One of the jokes we’ve been cracking about Gurgaon for many years, is that just pouring a glass of water on the road is enough to cause a traffic snarl. So when the clouds above rained down, it came as no surprise that the city of Gurgaon virtually came to a standstill. With vehicles stuck in jams for well over 12 hours, walking seemed to be the only way to go anywhere.
Or rather, with half-covered drains overflowing well on to the main road, we had to…
Jump over puddles
Climb over fences
Swing around car mirrors
Limbo under branches
Crawl sideways on narrow high ground
And when someone came splashing water
Quickly turn around!
…no, in the middle of the main road, we were not walking, we weren’t wading, and we weren’t weaving… we were dancing!
While I was in Chennai last year, I received a message from a friend of mine:
‘So are you coming tomorrow?’
‘I’m in Chennai right now’, I replied.
‘Ooh Margazhi. Have fun!’
I didn’t understand what she meant by that. I had visited Chennai during the winter months a few times in the past, but apart from the pleasant weather, I couldn’t think of any other reason to enjoy. I soon found out.
The Tamil month of Margazhi* is considered highly auspicious. For those who are religiously inclined, Margazhi is a month of lots of pujas — temples open much earlier and devotees visit in large numbers for the special pujas. But that was not what my friend, an ardent follower of performing arts, meant.
Margazhi is a cultural extravaganza, a haven for fans of the classical arts, with hundreds of Kutcheries — music and dance concerts — organised throughout the month. Margazhi is, in fact, now synonymous with the music festival.
Chennai takes its music seriously, and audiences don’t clap unless the performance is very good. I found that out on our last day in Chennai, when we spent close to six hours in one auditorium, listening to back-to-back musical performances (for free)!
Even those not interested in the arts — and there are probably few of those in Chennai — cannot escape the Margazhi season, for the art overflows on the streets. Take a walk in the interior parts of residential areas. The Kolams that are drawn at door-steps of every house are much bigger and colourful. The kolams at the temples, though, were my favourite. These are from the Chidambaram temple:
Kolam at Chidambaram Temple
One of the twin kolams along the side of the entrance of Chidambaram Temple
And if you are not interested in art, well then there’s always the sea. The cool sea breeze, on the cool sand is the perfect place to relax.
Yes, Margazhi is the time to visit Tamil Nadu.
*Margazhi begins in mid-December and ends in mid-January. The Corresponding Sanskrit name is Mārgaṣīrṣa. After the end of this month, the harvest festival of Pongal (which falls on Makar Sankranti) is celebrated. The festival marks beginning of Uttarayan – the beginning of the sun’s ascent, signifying the beginning of the end of winter.
The images in this post are my entries for this week’s Photo Challenge. To see more symmetrical images, check out the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.
We were on our way to the Vaitheeswaran Temple, when we decided to take a short detour. The magnificent gopuram* of the ancient temple was visible from afar, and it was on an impulse, that we decided to visit the Chidambaram temple.
Opposite the entrance stood an intricately carved wooden structure, being prepared, perhaps, for the grand pooja which was to take place only two days after our visit. A long row of shops – selling flowers, pooja items, idols of Gods, colourful kolam powders and filter coffee – lined either side of the path leading up the entrance. We deposited our slippers with one of the shoe-caretakers (for lack of a better word), and stepped inside.
Beautiful kolams greeted us, followed by the grand gopuram which we had seen from afar. There were more gopurams inside the premises. Hundreds of devotees had come, mostly in crowded buses, from different parts of the country. We followed the crowd.
After a long walk from the entrance, we entered the main shrine. Devotees who were closer to the sanctum sanctorum, bent over the railings; those who were behind, stood on their toes; children sat on shoulders of their fathers, all of them waiting to get a glimpse of Nataraja, the lord of dance. As the curtain was pulled apart, temple bells and folded palms filled the shrine.
This ancient temple, spread over 40 acres, is one of the largest temples in the world (fourth largest, to be precise)**. Intricate sculptures of deities atop the gopurams, stone panels depicting dance postures, halls with high ceilings, all supported by massive pillars embellished with floral detailing. With several shrines and tanks, the temple priest told us, it would take one full day to properly visit the temple complex. An hour, was hardly going to be sufficient to soak in the magnificence and grandeur of the temple.
Every year Bharatanatyam dancers converge in this temple during the annual festival to worship, their offerings in the form of dance. I can only wonder what that atmosphere would be like. Hopefully I will visit the temple once again. And on that day, I will spend more than just an hour.
* Gopuram is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of any temple, especially in Southern India. This forms a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. (Source: Wikipedia)
** The three largest temples are, in order, Angkor Wat, Cambodia; The Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu: Akshardham, Delhi, India (Source)
We travelled for three days on the crowded train – there were more than two hundred of us, and only a hundred confirmed tickets. A bus journey from Dimapur brought us to the campus of Nagaland University, located atop the hills, in Kohima. Exhausted after the journey, we didn’t bother about blankets, as we fell into deep slumber in the dormitory.
During our stay, we discovered the ‘passion fruit’. We devoured them like wild beasts. We had never heard of them, and we knew that we may never taste them ever again. By the time we left, the locals had made a handsome profit!
The nearby hangar served as the venue for talks and concerts. The music and dance performances mesmerised the large audience, and the atmosphere quite literally came alive when clouds filled the ‘auditorium’!
We had the privilege of attending workshops conducted by national artists. And the highlight of the entire trip was the ‘classical overnight’. Beginning after dinner, continuing till dawn, the all-night programme held us in a state of trance. We didn’t sleep during the concert, and yet, ‘woke up’ feeling refreshed, without a hint of exhaustion.
We spent the last day in the main town, visiting the War cemetery, and the Museum.
Due to the insurgent outfits operating throughout the North-Eastern Region, we were forbidden to travel at night. That meant that we had to reach Dimapur before sunset. The last night of our stay was spent on the railway platform at Dimapur Railway station.
We had to board the early morning train, which would stop only for fifteen minutes. We collected all the luggage in one place, and hauled every bit of luggage inside the train as fast as we could, irrespective of whose bag it was. After a chaotic hour or so, we found out that along with our baggage, two large boxes of RDX had found their way into the train. The train we boarded for our return journey was even more crowded than the one in which we went. The mood in the train was dull.
That didn’t last long, however, when we tasted the freshly cut pineapples that were being served by vendors in the train. Juicy and soft, they simply melted in the mouth, and there was not a hint of fibre – you could be forgiven for thinking that they were mangoes. The exotic produce of the north-east, it seemed didn’t end with the passion fruit!
Eventually, we bade farewell to all the people with whom we had shared our entire experience. People who were strangers only a few days back, and people whom we would probably never meet again.
It is unlikely we would ever be a part of such a trip, ever again.
We didn’t carry a camera to capture the great, and the not-so-great moments (and there were plenty of both!) Our stock of passion fruits lasted no more than a few days, and the trip became a distant memory, within just a few months. Looking back, it all seems like a dream. The details of the trip are blurry, and there is little record of us ever having been there. I never wrote anything about it, to remind me of the time.
However, we do have some proof of it being real – a pair of brooches that we bought as souvenirs.
And a painting.
This painting was made in Kohima. I had attended the workshop being conducted by Padma Shree Anjolie Ela Menon. Perhaps there was something in the air that made me draw this – I had never before drawn something abstract, and even after the trip, I have not dared to venture into that territory.
Upon returning, I discovered, to my horror, that the acrylic paint had actually not dried up, and the foam plate I had placed over the canvas to ‘protect’ it, got stuck, and ruined the painting.
Several months passed, and I never fixed it. After over four years, I finally painted over the bad patches. While the scars are still visible, the picture is more presentable.
This post belongs to the original post titled ‘Letting Go‘
I pulled out the scrapbook from the bottom of the cupboard with the intention of scanning a few pages. The paper has yellowed, the edges of the paper are torn, and damp hands have removed some of the colour. But as I flipped through it with my mother, we fell in love with it all over again! So I decided to scan the whole book!
A part of me wanted to retouch it, but the better part of me (read lazy) thought it best to upload it untouched – yellow and torn. The scans don’t reveal how beautifully well preserved the actual photographs are, though the newspaper clippings reveal their age. Hope you enjoy!
The images are the property of their respective owners. I apologise for being unable to mention the sources (I was just a 12 year old kid who didn’t really care about intellectual property). It is very very very old! Some that do come to my mind are – The Hindu (Newspaper supplements), Brochures from The Sanskriti Museum and India Habitat centre.