Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Music & Dance



Come next month and all roads lead to Chennai. This city jumps to life with the Margazhi Festival of Dance and Music popularly known as the December Season. The festival started in 1927 to commemorate the anniversary of Madras Music Academy. It was later adopted by other local organizations and institutions also known as Sabhas, to hold art festivals in different parts of the city. Today, this cultural extravaganza has more than 2,000 participants in more than 400 concerts. Among the Sabhas in the city of Chennai, Music Academy is considered the jewel. Artists of all hues always consider it an honor to perform at the academy. For fans, too, it is a sort of a fulfillment to visit the academy and hear artists of their liking performs.

The Sangeetha Kalanidhi title of the academy is by for the most prestigious award that artists can aspire to win. It attracts NRI’s and scholars from all over the world. This festival is held at a number of different venues such as upscale auditoriums, banquet halls of five-star hotels and school auditoriums.

The festival has performances in vocal, instrumental music, classical dances-solo and group performances, seminars, discussions and lecture demonstrations. Even upcoming or junior artist get a chance to perform with professional or senior artists. The season offers sumptuous treat to music and dance lovers.

December is the Tamil month of Margazhi, a time for devotion. It is believed that it was in margazhi (December-January) — when the red-hued star Thiruvathirai was in conjunction with the full moon — that Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, danced his cosmic dance of creation — the ‘ananda tandavam’ — in the golden hall at Chidambaram. So, classical dance and Music has been a traditional form of worship of the divine from time immemorial.

The month-long extravaganza is marked by music lovers hopping from one sabha to another, attending concerts of their favorite artists. The women in their best Kanchivaram silk saris and gold jewellery, men in Veshti (spotless white south Indian dhotis) and kurtas add to the glamour of the season. Most of the sabhas arrange for a makeshift canteen for those rasikas who do not want to miss any concerts.

This year’s December season highlight from the classical dance point of view is the dance ballet presentation Manmatha or Manmudha-From Dust to Life, by Shree Bharatalaya. The institution was founded by K Soundararaja Iyengar, Sudharani Raghupathy (eminent Bharatanatyam dancer) and Madurai N Krishnan (vocalist-lyricist-music composer) in 1970.

Shree Bharatalaya has consistently maintained its reputation as a pre-eminent institution that has become one of the foremost centers of learning, and given the country many leading Bharatanatyam dancers.

According to the Hindu mythology Manmatha, Lord of Love or cupid was reduced to ashes and was resurrected — from dust to life to immortality, visible only to his beloved Rathi.

This production which is aimed at reviving folk arts as well as the tradition of Manmatha (who is worshipped in temples in several villages of Tamil Nadu even today), has adaptations from the traditional folk dances of Tamil Nadu and Theru Koothu (street theater) and some steps from modern dance. Of course, the traditional classical dance, Bharatanatyam, remains the thread in the garland.

Padma Shree Prof Sudharani Raghupathy is the artistic director of the production. She completed 60 years in the journey of dance in August 2007. She plays the lead role of Manmatha along with students of Shree Bharatalaya.

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at

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