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Margazhi, the month of music and dance, is a time of celebration and enchantment in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Margazhi’s relationship with Chennai has evolved so much that the two have come to define each other. For Chennai, Margazhi is part of its culture and there is no other city that celebrates the December music season the way it does. The Margazhi music festival, also known as the December music season, is a grand extravaganza that attracts artists, art connoisseurs, and tourists from around the world. It is a celebration of classical music, dance, and art forms, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of India. More than 500 organisations put up over 2,000 music performances in the city during this festival. In this blog, we will delve into the essence, history, structure, and magic of the Margazhi music festival, and provide tips for attending this mesmerizing event.
The Essence of Margazhi Music FestivalThe Margazhi music festival, also known as the December season, is not just a festival; it is an experience, a journey into the depths of classical music and dance. This month-long festival, held annually from mid-December to mid-January, is a celebration of art, culture, and tradition. It is a time when renowned artistes, young talents, music lovers, and art enthusiasts come together to create an atmosphere of pure magic.
The Global Gathering at Chennai during MargazhiThe Margazhi music festival is not limited to Chennai or Tamil Nadu; it is a global gathering of music aficionados, artists, and art connoisseurs. People from all corners of the world flock to Chennai during this festival, eager to witness the brilliance of classical music and dance performances. International artists also participate, adding a global dimension to the dance festival. It is a platform for cultural exchange, fostering international ties through the universal language of music and dance. The festival is a melting pot of diverse art forms, transcending geographical boundaries and bringing people together in harmony.
History of the festival and its significanceThe Margazhi music festival has a long history, deeply rooted in Indian classical music and dance. It dates back centuries, reflecting the cultural significance of the festival. Over the years, it has evolved, preserving and promoting classical art forms, and becoming an integral part of Tamil Nadu's cultural calendar. The festival is emblematic of India’s cultural vibrancy and artistic legacy, showcasing the timeless beauty and splendor of classical arts.
Tracing Back the Roots: History of Margazhi FestivalTo understand the Margazhi music festival in Chennai, we must look back at its origins. Margazhi is the ninth month of the Tamil calendar, falling between mid-December and mid-January. It is considered an auspicious month for art, music, and dance, as it is believed that Lord Krishna himself sang and danced during this time. The festival is a tribute to Lord Krishna, celebrating his divine music and dance performances. Chennai-based historian and writer V Sriram says the concept of worshipping during the month of Margazhi originated from the Bhagavad Gita as Krishna says that among the months, he is Margazhi. “It has a particularly holy connotation and, during that month, people believe in not conducting anything to do with human interests and devote themselves to spiritual interests.” By the end of the Margazhi month, the focus shifts to the Thyagaraja Music Festival or Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival in Thanjavur, devoted to the renowned music composer seen as one of the three legendary figures that form the trinity of Carnatic music.
From the 1920s to the Present: Evolution of the FestivalThe Margazhi music festival, as we know it today, has evolved from humble beginnings to a grand, internationally recognized event. In the 1920s, music performances were held in temple courtyards, with artists showcasing their talent to small, discerning audiences. Over the decades, the festival expanded, encompassing a diverse range of classical art forms, such as vocal music, instrumental music, dance, and more. In 1931, the Indian Fine Arts Society was set up and in 1942 the Tamilisai Sangam was established, both of which joined the bandwagon of organisations conducting the Margazhi festival. The Margazhi season has embraced innovation while upholding the traditional essence of classical arts, attracting a wider audience without compromising on quality. In 1927, the Congress organised its all-India conference in Madras, and party leader and freedom fighter S Satyamurti decided on a music concert to entertain the delegates. “December was the period when most meetings and conferences would happen in Madras due to its good weather. There was no need for ACs during that period and people would meet outdoors,” Sriram notes. The Madras Music Academy, established by a group of individuals in 1927, played a significant role in the development and organization of the Margazhi music festival.
Margazhi: Not Just a Festival but an Acid Test for MusiciansMargazhi season is not just a festival; it is an acid test for musicians. Established artists and aspiring young talents vie for the coveted slots, making it a prestigious and competitive platform. It is an opportunity for artists to showcase their artistry, talent, and dedication to discerning audiences. The festival is a testament to the skill, artistry, and perseverance of performing artists, who strive to create mesmerizing performances that leave a lasting impact on the audience.
Understanding the Structure of the FestivalTo truly appreciate the Margazhi music festival, it is essential to understand its structure and the role of various entities that make it possible.
The Role of Sabhas and HallsSabhas, or cultural organizations, play a crucial role in organizing and hosting performances during the festival. They serve as cultural hubs, promoting classical arts, and nurturing talent. The festival’s success is indebted to the tireless efforts of sabhas and their members, who work behind the scenes to ensure a seamless experience for artists and audiences alike. These sabhas, including Tamil Isai Sangam, provide a conducive platform for artists to showcase their artistry, enabling them to connect with discerning audiences.
The Concept of Free Kutcheris and Season TicketsOne unique aspect of the Margazhi music festival is the concept of free kutcheris, or music performances. These performances, held in various venues, are open to all, making classical arts accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic background. In addition, season tickets offer a convenient and economical way to savor a multitude of performances throughout the festival duration. They enable enthusiasts to immerse themselves in diverse art forms, broadening their horizons and deepening their appreciation for classical music and dance.
The Magic of Margazhi Music FestivalThe Margazhi music festival is a celebration of art, culture, and tradition, weaving a tapestry of enchanting experiences. It is a rendezvous of music, dance, and devotion, transcending boundaries and resonating with classical arts aficionados worldwide. The festival’s allure lies in its ability to captivate audiences with soul-stirring performances that evoke profound emotions and inspiration. It is a transformative journey, where music and dance transport the audience to a realm of beauty, spirituality, and artistic brilliance.
Celebrating the Art of Classical MusicThe Margazhi music festival is a celebration of classical music, showcasing the artistry of vocalists, instrumentalists, and dancers. Renowned artists grace the prestigious venues, enchanting audiences with their mastery over ragas, talas, and bhavas. It is an opportunity to witness performances by superstars, young artists, and emerging talents, all coming together to create magical moments on stage. The festival is a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of classical art forms, a testament to their enduring appeal and timeless beauty.
Tips for attending Margazhi Music FestivalTo make the most of your Margazhi music festival experience, here are a few tips:
- Book season tickets to savor the diverse performances throughout the festival duration.
- Plan your itinerary in advance, so you can catch captivating music and dance performances at various venues.
- Immerse yourself in the Margazhi season by exploring art exhibitions, cultural events, and bhajans.
- Engage with young artists and superstars, who showcase their talent during the festival, through performances, workshops, or interactions.
- Embrace the festive spirit by attending bhajans, dance, and music concerts at iconic auditoriums, such as the Music Academy, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, and Mylapore Fine Arts Club.