Experience an insider’s guide to Chennai’s cultural winter calendarITC Grand Chola, Chennai has appointed a dedicated Media, Arts and Culture Consultant, to help guests take full advantage of the wealth of cultural events that take place in the South Indian city.
This buzzing city has long been deemed the cultural hub of India. Its diverse population and vibrant history reflected in a thriving music, art, theatre and dance scene.
Chitra Mahesh is an established freelance music and arts journalist, who has come on board as ‘Cultural Consultant’ to advise ITC Grand Chola’ guests on the most unique and traditional experiences happening in and around the city. Having covered the Chennai arts scene for over 20 years, Chitra has extensive insider’s knowledge, from securing tickets for the most sought after concerts during the Chennai music season, to arranging a private South Indian dance performance, holding the key to discovering the cultural side of this burgeoning city.
There’s no better time to visit Chennai then in December and January, the temperatures are lower creating cooler climes, allowing a huge range of outdoor festivals and events to take place. Here Chitra gives her recommendations for the coming festival season.
Madras Music Season
Often referred to as one of the word’s largest cultural events, the Madras Music Season occurs in Chennai each December. Taking place over six weeks, the music festival features performances of traditional Carnatic music by hundreds of artists in and around the city. Tickets to many of the events are free and draw large crowds, a truly unmissable event for tourists and locals alike. December – January.
Mamallapuram open-air dance festival
60km south of Chennai, lies the ancient town of Mamallapuram, once a major seaport and the second capital of the Pallava kings, this tiny and laid-back town is one of India's best-kept secrets. Each December through to January the town is home to India's biggest classical dance festival. Guests can witness the best in folk and classical dance, including Bharatanatyam, a dance that originated from Chennai. The concerts take place in various open-air venues, the monolithic rock carvings, temples and heritage buildings providing a magnificent backdrop to the festivities. From December 25th until January 25th.
International Chennai Film Festival (CIFF)
The 11th edition of CIFF promises to be the biggest and best yet. CIFF features the best of international, Indian Panorama and Tamil film. In 2012 over 160 films were screened from 45 countries including Turkey, Hungary and Poland. From December 12th until December 19th.
The Kalashetra Festival
Kalashetra literally means holy place of arts. A local institution, The Kalashetra Festival was established to celebrate and honour the legacy of Rukmini Devi, an Indian theosophist, dancer and choreographer. She is considered one of the most important revivalists in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam. She also campaigned tirelessly throughout her life to reintroduce traditional Indian arts and crafts back into the country.
A Kalashetra school is seen as the top training and performing arts institute, moulding generations of acclaimed artists since it was established in the early 20th century. Over three days each year, in late December, the school’s students put on a series of exclusive performances for the local community and visitors. Late December 2013.
Natyakala Conference and Dance Festival
The Annual Natyakala Conference and Dance Festival conducted by Krishna Gana Sabha is a forum for academics, scholars, dancers and musicians. Fronted by some of India’s leading artists the festival features a series of lectures, practical demonstrations and performances. Getting a slot at this annual event is considered a privilege. From December 15th until December 31st
The Prakriti Foundation’s Annual Poetry Festival
This poetry festival features some of the best poets from India and around the world. The festival is unique, in that it concentrates on new forms of poetry and current trends. Events take place across the city in different venues such as schools, colleges and other cultural forums.
From December 10th until 21st December.
Rooms at ITC Grand Chola start from INR 11,5000 + taxes based on two people sharing an Executive Room, inclusive of breakfast.