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Chennai in December

A bharatanatyam performance by Alarmel Valli.
Image courtesy: R Prasana

The city that always sleeps at eight wakes up at the end of the year. Chennai becomes a cultural hub during the month of Marghazi with Carnatic music, bharatanatyam, poetry, folk festivals livening up the Kutcheri Season. The city’s sabhas or concert halls host classical music and dance kutcheri (concerts) to bring the year down and draws people both from home and internationally. Held annually from December to January end, over 60 cultural organisations or sabhas host some 1000 performances of dance and music. For itinerary and ticket information visit

Bombay Jayashree at a concert.
Image courtesy: S Hariharan

Our picks for the season

Music Festivals: The annual December Season is the largest congregation of over 600 South Indian classical music and dance performances in one city, held over a period of two months. Carnatic musicians, classical dancers and connoisseurs gather to partake in these cultural festivities, seminars and debates. Choose from Kadri Gopalnath’s saxophone or Prasanna’s guitar set to Carnatic rhythms for a twist or go traditional with the performances of a Sudha Raghunathan, Aruna Sairam, TM Krishna , Bombay Jayashree, Priya Sisters and more. For dance that is a feast for the eyes from Shobana, Alarmel Valli, Malavikka Sarukkai, Priyadarshini Govind, Srinidhi Chidambaram, to legends like Padma Subramanian, the choice is endless.

The Park New Festival: If contemporary, avant garde work in dance, music, theatre, poetry and contemporary culture with a twist is to your liking this is the hub to be and be seen.

Dance Festivals: The Mamallapuram Dance Festival and Kalakshetra Dance Festival ( are both held from December–January. The locations are as inspiring as the performances here.

Kutcheri Sampler: Yes, it’s predominantly vegetarian but you’ll be missing a lot if you don’t land at the canteens of Music Academy, Krishna Gana Sabha, Narada Gana Sabha, Kalakshetra or around the tiny eateries around Mylapore for crisp vadai with sambar and a variety of chutneys or a dosa or kuzhi paniaram and other tiffin options. And don’t miss that tumbler of filter coffee after your meal.


Sudha G Tilak is commissioning editor, Lonely Planet.