March 16, 2013

Natyanjali 2013

This past week, I spent time in Chidambaram covering the annual Natyanjali Dance Festival for

Since last year, we have been blogging this unique fest that opens inside the famed temple on Sivaratri evening and runs for five days.

Blogging is still a challenging task - it pushes you to tell little stories all the time and share pictures and visual clips.
And sometimes, you are in the middle of a story.

On Sivaratri night, dancer Aniruddha Knight who had driven from Bangalore via Chennai just to dance in front of the Lord on this special evening found that he wouldn’t have any space at all to offer his anjali.

People were thick all around the core of the temple that Sunday night and more were filing in, dodging the hundreds of earthen lamps that had been lit in all the corridors. Knight and his musicians looked helpless. Since I am a regular at the temple at this time of the year, I quickly waved my arms and created some space for the musicians to sit down and for Knight to launch into his dance.

It was indeed a special moment for all of us though it lasted for a mere six minutes.

Two aspects of the Natyanjali always strike me and they have to do with community bonding.
One is the community dining facility that is offered to artistes and their guests at the festival.
Breakfast, lunch and tiffin is free, sumptuous and on time.

A wellwisher offers a wedding hall for this purpose, other benefactors provide rice bags and cooking oil tins and veteran cook Vageesan and his team serve the food fresh and on time, with artistes from the north served chappatis, curry, green chillies and onion slices.

Dining in the common hall also allows artistes to meet each other and enjoy a chat or exchange notes.
For dinner, the hosts of the festival follow a practice that has been in existence for almost three decades ( the Natyanjali is in its 32nd year). Each member of the Trust brings one or a few dishes to a house close to the temple and the food is served to guests and the hosts also have a bite.

Lemon semiya, curd semiya, sweet poli, vadai, chappati, vegetable curry, pickles and grapes - that was the menu one evening when I dined here.

Food does bring people a bit closer. At Chidambaram, it bonds the team and builds new relationships with guests and well wishers.

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