21 Apr 2014

Chennai: The Cultural Capital of South India

Charming kolams outside every home, the sound of a tamburi being tuned and little girls practising their sa ri ga ma and endless debates over the finer aspects of a composition in Reethi Gowla ragam...Yes, you guessed it right. I’m talking about Chennai, the country’s cultural capital.

Kolam-Mylapore Festival (Photo Courtesy: http://divyadarisanams.blogspot.in)
If you are business traveller and are yet to visit to Chennai or have not had the time to stop and enjoy the city’s cultural heritage on your earlier visits, it is about time you did so! Check out all the flights to Chennai and book your tickets right away. Don’t miss out on these high points while you are here.

Marghazhi festival:
I love visiting Chennai in December for its music season. Sabha hopping is a favourite ritual for anyone who loves Carnatic music. While you are at it, you could have awesome South Indian fare at all the sabha canteens. The Marghazi season is the best time to capture the city’s essence – I, for one, love the silks, glittering diamonds, the malli poo and the elaborate aalaapanai this season brings!

Marghazhi festival (Photo Courtesy: http://easeyourtravel.wordpress.com)
Mylapore festival: There is nothing like this annual affair to learn more about Chennai. There are kolam competitions, traditional board games that are being revived, and dance, theatre and folk music programmes in temple squares. The latest edition of the festival was held in January.

Mylapore festival kolam competitions (Photo Courtesy: http://www.mylaporetimes.com)
Temples of Chennai: The many architecturally rich temples of Chennai are the best places to get a taste of the city’s culture. There’s the Parthasarathy temple, the Kapaleeshwarar temple, Ashtalakshmi temple...the list is endless.

Kapaleeshwarar temple (Photo Courtesy: http://besttemplesindia.blogspot.in)
History beckons: Travel to Mahabalipuram to learn more about its ancient cave temples. A little over 50 km away, the town has a history dating backing to the time of the seventh-century Pallavas and is a UNESCO World heritage site. The city also has a rich colonial past, so visit Fort St George on the banks of the Bay of Bengal, the Santhome Cathedral with a grand Portuguese history, the war memorials, the heritage buildings such as Ripon Building, the Kirk-St. Andrews Church, The Thousand Lights Mosque, etc. A good idea is to check out one of the walks organized by individuals and groups in the city.

Mahabalipuram (Photo Courtesy: http://travel.india.com)

Fort St George (Photo Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com)
Santhome Cathedral (Photo Courtesy: http://www.santhomechurch.tv)
Centres for the arts: If you are in Chennai, there’s no way you can skip the various institutions dedicated to the fine arts and the performing arts. Visit Kalakshetra, which is a cultural centre dedicated to preserving Indian art. There is the Rukmini Devi Museum, the Craft Education and Research Centre, and the College of Fine Arts set in a gurukulam-like ambience. A must-visit is Dakshinachitra which is just a little less than 30 km from Chennai, where you can experience the traditions and customs of the Dravidian life. The Cholamandal Artists Village is a great place if you are interested in sculpture, pottery or paintings.

Kalakshetra (Photo Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com)

Cholamandal Artists’ Village (Photo Courtesy: http://chennai.cityseekr.com)
There can’t be better reasons for you to book yourself on one of the many Chennai flights available. You won’t be disappointed!