About 57 kilometres from Chennai, just off the scenic Eastern Coastal Roadway, lies a not-so-hidden gem – the wondrous town of Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, as it is more popularly known. Imposing temples, stunning rock-cut sculptures and a pervading sense of history are what first strike you here. But, in December, the entire town transforms into a grand celebration of the remarkable and varied dance traditions and forms of India.
While all of Tamil Nadu is rich in spectacular heritage sites, Mahabalipuram, with its dense concentration of such sites, is a history and art lover’s paradise. The shores of Mahabalipuram – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – play host to tourists from all over the world who come here for the dance festival. From dance enthusiasts to practitioners and scholars – international visitors flock here.
Originally christened the Mamallapuram Dance Festival when first introduced in 1992, it later became the Indian Dance Festival. This is organised under the aegis of the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu and plays host to renowned professional classical dance practitioners from all over India who come to perform here. Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odishi and Kathak – the entire range of India’s classical dances are represented here. What is interesting is that the festival provides a platform for not just classical dance forms but lesser-known folk dance traditions of Kavadi, Thappattam, Karagam and Oyilattam, among others, which amplify the vibrant atmosphere with their colourful and vigorous performances.
The front lawn of the 7th century Shore Temple transforms into a stage, and as the magnificent backdrop, adding to the magical quotient of the performances. The festival is not only an opportunity for art lovers to watch performances of renowned artistes and become acquainted with lesser-known forms, but also a priceless opportunity for the artistes to network and expand their professional cohorts.
A visit to the Indian Dance Festival is a dream for both artistes and enthusiasts alike. Because, even with the current explosion of festivals – art, literature, theatre, design and so on – this remains a unique end-of-year celebration – a statement of the connection between the arts and the human experience, enriched over years, decades and centuries that is especially apt for this ancient town redolent with history.
Where: Sea Shore Temple Complex, Mamallapuram
When: Last week of December,2022
Timings: 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
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