It’s time. We have been getting teased about it for the past few months. With everything that’s been happening around us, we really need things to get back to normal, especially the Margazhi Music Festival. This sentiment is also shared by most of the Margazhi aficionados, as well as the organizers. And quite understandably so, The Music Academy has been conducting the event since 1928, every year without fail and they don’t plan on letting this stop them. To accommodate for the pandemic, the President of The Music Academy, N. Murali has decided to shift the event online, “Since 1928, the year in which the Margazhi Festival was founded in Madras by the Academy, we have been hosting it uninterruptedly. Even during World War II and the 2004 tsunami, the festival continued. However, this year, with the pandemic still raging unabated and the uncertainty that looms large because of it, we have decided to take the festival online.” he says. Like the Madras Music Academy, others have also followed suit, organizing online events, and conducting recording sessions in preparation. The general mood among the patrons, however, seems to sway between online and offline. While most sabha goers are close to becoming senior citizens, health concerns prevail. But on the other hand, open-air events and strict hygiene protocols make live concerts a plausible option and sabha veterans are vehement about not giving up on this culture. But Margazhi has become more than just an event. In recent years, it has evolved into a bustling ecosystem. Sabha caterers depend on Margazhi to scout contracts for the coming year. And with the onset of digital venue events, sabha-hoppers also find the experience lackluster without having Mysore bondas to wash down the music with. On the brighter side, many sabha caterers like K Srinivasan, son of veteran caterer ‘Mountbatten’ Mani Iyer, have had a chance to step up their game and try something innovative. All around, there are talks of online delivery and other avenues being explored. We might see the full experience unveiled right at home just yet. Considering everything that’s been said, without further ado, here’s a list of the online and offline events happening this year. Choose at your convenience, and most of all, stay safe. ● 94th Annual Concerts (Digital) 2020 December 24th-31st, 2020 ● Charsur Carnatic Season December 15th-30th, 2020 charsur.in.live ● Yours Truly Margazhi December 15th, 2020- January 15th, 2021 kalakendra.com/yours-truly-margazhi/ ● R. R. Sabha Music Festival December 10th-18th, 2020 rasikaranjanisabha.org ● Bhavan’s music fest November 28 to December 19 www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/bharatiya-vidya-bhavans-o pen-air-margazhi-festival/article32744722.ece ● 87th South Indian Music Conference December 18th, 2020- January 4th, 2021 www.livechennai.com/indian_fine_arts_society_conference_festival_20 20_3.asp Regardless of how you choose to enjoy the Margazhi season, be sure to stay safe and enjoy the show. And most importantly, don’t forget your freshly brewed coffee in a davrah!
The reason Chennai is the massive bustling metropolitan it is now is thanks to its origins as a coastal port town. Recent history suggests that Chennai became a port when the East India Company decided to build a pier to ease cargo transport into the country in 1861. But older transcripts suggest all of Tamil Nadu has been scattered with port towns, all the way between Chennai and Tirunelveli ever since the 3rd Century BCE.
A close cousin of Chennai is Mamallapuram, or more commonly known as, Mahabalipuram. Another port town, in its own right, Mahabalipuram was used by the Pallavas as one of the most crucial ports in the North of Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram, also known as ‘The abode of Pallavas,’ lives up to its name. Throughout the town, you can find temples and statues reliving tales of old and legends of the past. Situated roughly 50 kilometers from Chennai, it is the closest UNESCO heritage site and that is exactly why you need to visit this town.
Places To See
The first place you must visit is the ‘Pancha Rathas’ – one of the earliest examples of Indian Monolithic Architecture. The Pancha Rathas resemble five Chariots each sculpted from a single block of granite, and each paying homage to a different god. Another must-visit place is the Pallava Heritage Site where you can find the bas-relief sculptures ‘Descent of the Ganges,’ depicting the descent of the holy river from Heaven to Earth, and ‘Arjuna’s Penance,’ depicting all the events that occurred during the period of his penance. If you have more time to kill, you should also visit the Shore temple. The 7th Century temple is said to have been a part of a series of structures called the ‘Seven Pagodas.’ For centuries, these Seven Pagodas have acted as a landmark for navigation by European merchants who arrived at the port of Mahabalipuram. According to Indian and European myths, seven temples once stood along Mahabalipuram’s shore; however, this was the only one that supposedly survived.
Planning your trip
Mahabalipuram is located about an hour’s drive from Chennai, but taking in all the attractions without rushing yourself will cost you the evening. If you are staying with us a t Hanu Reddy Residences, our receptionist would gladly make travel arrangements to drive you around for the whole day. Locals suggest starting your trip by heading to Thiruvanmyur beach to watch the sunrise and later driving to Mahabalipuram after having breakfast in the city. And if you loved learning more about the history of Tamil Nadu and want to take a piece of it back home, keep an eye out for local sculptors along the way. You can find epic statues to decorate your living space! On the way back, keep an eye out for amazing seafood joints along the East Coast Road where you can explore South Indian Cuisine at its finest. Most importantly, do not forget to take pictures and have a story worth writing home about!
With the borders opening up, you are soon to find yourself in a hotel room inevitably. While you are making travel arrangements after months of staying indoors, accounting downtime is a sad necessity – especially if you are traveling for work. The brunt of travel is the uneventful interlude between your arrival and your next outing or work event. Once you reach your room and unpack, you’d want to loosen your hamstrings. But what if there isn’t much to do out there? Don’t worry, we found a bunch of things you can keep yourself occupied while you get your R&R at Hanu Reddy Residences. ● Kick-off your morning with some yoga or simply enjoy a quiet cup of filter coffee on our terrace gardens. ● Have a quick work out session at our indoor gym so you won’t feel guilty about the scrumptious breakfast you’re going to have. ● If you’re here to unwind, take a moment to enjoy the greenery from our verandahs or take a walk around the property. ● Bored of Uno? Learn Pallankuzhi, a traditional board game from South India! Ask our staff for a Pallankuzhi set and have fun. ● Write a handwritten letter back home. Your friends and family will definitely love the surprise! (Ask our receptionist for postcard collectibles.) ● Read that book. You know, the one you’ve been carrying around all summer without finishing the first chapter. ● Look up smaller attractions to add to your itinerary along the way to your destination, such as the Semmozhi Poonga. (Chatting with our receptionist will give you some insider secrets.) ● Start a digital journal and document your trip. There’s so much you can do with your phone than binge-watching and endless scrolling! ● Learn something new. Take a look at courses from Udemy or Masterclass and see if you find something that piques your interest. ● Pick up a few tamil words to help you around the city and impress the locals at the same time. ● Catch up on podcasts. It might sound dreary, but give it a shot! It’s much more entertaining and informative than you would think! ● If you’re traveling alone, make a Spotify playlist for your special someone so they know you’re missing them during the trip. ● On the off chance that you’re feeling productive, fire up your laptop and get some last-minute work done. ● Still got time on your hands? Check out our other posts here to learn more about South Indian heritage. In all honesty, traveling during COVID-19 is not advisable. But several reasons could come up that might need you to travel to other cities or even countries. Here are a few things that will help you stay safe during your trip. If and when you find yourself in Chennai, we want you to know that we are here to make you feel at home again. Our doors are open!
Feet itchy? Boots rusty? Suitcase empty? We get it. Even if it is a business or family trip rather than a vacation, it’s not completely safe out there yet. Here is a series of incremental don’ts to keep you safe.
The absolute essentials
When you are outside, consistently follow these three things: ● Clean your hands frequently using either a hand sanitizer with 60% or higher alcohol content or soap and water. ● Social distance protocol. Stay a minimum of 6 feet (2 meters) away from everyone. ● Always wear a mask when you are among others. You might find yourself in situations that you do not have control over. Here is a series of preventive measures that could help you. ● Firstly, prefer to stay out of crowded spaces. If you do, ensure you wear a mask and are always 6 feet away from others. ● When you cough or sneeze, follow respiratory hygiene – sneeze into a tissue, or cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow. ● You need to change your mask every 10 hours, carry enough spares for the entire trip.You don’t necessarily need medical masks – cloth masks will suffice, but ensure there are enough layers. ● Prefer contactless payment options at all junctures. Tap to pay Credit cards or online wallets are the way to go. ● Gloves aren’t necessary – they will become just as dirty as your hands later on. Use a hand sanitizer instead.
Preparing for your trip
Gone are the days where you book a ticket and wing the rest of the trip. A quick set of things to keep in mind before you plan your trip: ● Weigh the advantage versus the risk of each mode of transportation. While booking travel arrangements, pick odd hours when there is lesser foot traffic. ● Make a COVID inventory list. Essentials like hand sanitizers and masks go in without question, but also accommodate space for your own water bottles and a set of disposable, biodegradable cutlery. ● Be mindful of what you touch. We are forgetful beings and it is good to start practicing a couple of days before your trip. ● Do your research. Keep up to date on the latest information at your destination so that you are always prepared. ● If you are feeling uneasy about traveling, get tested for COVID-19 before your journey, especially if it is an international trip.
Modes of transportation
Different modes of transportation come with various risk factors. Contrary to popular belief, air transport is currently the safest method, but don’t discount the fact that you still have to get to and from the airport, and travel inside the city at your destination. Paranoia around travel in airplanes is quite misplaced. You are mainly at risk of getting infected while boarding. Prefer getting the boarding pass from the machine and use contactless payment whenever possible. On booking tickets, “Choose a window seat as far from the restroom as possible,” says Dr. Farley Cleghorn, the global health practice head at Palladium, an international impact consultancy firm. And do not forget to disinfect your hands after you sit down and before touching your face. If you are traveling by bus or train, pack your own linen. Disinfect high contact areas such as the armrest or handle with disinfectant wipes. It’s okay if you get awkward glances from your passengers. A car is ideal for travel but comes with its own set of risks like when you stop for gas or grab lunch. Ensure increased ventilation by rolling down your windows, or turn on the AC. Here too, wipe down high touch areas such as the handlebar with a disinfectant wipe.
Eating out safely
Besides transport, this is the second biggest concern. If you have the option, carry your own food. But the likelihood of that is low, so the next safest option is either drive-in or takeaway. If you absolutely must eat out, then bring your own water and cutlery. Find a restaurant which offers these: ● Open space with enough distance between tables. ● Availability of a digital menu (or check their Zomato page). ● Staff who wear masks at all times.
Staying at another city
All the horror stories about poorly maintained motels come to mind when you think of accommodation hygiene. Call ahead and ensure that you will be hosted by employers who provide pandemic support (Employees get paid leaves, daily temperature checks, enough sanitation supplies, etc.) This guarantees as safe an environment as possible. And remember, even if you are visiting family, it’s safer to stay at a hotel just in case. While there, wash your hands and keys every time you enter your suite. Finally, prefer an isolated residence over bustling 5-star hotels. The fewer people there are, the better. All rooms at Hanu Reddy Residences are individually air-conditioned with lots of common open areas for you to lounge around.
● Travel insurance mostly would not cover COVID-19, but check with your agent anyway. ● If you have the option, choose a CFAR (Cancel for any reason) policy. ● When in a situation where a stranger is too close for comfort, move away. If you can’t, politely ask them to give you some space. You are in a new city for a good time, don’t ruin your evening over it. ● It’s best to have a contingency plan. In case you get sick, make sure you have a plan in place to keep you and your loved ones safe. We have tried to be as inclusive and exhaustive with our travel tips because we understand your need to spread your wings. Travel safe, have fun, and hope to see you soon!
The traditional South Indian musical artform is known for having a melody for every mood, time, and season. And the opportunity to become a discerning patron is once again upon us with Margazhi season just around the corner.
For example, Bilahari, a morning raga exudes refreshing happiness, while the raga Amruthavarshini is said to bring showers. Each raga is potent, weaving magic through a specific sequence of notes. Each engenders an experience that is intimate with nature, and the divine.
In a typical performance, a solo vocalist brings to life mythical tales of bhakthi, love, and salvation, supported by the graceful tunes of a veena or a violin, and set to resounding tala (complex beat cycles) emanating from hand drums such as mridanagam or ghatam. The singer, eyes drawn close in surrender, explores the emotive force of the raga to its fullest. With the Kalpana sangeetham every rendering arises from the imagination, allowing room for soulful improvisations.
A rendezvous with the grand ragas
Over the ages, many composers have crafted masterpieces, but a few have become the quintessential rendition of the raga in which they are composed.
Raga Sankarabharanam is considered the adornment of Lord Shiva himself; Kalyani, the queen of ragas ushers in auspiciousness, and is the melody often played in weddings; the deep and sombre raga Thodi inspires humility that leads to wisdom; Kamboji has given birth to devotional masterpieces such as ‘O Rangasayee’ – the song is an earnest appeal to the Brahman beseeching grace and union with godhead; ever rich Bhairavi is likened to a prayer booming forth to the supreme consciousness. These constitute the 5 grand ragas of Carnatic tradition, and have given birth to the most number of compositions.
In one of the lighter and playful songs composed in Chenchurutti, in a song addressed to Lord Krishna, mother Yashoda tries to coax him out of going out in the open to herd cows. The rest of the song is an endearing repartee between the mother-son duo. Does it come as a surprise that the son has the final word? Listen to this infectious, and heartening song vocalized by famed singer Aruna Sairam.
For a taste of the popular ragas all packed in one song, look to mainstream cinema where the song Oru Naal Podhuma, masterfully rendered by late singer Balamuralikrishna makes an appearance in the 1965 Tamil epic, Thiruvilayadal. Appreciate the genius as the song effortlessly meanders from Thodi to Darbar, Mohini, and Kaanada.
A one of a kind music festival
But, come Margazhi, it rains all kinds of melodies all over Chennai.
Every year, between Dec 15 and Jan 15, the city hosts around 1,500 to 2,000 carnatic music concerts with an assortment of panel discussions, themed performances, harikathas, and jugalbandis, all accompanied by delightful food from the sabha canteens. This sparkling event is a one of a kind celebration of classical music in all of Asia dating back to 1927.
If you are a music lover fortunate enough to be in Chennai this December, here is a roundup of all the happening places of the city. The top sabhas are located around the cultural centres of Mylapore, T Nagar, and Alwarpet.
The Music Academy: Chennai’s Margazhi kuctheri season took roots in the Music Academy. One of the biggest sabhas in the city, it is a reputed cultural landmark which has A-listers vying for a spot to perform. It needs no mention that the institution draws huge crowds every year. This year, stalwarts like Kunnakkudy M Balakrishna, Sudha Ragunathan, Dr S Sowmya, Ranjani and Gayathri, Aruna Sairam, Neyveli R Santhanagopalan, Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, and other artists of renown are set to captivate the audience with their enthralling musical renderings.
Naradha Gana Sabha: Located in TTK road, the sabha features both upcoming and established singers. This year, there are kutcheris by Unnikrishnan, Dr. K J Yesudas, Sid Sriram, Nithyashree Mahadevan, Shobana, and other lead singers.
Brahma Gana Sabha, and Kalakshetra foundation are other prominent institutions which curate interesting art, theatre, music, and dance performances.
Chennai truly comes alive every Margazhi. And, there is no better place to catch it live, and experience the divine music as it unfurls into the human realm.
Onam celebrates the homecoming of demon king Mahabali who once ruled Kerala. It is said that under his judicious rule, Kerala witnessed a golden era.
Celebrated for a glorious 10 days in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam, with street parades, pookalam, pulikali dance, snake boat race, and much more, Onam transforms God’s Own Country into a festive riot of colours.
The Myth of Mahabali
Bali, in South Indian languages, is sacrifice or giving. Maha bali translates to ‘great sacrifice’.
The story goes that, like his grandfather Prahlada, Mahabali was a seeker of the benevolent grace of Lord Vishnu. Although he had conquered all of the vast lands and heavens, he was dissatisfied with his earthly life. He, therefore, decided to sacrifice all his possessions for the greater good and well-being of his people. It is at this fateful time that a brahmana called Vamana (dwarf) arrives holding an umbrella made of palm leaves over his head.
The kind and generous Mahabali welcomes Vamana, offering the Brahmin anything he wants. Vamana asks the king for all the land that he can cover in three strides. The wish is granted. But, at this instant, Vamana grows taller and bigger, covering the entire universe with his two feet. Seeing as there is nowhere to place his third feet, he asks the king’s head as the third feet, to which the king obliges willfully.
Mahabali makes the master sacrifice, surrendering his own sense of self beyond everything he owns. The great sacrifice happens on the day of Tiruvonam. Onam is therefore a festival of giving, offering, and listening, to the other.
Although he has transcended the realm of earth, Mahabali is granted his wish of returning once each year to meet his people.
The Onam Affair
Onam marks the yearly visit of king Mahabali to his beloved kingdom. There are folktales – Maaveli Naadu Vannidum Kaalam (When Maveli, our King, ruled the land) – that testify to the popularity of the demon king, even today.
Day one marks the preparation for King Bali’s visit. On this day, people decorate the entrances of their homes with colourful floral carpets or Pookalam, with as many as 10 concentric rings of flowers arranged in beautiful patterns and colours. Fascinatingly, more layers and rings are added on consecutive days. Day five unravels in an uproar of sport, with the famed and spectacular snake boat race. Up to 100 oarsmen row the long and elegantly carved snake boats in Aranmula and other regions of Kerala.
It is believed that Mahabali, having arrived in Kerala, visits the homes of his people, on Thiruvonam. Edging closer to Thiruvonam, people prepare and place clay pyramids that represent Mahabali and Vamana, in the center of the Pookalam. Homes are decorated and the grand Onam feast, Onam Sadya, is prepared to treat the visiting king.
Traditionally the sadhya is a delicious spread of a variety of dishes including upperi (banana chips), maranga curry and naranga curry (sour lemon pickles), erissery (a sweet-spicy vegetable preparation) , parripu curry (thick lentil gravy), inji curry (ginger pickle), sambhar (savoury lentil soup), moru kachiyathu (seasoned buttermilk), chenna mezhkkupuratti (fried yam), avial (mixed vegetable with coconut gravy), payasam (sweet rice pudding). Onam is a feast for both the senses and spirit!
The Sun God has turned his magnificent Ratha (chariot) drawn by seven horses towards the northern hemisphere. It is Ratha Saptami, anannual celebration that falls on the seventh day of the Tamil month of Maasi . Celebrated at homes and temples, on the occasion of this planetary event, this quaint festival marks the movement of the seasons into spring. Cue for Chennai to brace for the imminent summer.
While you enjoy this brief courting with spring, and herald the fierce Chennai Summer, here are some offbeat things to do with your friends and family this season, and fall in love with this sizzling city again.
Tucked away in a picturesque fishing hamlet in Ennore beach, 15 kms down the famed Marina, Thalankuppam pier is the perfect place to catch a quite sunrise. You can get there by a scenic drive along the Ennore High Road. The pristine beaches here are every photographer’s delight. A walk along the pier leads you right into the hem of a colorful montage of luminescent orange, turquoise blue, and ocean grey. You could also hitch a boat ride with the local fishermen and ride into this breathtaking view, as the waves wash you over with a spirit of love and peace.
The Leisure Yacht Company
A twilight cruise on the east coast, watching the sun go down leaving golden freckles on the sky, kissed by the cool sea breeze…wouldn’t that make for a great summer evening? This summer dream is what the Leisure Yacht Company has to offer. At TLYC, you can try your hand at fishing in the solemn sea waters and if you get lucky, there is an electric barbecue on the outdoor deck to help you cook your catch, and pack more fun filled action into your evening. You can also spot container ships, groove to happy tunes, and have your best selfie moments aboard their aptly named yacht ‘Moon Beam’.
Olive Ridley Turtle walks
Between January and April every year, migrating Olive Ridley turtles swim ashore and lay eggs on the coast of Bay of Bengal. To safely relocate these eggs into hatcheries until they hatch 45 days later, volunteers and conservationists organize turtle walks in the night along the beaches of Chennai.
Instated in 1972 by wildlife conservationist Romulus Whitaker, the Madras Olive Ridley turtle walks not only offer a glimpse into this beautiful natural phenomenon, but also raise awareness on ecological issues that confront the city. Take part in the walks along the Palavakkam beach, Elliot’s or Marina beach and feel your miniscule place in the larger fabric of nature.
Barefoot Scuba Dive
You can hop on a catamaran, sail past the vanilla foams into cobalt waters, guided by a seasoned coach. Take the plunge and dive underwater to discover the enthralling marine life of Covelong, with shimmering coral reefs and colourful schools of fish from the honeycomb morays to snappers, and bewildering octopuses. You can take a professional course or just do a fun dive at Barefoot Scuba.
There is more to summer in Chennai than the draining sun!
It is said that best way to get a taste of the kinks of a city, is to explore it by foot. And this is at most true for a city like Chennai, where you you receive more than you seek.
On these curated walks, you experience imprints of the city’s history, architecture, culture, and culinary heritage, with every step.
- Cultural heritage: Story Trails (www.storytrails.in)
- Architecture: Madras Inherited (www.facebook.com/MInherited)
- Food: Puliyogare Travels (puliyogaretravels.com)
- History: Past Forward (pastforward.in/website/index.html)
- A bit of this, and that: TOI Chance Ey Illa (chanceyilla.in/trails-register.php)Come to think of it, Chennai was originally named quite aptly. Madrasapattinam can literally be broken down to mean, the Land of Exciting Flavours (Mad-Ras-a-Pattinam*).
*In Tamil, ‘ras’ means flavour, and ‘pattinam’ means city.