Each December as the year wraps up and prepares to exit, Tamil Nadu comes alive. For December is the month of Margazhi (pronounced Maar-ga-li)
Margazhi is considered to be the most beautiful month in Tamil Nadu and commences on the 16 th of December each year.
Scriptures say that Lord Krishna said that he is the month of Margazhi. This holy month sees special Pujas being performed and odes to the Gods being sung.
Scientific proof declares that the Ozone layer is the closest to the earth during this period, ensuring a generous supply of oxygen and thus aiding in improving health. Little wonder then that early mornings see people flocking to temples for Pujas, breathing in the fresh morning air.
Music and dance programmes are held at different venues across the city. The swish of silks, the glint of gold and diamonds and a string of fresh and fragrant mallige (jasmine) flowers in the hair are beautiful sights at the venues.
It is considered an honour to perform at Margazhi. The singing and the dance performances are by novices and by very well-known artistes. During performances you can see people completely engrossed in the music and dance, their hands beating out a tattoo in sync with the music theirs ears capture and even as their heads bob up and down in tune with it.
The other big attraction of Margazhi however are the Sabha Canteens. Every venue has its own and everyone has their personal favourite but the Narada Gana Sabha stands head and shoulders above the rest, with being the most sought after one.
A makeshift tent, plastic chairs and tables, waiters bustling about and people waiting for a table staring down at you urging you to eat faster and vacate make up a canteen.
The food is simple, with some constants that go on to becoming favourites. Tiffin Items (snacks) like piping hot Vadai’s, crisp Ghee Dosas, Appams or Idiyappams are the must haves. A fitting end to finishing off your meal is with a Davra of steaming and strong filter coffee.
We feasted on the crunchy Vazhipoo (Banana Flower) Vadai, a new flavour for me. The Khova Jangri (Jalebi dipped in Khoya) was an unusually delicious treat. Mysore Masala Dosa, Appam with Coconut Milk and a Vegetable Kurma and Fat and Fluffy Puri’s with a simple but lip-smacking modified chole gravy followed.
We loved what we ate so much that we were at the Sabha again a day later, this time for a traditional Elai Sapad, lunch served on a Banana Leaf.
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What I realised here was that looks are deceptive, as the food tastes better than it looks and even more surprisingly does not burn a hole in your pocket. A special mention to the Sambhar that, very frankly, looked unappetising but turned out to be extremely flavorful!
I had only read and heard about Margazhi and had been waiting to experience it! I finally got an opportunity to do so at the fag end of 2017. Last minute plans meant the tickets to the concerts for that day were sold out.
Lesson Learnt: You better book your tickets in advance, if you don’t want to be disappointed.
Or then you better have friends in the right places, like we did. A panicked call to Subhasree Thanikachalam and she graciously arranged for tickets at short notice. When we saw which show we had tickets for we realised that we had lucked out and how, with Bombay Jayashri being the performer of the evening.
My knowledge of classical music is zilch, despite which I found myself engrossed in 2 and a half hours of beautiful singing and music conducted on a gorgeously decorated stage.
Margazhi is a feast for the senses and the palate. Click To TweetIf you are in Chennai in December and are culturally inclined, do drop in for an experience that you will cherish.
Disclaimer: I am a Punjabi born and brought up in Bombay. I am married to a Telugu settled in Chennai. I first heard of Margazhi when I came to Chennai post marriage 7 years ago. I have been wanting to visit it since then, and I finally did. Any mistakes here are my own. Please feel free to correct me if you spot any.