Organized by the Tamil Maiyam and the Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai Sangamam inspires to rejuvenate old village festivals, folk art and artists that many fear will be lost in all originality with the onset of the post modern era. The festival aims to revive and promote folk art forms, which are considered as intangible heritage and cultural assets and to bring performing arts and artists on a common platform thereby allowing cross cultural dialogue through art and culture. The festival is centred around the Tamil harvest festival Pongal. The festival is thought to be the longest and biggest open festival in India. Chennai Sangamam is inspired by its open showcase of folk art, dance and music from the Bangaluru Habba celebrations.
With over 2500 artists taking part, folk art performances include the Oyilattam (dance), Thevarattam (dance of the gods), Villupaattu (music), Thappaattam (drums), Kanniyaan Koothu (dance), Periya melam (percussion), Kalarippayitru (martial arts), Therukkoothu (theatre), Nayyaandi melam (reed pipe and percussion), Paavaikoothu (puppet show), Toda dance (tribal dance from Nilgiris) and many more music and dance forms native to the various villages of Tamil nadu.
Traditional and authentic Tamil cuisine also plays a big role at the Chennai Sangamam. The mouth-watering Kongu delicacies (dosais, oothappams, vadais, paniyarams) vie for your attention with Tirunelveli halwa, Manapparai Murukku, Ooty Cookies, Kovil Patti kadalai. Yours truly gulped down steaming hot paniyarams (trying not to think of the calorie count) at the Elliots beach edition last night while watching the traditional martial arts display on stage. The crowds thronged the floodlit beach enjoying the cuisine and the performances. The festivities and performances go on all night until the break of dawn. The electrifying and colourful display is a truly enchanting experience.
Look out for the calf head logo of the Chennai Sangamam if you are in Mylapore, T Nagar, Anna Nagar, Shenoy Nagar, Marina beach or Besant Nagar. The festival ends on 17th January 2011.