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Dance and Music Festivals in Tamil Nadu


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Dance and Music Festivals in Tamil Nadu

The southern state of Tamil Nadu has a culture and tradition that evolved over 2,000 years ago and still proceeds to prosper. The cultural heritage of the state primarily, developed through the reign of various empires and dynasties that governed the region at assorted times through the history. Several empires and dynasties that reigned the state offered a great deal of support to various art forms and culture that ensued the evolution of the Dravidian culture, which is the identity of the state today!


Under the reign of the three greatest Tamil dynasties, that is to say, Chera dynasty (also known as Kerala Putras), Chola dynasty (also written as Chozha/Choda) and  Pandya dynasty (also written as Pandyan/Pandiyan/Pandian), Tamil Nadu reached enormous heights in various disciplines, especially in terms of arts. The celebrated art forms of dance and music were highly-developed and extremely popular, during the period of the three ancient Tamil dynasties. Numerous instruments which are used to produce musical tones or sounds, received significant credits in the Sangam verse forms. The delicate blend of the southern and the northern dancing styles commenced during Sangam period and is extensively remarked in the epic Silappatikaram also spelt as Cilappatikaram (one of the five great epics of Tamil literature).


The culture of Tamil Nadu took root in the arts that is conveyed through various forms, which include dance, music, literature, dramatic art, sculpture, language, culinary art, traditions, architecture, rites and rituals and so on. The region has a rich and long history of art of entertainment. The dance and music of Tamil Nadu have an eminent appeal that reverberates the impeccable heart and soul of the age-old culture of the region. Started from the delicately beautiful forms of pleasing skills, the forward-looking music varieties and dance performances come as a cogent evidence of the rich ethnical past times of Tamil Nadu. Dance performances, music performances (also dramas in the form of theru koothu) were the principal mode of entertainment during the ancient times in Tamil Nadu.

Poikkal Kuthirai

Dance and music of Tamil Nadu had their humble beginnings mostly from across the temples of Tamil Nadu. People who are skilled in music and dance forms are invited by the rulers those days to come and show their skills in temples while the royal people offer their prayers. Specified with different hand and finger gesture (called as mudras) and dramatic movements, the assorted dance forms of Tamil Nadu are all about a fascinating diversity that ranges from the classical dance form of Bharat Natyam to the folk dance of Karagattam. Most of the Tamil dance forms involve some or the other property like clay pot, kavadi, stick, wooden legs, and peacock costume and so on, which actually facilitates the performers to elevate the visual effect of the dance.

Nadasvaram and Thavil

Some of the most popular dance and music forms of Tamil Nadu include Bharathanatyam, Villu pattu, Bhagavatha nadanam, Urummi aattam, Bommalaattam, Theru koothu, Kanian  aattam,  Puli aattam, Devaraattam, Thappaattam, Chakkai aattam, Sevai aattam, Lavani, Nayyandi melam, Kamandi, Kolaattam, Poikkal kuthirai, Karagaattam,  Naattupurapaattu, Paampu aattam, Padagap pattu also known as Kappal pattu, Kavadi aattam, Oyilaattam, Kazhai koothu, Oyil kummi, Kolaattam, Sanku vadyam, Ottan koothu,  Kol kal aattam, Mayil aattam, kummi aattam and so on. Most of the above said dance and music forms are pointed towards spiritualism and piousness. Altogether, dance and music is a very crucial and distinct feature of the culture of the Tamil people, living all over the globe.

Let's have a look at some of the far-famed dance and music festivals hosted in Tamil Nadu to celebrate the art of dance and music in the state.

Chidambaram Natyanjali Dance Festival

Host: Chidambaram (Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu)
Location: Thillai Natarajah Temple also known as Thillai Natarajar-Koothan Koil
Type of Festival: Festival of Classical Dance Forms
Month of Festival: February 4th Week - March 1st Week
Duration of Festival: Five Days
Organizer: Chidambaram Natyanjali Trust

Chidambaram Natyanjali

Natyanjali is nothing but, 'Natya=Dance' and 'Anjali=Offering', the grand event is all about forgathering of classical dancers from all over the world to dedicate their dance to the almighty. The flavour of this glorious dance event lies in its spiritual prospect and therefore unique from other dance festivals hosted in Tamil Nadu.

A world renowned potpourri of classical dance performances, Natyanjali is regarded as the 'festival of festivals' in the classical dance world and among the classical dance performers. Started in the year 1981, Natyanjali festival can be seen as a yearly confluence of classical dance forms of India. Classical dancers from all over the globe come together and pay their respect to the 'Lord of Dance' - Nataraja, through presenting dance performances on various classical dance forms of India. The yearly dance festival of Natyanjali is hosted by Chidambaram - the land of Thillai Natarajah and the event typically marks the occasion of 'Maha Sivaratri' (great night of Lord Shiva).

Chidambaram Natyanjali Trust is the official organizer of this grand dance event and some of the important sponsors and supporters of this event include Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and New Delhi-based Sangeet Natak Akademi, Chidambaram Annamalai University and several other patrons and altruists. The festival is conducted inside the temple complex of the illustrious Thillai Natarajah Temple in Chidambaram. Tout ensemble, Chidambaram Natyanjali is a perfect platform for classical dancers to showcase their dance talent and to be proud of presenting their skill in the holy abode of Lord Shiva. 

Some of the classical dance forms portrayed in the Natyanjali festival includes Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi and so on.

Important Contact Information:
Chidambaram Natyanjali Trust
No. 57, Car Street, Chidambaram
Tamil Nadu, Pin Code - 608001
Phone Number: 04144 - 22534
Fax Number: 04144 - 22265

Nowadays, the concept of 'Natyanjali' dance festival is (well) embraced and similar dance festivals are hosted across several other cities and small towns, especially across the abodes of Lord Shiva. Some of the other important yearly Natyanjali dance festivals in Tamil Nadu include:

Name of the Festival: Brahan Natyanjali
Location: Thanjavur
Venue: Thanjavur Brihadeshwara Temple (Big Temple)
Month of Festival: February - March
Organizer: Brahan Natyanjali Foundation
Dr. V.V.R Complex, 6th Cross, Arulananda Nagar, Thanjavur
Pin Code: 613007
Phone Number: 04362 - 238235, +91-9842455765
Email: bnfoundation@rediffmail.com

Name of the Festival: Marudhanatyanjali
Location: Thiruvidaimarudur, Thanjavur District
Festival Venue: Mahalingeswarar Temple, Thiruvidaimarudur
Organizer: Marudhaa Natyanjali Trust (Regd)
B-4, Karthic Court, Venkateshwara Nagar, Keel Kattalai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 600117
Phone Number: 044 - 43579830, +91-9894643005, 9585803741, 9444443778

Name of the Festival: Kumbakonam Natyanjali
Location: Kumbakonam
Festival Venue: Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
Organizer: Natyanjali Trust Kumbakonam,
Moopanar Bangalow, Dr. Besant Road, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code - 612 001
Email: natyanjalikmu@yahoo.co.in

Name of the Festival: Coimbatore Natyanjali
Location: Perur, Coimbatore
Month of Festival: September
Organizer: Rotary Club of Metropolis
M G R Nagar, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code - 641018
Phone Number: 0422 - 573085

Name of the Festival: Mayiladuthurai Natyanjali
Location: Mayiladuthurai
Festival Venue: Mayuranathaswami Temple, Mayiladuthurai
Organizer: Sapthasvarangal Trust
21/26, Vijithrayar Street, Palakarai, Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 609 001
Phone Number: 04364 - 240001, 293197, +91-9443573833, +91-9444443778, +91-9894812275
Email: mayuranatiyanjali@gmail.com

Mamallapuram Dance Festival

Host: Mahabalipuram aka Mamallapuram
Location: Arjuna's Penance, Near Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Type of Festival: Festival of Classical and Folk Dance Forms
Month of Festival: January 1st Week - February 1st Week
Duration of Festival: Four Weeks (Weekend Only)
Organizer: Department of Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments, Government of Tamil Nadu

Mamallapuram Dance Festival

The vivacious Mamallapuram Dance Festival also called as Mahabalipuram Dance Festival is hosted by Mamallapuram town (Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu) - 56.1 km km away from the bustling city of Chennai (via East Coast Road). This is a four-week (weekend only) dance festival, presenting classical dancers from all over the globe, portraying Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohini Attam, Kathak and Kathakali dance skills.

This annual dance festival is conducted in the open-air stage, in front of the magnificently carved structure of Arjuna’s Penance of the Pallavas Dynasty at Mamallapuram. In addition to the classical dance forms of India, folk dances of Tamil Nadu are also performed by the dancers from all over the country. The far-famed dance festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments, Government of Tamil Nadu. 

Important Contact Information:
Department of Tourism, Govt. of Tamilnadu
Tourism Complex, Wallajah Road
Landmark: Near Kalaivanar Arangam
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Pin Code - 600002
Phone Number: 044 - 25383333 / 25389857 / 25360294
Fax Number: 044 - 25381567
Email: ttdc@md3.vsnl.net.in

Thyagaraja Aradhanai Thiruvaiyaru

Host: Thiruvaiyaru (Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu)
Location: Near the Samadhi of Sathguru Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal, on the banks of Cauvery River
Type of Festival: Festival of Carnatic Music or Indian Classical Music
Month of Festival: January and February
Duration of Festival: Week-long Festival
Organizer: Sri Thyagabrahma Mahostsava Sabha (regd.)


Kakarla Tyagabrahmam, fondly called as Sathguru Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal is regarded as one of the most distinguished composers of Indian classical music (Carnatic music). He was intellectually productive and an extremely influential composer in the evolution of the Carnatic music tradition.  Saint Tyagarajar composed hundreds of thousands of spiritual pieces of music, by and large, in praise of Lord Rama. Among the thousands of his compositions, Pancharatna Keerthanaigal deserves special mention.

In laymen terms, the Thyagaraja Aradhanai is an annual Carnatic music festival observed in Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu. As a fete of honor to the Saint Tyagarajar, Indian classical musicians from all over the world meet and dedicate their respect to the greatest carnatic composer by vocalizing the awe-inspiring Pancharatna Keerthanaigal (in unison) on Bahula Panchami, near the resting place of Sathguru Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal. A number of instruments including voilin, nadasvarams, veenas, flutes, mridangams and ghatams are played to accompany the carnatic singers.

Sri Thyagabrahma Mahostsava Sabha (regd.)
No. 31, Thirumanjana Veethi, Thiruvaiyaru, Thanjavur District
Tamilnadu, Pin Code - 613204
Phone Number: 04362 - 262661, 262662, +91- 9443463816
Email: thiruvaiyaruthyagarajaaradhana@gmail.com

Some of the other important dance and music festivals of Tamil Nadu include:

Madras Music and Dance Festival
(Organized by the Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Tamilnadu)
Department of Tourism, Govt. of Tamilnadu
Tourism Complex, Wallajah Road
Landmark: Near Kalaivanar Arangam
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Pin Code - 600002
Phone Number: 044 - 25383333 / 25389857 / 25360294
Fax Number: 044 - 25381567
Email: ttdc@md3.vsnl.net.in
Date: Dec 2nd week - Jan 2nd week

Bhagavata Mela Nataka Mahotsav
Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Jayanti
Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam
63-64, South Street, Melattur 614 301
Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu
Ph: 04374 273445
Email: melattur.bhagavatamela@gmail.com
Date: May (3rd & 4th week)
Place: Sri Varadaraja Perumal Sannidhi, Melattur
Place: Chennai

Dance Festival
The Music Academy, Madras
No. 168 T.T.K. Road, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 600014
Phone Number: 044 - 28112231 / 28115162
Fax: (044) - 42359362
Email: music@musicacademymadras.com
Date: January 3rd to 9th
Place: T.T. K. Auditorium, The Music Academy

Isai Natya Nataka Vizha
Narada Gana Sabha
New # 314, Old # 254, T T K Road
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 600018
Phone Number: 044 - 24993201 / 24990850
Date: December 2nd week - January 1st week
Place: Sathguru Gnanananda Hall

Margazhi Mahotsav
Bharat Kalachar
No. 17, Thirumalai Pillai Road
T Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 600017
Phone Number: 044 - 28223045 / 28236164
Date: December 2nd week - January 1st week
Place: Y G P Auditorium
Email: bkygp@rediffmail.com

Remembering Rukmini Devi
Kalakshetra Foundation
Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code - 600041
Phone Number: 044 - 24524057 / 24520836
Fax: (044) - 24524359 
Email: programmes@kalakshetra.in / theatre@kalakshetra.in
Date: August 4th week
Place: Kalakshetra Auditorium

Tamil Isai Annual Festival
Tamil Isai Sangam
Rajah Annamalai Hall, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code: 600108
Phone Number: 044 - 25341425 / 25341958
Date: December 3rd week - January 1st week
Place: Rajah Annamalai Hall

Madurai Annual Festival
Sri Sadhguru Sangeetha Samajam
15A, Gokhale Road, Thallakulam, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Pin Code - 625002
Phone Number: 0452 - 530858 / 531036
Date: January
Place: Lakshmi Sundaram Hall

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