. We listened to stories of the river and how folklore played a prominent part in the decades-long struggle. Jugalbandi sessions celebrated the stories of rivers and their people across different parts of India. 

Rivers of Life festival provided a platform to enjoy the intertwining of the cultural association of people with rivers and celebrate the unique bond with water.

Schools, colleges and innumerable activities

Seeds of environmental awareness and sustainable lifestyle choices are effective when sown at a young age. They contribute to the development of responsible individuals. Yet, the disconnect that exists between the younger generation and rivers is real. 

How many students in urban cities are lucky enough to be residing or regularly visiting beautiful rivers? How many get a chance to observe and learn about riverine ecosystems, its interconnections, the impact of human interventions on these rivers?

Rivers of Life was conceptualised with high school children and college youth as the focus audience. Using knowledge-sharing exercises on rivers amongst urban children, we hope to create more awareness amongst the next generation of citizens.

Our speakers

  • Alyen Foning- Artist, Designer and Independent Researcher, Kalimpong
  • Anthony Acciavatti – Academic, Author, Ganga: Water Machine
  • Anoop Anjukunnu — Kerala University of Fisheries & Ocean Studies
  • Arati Bisth — Radio Henvalvaani, Chamba
  • Ashish Kothari – Kalpavriksh, Pune
  • Ashok Biswal – The Nature Conservancy, Bhopal
  • Avli Verma – Manthan Abhyayan Kendra, Pune
  • Chanchal Singha Roy – National Awardee Teacher, Middle Andamans
  • Chhaya Namchu — Climate Adaptation Researcher, Darjeeling
  • Dencin Rons Thampy: Mahseer Trust, Bengaluru
  • Eklavya Prasad – Megh Pyne Abhiyan, Patna
  • Gopakumar Menon: River Otter Conservancy, Bengaluru
  • Himashu Thakker — SANDRP, Delhi
  • India Rivers Forum, Delhi
  • Jason Gerard: Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun
  • Jayanta Bandhopadhyay — ORF, Kolkata
  • Joy KJ – Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management, Pune
  • Kewal Singh – Narmada Bachao Andolan, Barwani
  • Lal Thanmawii — Full time student, Mizoram
  • Linyam — Intern
  • Madhushri Mudke: ATREE, Bengaluru
  • Manju Vasudevan — River Resource Centre, Chalakudy 
  • Mansee Bal Bhargava – Educator, Ahmedabad
  • Minket Lepcha – Storyteller of ancestral stories on nature, Darjeeling
  • Nandini Oza – Narmada Oral History, Pune
  • Narender Pani — National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru
  • Neha Bhadbhade – Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management, Pune
  • Nidhi Jamwal – Gaon Connection, Delhi
  • Nirmala Gowda:, Bengaluru
  • Prakash Sanjeevi: Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai
  • Raj Bhagat Palanichamy: World Resources Institute — India, Chennai
  • Ravi Ghosai — Folktales, Uttarakhand
  • Rehmat — Narmada Bachao Andolan, Maharashtra
  • Sabyasachi Patra – CMS Vatavaran, Delhi
  • Samir Sinha – Wildlife Trust of India, Noida
  • Shailaja Deshpande – Jeevatnadi, Pune
  • Shristee Bajpai – Kalpavriksh, Pune
  • Shruti Paripatyadar: Pune, Sunil C: Bengaluru
  • Siddharth Agarwal – Veditum India, Kolkata
  • Simasanliu Abonmai — An enthusiast for a change through ethnopoetry, Arunachal
  • Sneha Dharwadkar: Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises of India; Oklahoma
  • Steve Lockett; Mahseer Trust, London
  • Subrat Behera; Wildlife Trust of India, Bihar
  • Vidyadhar Atkore – Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology, Coimbatore
  • Yashas: Intern