Monday, January 9, 2012

A Dance Festival By The Seaside

If December-January is the music season in Chennai, it is also the tourist season. Indian as well as foreign tourists descend on the Tamil Nadu capital during these months to enjoy the moderate weather and visit places of their interest. Mahabalipuram (better known as Mamallapuram locally), is a must on the itinerary of any tourist visiting Chennai. Situated at a distance of only 55 kilometres, it is a quiet, small town by the sea with ruins of ancient stone temples scattered around a small area. Believed to have been built between the 7th and the 9th century, these temples with their exquisite carvings attract a lot of visitors.

Those visiting between December 27, 2011 and January 26, 2012 have an additional treat in store for them at the beautiful Shore Temple. A classical dance performance followed by a folk presentation everyday at an open-air venue by the temple, which as the name suggests, is located by the seaside.

It is a government initiative, organised jointly by the department of tourism in the state government and the ministry of tourism in the central government. And the best part is that it is open for everybody, there are no tickets or passes.

A large stage and neat rows of plastic chairs greet you on your way to the Shore Temple. These arrangements are made on an open patch of land covered with lush green lawn. A little before people start taking their seats, powerful jets of smoke (maybe with some insect repellant) from a thick hose make sure that the insects will be away, at least for some time. All these empty chairs are taken when the performance begins. Those who do not get a chair, make themselves comfortable on the lawn.

The audience is a mixed lot, with foreign tourists in the majority. They are an excited, enthusiastic and curious lot. Many of them are sporting Indian outfits. They are eager to capture everything on their cameras so that they can carry the sights and sounds of India back home with them.

Just before the performance, I spot a group of young women in bright, identical Bharatanatyam costumes behind the stage. They look very pretty decked up in the traditional finery. I make my way to them and request them to pose for me. They oblige happily. They are all students of an accomplished dancer, Saranya Sai Prasanth.

The performance starts exactly at six. The young women strike beautiful poses in groups as well as individually, making the cameras go click-click in the audience. They are accompanied by a group of able musicians and singers, and together they make a package that captivates everybody present there. The bright, almost full moon and the cool evening breeze add to the pleasure. The ambience is simply lovely.

This is to be followed by a folk performance, but I have to give it a miss because of time constraints. It is a month-long schedule and different styles of classical and folk dance are on offer. I appreciate the fact that the performance began and ended at the time announced. There were no boring speeches or other formalities. Just a neat little glimpse into the vast cultural heritage of India for the tourists. A very welcome endeavour towards promoting tourism by showcasing our classical and folk dances. I hope this dance festival continues and grows in the years to come.

The festival is halfway through and there are still more than two weeks to go. If you happen to be in this part of the world during the next few days, this document might come in handy.


  1. I have friends coming from out of town during pongal. Any idea if the programs are still on around Jan 15 - 16th? Where do I get a schedule? Good information though. Thanks!

  2. @Sudha Meiyappan: Thanks. I have given a link to the schedule in the last paragraph of my post. It is a PDF document. Here is one more link:

    Hope you get to see a performance with your friends.

  3. @Sudha Meiyappan: The programmes are on every single day until January 26, 2012. I have already given links to the schedule. You may also call Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation in Chennai for details.

  4. Thank you Lata, for posting my daughters ( single girl)picture. selvam

  5. @Selvam: Thanks for writing and so nice to hear from you. As you can make out from my post, we were very impressed with the performance. All the best to your daughter and all the other young women in the group!