We're nearing that time of the year again – Chennai’s most beloved end-of-the-year cultural festival – Margazhi season is fast approaching! Whether you're new to the city or have never gotten a chance to be a part of this iconic music and dance festival, here are four reasons to not miss the Marghazi music season this year. Read on.
Here's Why You Shouldn't Miss Margazhi, Chennai's Most Iconic Cultural Event Of The Year
Dose Of Culture
For a city with a keen appetite for everything art and culture related, the month of Margazhi is everything it could hope for – there’s much music in the air, halls resonate with the sounds of the salangais, and great scholarship on the classical arts abounds. To give you exact numbers, more than 3,000 concerts in 75 sabhas across the city take place over a period of one and a half months without any central governing body. Arguably India’s largest music and dance festival, Margazhi is, legitimately, a jewel in the city’s crown, conducted and consumed uninterruptedly since 1928.
Music & Dance Performances
Sabhas across the city conduct their own festivals over a month, and there’s much on offer. You can choose from Carnatic music performances (vocal and instrumental) from the likes of Bombay Jayashri, or watch starry-eyed as Sanjay Subrahmanyam command the audience with his energy. Tickets may not be easy to procure at the bigger sabhas like the Music Academy, but stage seats for INR 50 will allow you a close-up view of your favourite artists.
Also, make sure you watch a Bharatanatyam performance in Kalakshetra – choose from dance dramas by their repository or solo performances by pioneers of the art form. Longtime loyalists usually prepare for the season well in advance with a list of schedules of their favourite performers. It's quite something with the audience engaging fully, triumphantly whispering when a raga is recognised, and eager rasikas flipping frantically through their 'ready reckoners' attempting to identify the composition being performed.
The concept of the lec-dem, as it is commonly referred to, allows for artistic ideas to be explained through presentations or speeches, as well as demonstrated simultaneously for the audience to understand its intricacies better. These are usually curated, convened and conducted in most sabhas as part of their annual conferences, and some even have a theme. Start off the day with an 8 am lec-dem, run to the canteen for a quick onion rava dosa, jostle with the scores of NRIs who descend upon the city in December to enjoy Chennai’s greatest offering as you wait for your auto or Uber, and move swiftly to your next concert. Sabha-hopping is a must if you want to appear like a regular!
Food is absolutely integral to the Margazhi festival, sometimes even more important than the music itself! Sabha canteens are usually the sites of great joyful annual reunions of friends and family, where laughter and talk are interjected with “bonda irukka?” or “inikki tiffin enna?” Different caterers serve their fare at different sabhas – Gyanambika at Narada Gana Sabha is known for its meals, Mint Padmanabhan’s morkali and Guntur Idli are washed down with a warm, comforting glass of Horlicks, Mountbatten Mani’s innovations (think pineapple and watermelon rasam) are usually the talk of the town, and Meenambiga’s mouthwatering vazhaipoo vadai is just the right combination of soft and crunchy. Of course, absolutely no meal is incomplete without a steaming davara of filter coffee downed to the accompaniment of the strains of music in the background.
Margazhi is incomplete without all the fabulous fashion on display –the rustle of a variety of silks in jewel tones, the occasional glimmer of diamonds, the gentle, musical jingling of anklets, the intoxicating fragrance of jasmine, and the crackle of freshly starched cotton sarees are all as integral to the month as the music and dance itself. Be ready for a feast for the eyes, ears and tastebuds! To join in, ladies, you can also check out these saree brands and grab some eyeballs yourself.