Chennaiyil Margazhi

Wondering what the title means ? Well, it’s a Tamil term meaning “Margazhi in Chennai”. Margazhi (pronounced Maar-ga-zhi . the last part (zhi) is a typical tamil pronunciation which requires rolling of the tongue ).

Margazhi is the name of the tamil month (Dec 15th– Jan 15th ), which is considered to be a sacred month as per the Hindus.

Chennai ,  does not need any introduction for many. Many know it in one way or the other , reasons like wedding sarees, Jewellery, international travel (consulates) etc. One common complaint that I get to hear is that its too hot and humid. Well , India is a tropical country and Chennai being a coastal place, this  is expected.

Anyways, coming to the point, each place has its own specialities. Chennai, as I mentioned earlier is known for Sarees and traditional stuff. There is yet another thing that Chennai is known for and this fact is not known to many. Being a chennaite, I have to do justice to this event known as “Margazhi Mahautsavam”, which occurs once a year , every year.

This is a yearly Music & Dance Season celebrated during the months of December & early part of January. It is one of a kind, a cultural extravaganza that has no parallel anywhere in the world.

Here’s how it all started.

The Margazhi festival was started way back in 1927, as an event to commemorate with the founding of Madras Music Academy in the month of December. The Madras Music Academy was founded in December 1927 as the outcome of an All-India music conference held during the Madras session of the Indian National Congress. The Academy started conducting a music festival in a small way every December and with the subsequent growth of the Academy, to gigantic proportions.

Why December?? Maybe because this is a relatively cooler period in chennai and moreover close to vacation time

This “December Season” as it is popularly known is much awaited by all music lovers. One gets to witness a wide spectrum of talent ranging from first timers to experienced names (the likes of Jesudas, Sudha Raghunathan, Aruna Sairam  etc etc). The culture of the season itself has undergone a huge transformation in the sense that it started off in the early years with only carnatic devotional songs being performed, and as on this date, one gets to see not only carnatic, but also Hindustani, Fusion-a mélange of percussion instruments doing solo and medley performances.

Apart from music and dance, there are

  • Plays (Drama) , mostly comical in nature. (S.Ve Sekhar, Crazy Mohan etc.)
  • Lecture Demonstrations which focus on a particular topic of interest
  • Religious discourses

A unique feature of this art festival is the fact that upcoming artists also get a chance to exhibit their talents to this city of music & dance lovers at large along with the well established artistes. Art lovers from various parts of the world visit the city during this season and in nearly all the sabhas, there is always a rush for tickets. There are season tickets available so that one does not have to stand in the ticket counter every now and then.

Typically one can spend the whole day in one sabha sitting through various ‘Kutcheri” (Concert). The best part is that during this season , every sabha has an attached eatery .  Some come here to enjoy the food and if time permits , listen to the concert ;-) .

This year a service called Fortune express was available for people to commute from one sabha to another, free of cost.

So, the next time you happen to be in Chennai during December, check out one of the numerous sabhas to get a feel of what this is all about. You do not have to be a connoisseur of music to come here, just a little bit of interest is sufficient to be here.  If you need more information , I would be more than glad to help.

This is probably the first post where I dont have any pictures.




  • nandanjha says:

    Very useful for people who have a interest in Music, Performing Arts and are there during this time.

    It would be useful to have some information about the places where typically these Sabhas are organized. For example, most of the plays are staged at NSD, Kamani, LTG (all in Mandi House), IHC (Load Road) etc, I am guessing that probably Chennai would have some specific places as well.

    By the way, do you get time to play Mridingam ?

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Great idea to hold a music fest of this sort.

  • Karthik says:

    The beauty of this festival is that it is not limited to a specific place. The sabhas are spread across chennai. T.Nagar, Nungambakkam, Mylapore, Triplicane, Kodambakkam, and the list continues so much so that yearly there is a book published detailing each and every concert :-)

  • Karthik says:


    Its been a while since I played Mridangam , but i do keep in touch every now and then :-)

  • Ram says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of information.

    We do have musical evenings in Delhi, but on a small scale and at times the entry fee being astronomical, the general public is normally devoid of such blessings.


    Thats not true, Ram!, May not be evenings, but mornings at Nehru Park have all the greats of Indian music performing there–free entry if you can get up early morning to go there..Of-course ,as you know, they are organised by the Delhi Govt, during the season.There used be a time,long time back, when Delhi used to two great cultural functions every year.
    One was the 3-days (whole nights) classical music festival at the old Constitution Club where greats like Bade, Gulam Ali,Gangubai Hangal, and(now forgotten instrument) Ustad Bundu khan used to play SARANGI, along with Villayat khan and Ravi shaker, et all.. And it was free for lovers
    The second was the annual Sir Shanker Lal Mushaira of urdu poets(three nights) at the Chelmsford Club where Josh, Jiggar, Firque ,Sagar Nizami, and others participated . Both these annual functions used to get full houses.
    Those were the days of India Coffee House intellectuals and Inder Kumar Gujral(Lucky to become Indias Prime Minister) was one of them among regulars.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Very interesting information Karthik & Jatinder thanks for taking us to the nostalgic lanes :)

  • Aarti says:

    You forgot to mention the yummmy food that draws larger crowds!!! :D

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