Come December, a fabulously massive classical music festival spanning several weeks in December/January takes place in Madras, which is the Mecca of Carnatic music. During the winter season of 2007-08, I had written a set of four seminal essays on this intriguing phenomenon, in my column Musicscan in THE HINDU. All intricate aspects and subtle nuances of this cultural supershow discussed on that occasion remain exactly the same today.
I have great pleasure in recalling those thoughts and sharing them with you now, and I hope you will take the trouble of finding the texts with the following links. I am glad to note that not a single sentence or word I had written then needs a change now.
Maargazhi -- the spirit is intact (7 Dec. 2007)
Source of cultural and spiritual inspiration (21 Dec. 2007)
Of volume and value (4 Jan. 2008)
Expansion on the cards (18 Jan. 2008)
If you hadn't read these essays when they were published, I guarantee that they will give you some deep insights into this recurring annual extravaganza. And if you had read them, I hope you will find it interesting and useful to refresh your memory!
Glossary and annotations
(in same order as in texts)
Maargazhi -- In South Indian calendar, coldest winter month (Dec./Jan.).
Tamil -- Ancient/modern language, one of four major languages of South India.
Carnatic music -- Classical music of South India.
Non-resident Indian (NRI) -- Legal term defined in income tax rules to identify Indian citizens living abroad; short form NRI is freely used in social circles also, usually in conversations.
Krishna Gana Sabha -- Cultural institution organizing performing arts, predominantly classical Indian music and dance, as well as contemporary Indian drama.
Hamsadhwani -- Young, trend-setting Sabha in South Madras.
S. Rangarajan (RJ) -- Retired diplomat-journalist, now living in America and writing insightfully on art and culture and Russian scenarios -- also figures in the shortest list of my oldest and closest friends.
Rasikas -- In several Indian languages, lover of art and culture, especially classical Indian music and dance.
Tamil Nadu -- Southernmost State in India, whose capital city is Madras and where Tamil is the ancient and also modern language.
Music Academy -- Prestigious culturaal institution in Madras, mainly dedicated to South Indian classical music and dance, which had played a pioneering role in the evolution of the massive winter music festival, and continues to have a unique status in the winter gala.
Bombay, Calcutta -- Metro cities in West and East India, now officially called Mumbai and Kolkata; but just like Madras in the South, the British-given names are still informally in vogue.
Delhi -- Generic name of twin cities of (old) Delhi and New Delhi in North India. For some mysterious reason, the original name Dilli hasn't been officially restored so far, and the British version still holds good.
Omar Khayyam -- Ancient Persian philosopher-mathematician-astronomer-poet, best known for his monumental romantic and philosophic verses called Rubaiyat.
Tsunami -- Japanese expression for powerful tidal wave.
Krishna Gana Sabha -- Prestigious Sabha in Madras, more than 50 years old and still playing a dynamic role in the city's cultural life.
Greater Madras -- Not yet a fait accompli, but rapidly evolving in recent years.