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Here's Why You Shouldn't Miss Margazhi, Chennai's Most Iconic Cultural Event Of The Year

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. 

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. 

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!

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