Chennai Sangamam 2024: Safeguarding traditional arts takes centre stage in this ‘thiruvizha’

Spanning across 18 venues, Chennai Sangamam brought together over 1,500 traditional artistes from different regions to the city.

ByRoshne Balasubramanian

Published Jan 18, 2024 | 2:35 PMUpdatedJan 18, 2024 | 3:33 PM

Chennai Sangamam took place at 18 venues across Chennai. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Following an electrifying display of Kurumans Sevaiyattam by a group of traditional artists from Thirupathur at the Egmore Museum, on Wednesday, a middle-aged man eagerly approaches the performance group’s leader with his children.

He extends heartfelt congratulations for their captivating performance. “Thank you all so much for being here. It’s the first time my children have witnessed something like this,” he expresses, promptly kneeling before them. 

This unexpected gesture leaves the performing artistes, who are debuting in Chennai, surprised.

Swiftly helping him to his feet, they inquire, “Why did you fall on our feet?” The man humbly responds, “Sir, neenge kalaingargal (Sir, you are artistes), this is the least I can do.” 

Emotions run high as everyone is overwhelmed. With warmth, the man bids farewell to the artistes who are gearing up for their next performance at a different venue.

Also Read: Kattaikoothu artiste Thilagavathi Palani on the future of the art form

Emotional impact

Such poignant moments encapsulate the emotional impact of Chennai Sangamam ‘Namma ooru Thiruvizha’, on the hearts of thousands who witnessed age-old art forms across 18 venues in Chennai from January 13-17. The Sangamam brought together over 1,500 traditional and tribal artistes from various regions to the city. 


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The event, inaugurated on 13 January at Island Grounds by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, marks the revival of Chennai Sangamam — a brainchild of DMK MP Kanimozhi, initially launched in 2007. After a decade of dormancy, it made a comeback last year and has continued the tradition this year.

Showcasing a diverse array of art forms, including Kavadiattam, Karakattam, Aathi Melam, Sevaiattam, Thapattam, Oyilattam, Gumiyattam, Karagattam, Bangra, Kali Aattam, and more, the event drew enthusiastic spectators like Subbaiah, an 85-year-old from Chengalpattu.

Lifting his grandson on his shoulders, and dancing to the beats of the parai, Subbaiah embodied the joy of witnessing the art forms he grew up with. 

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Inclusive performances

“We’re delighted to perform here, not only in one venue but multiple venues. By showcasing our art forms to the city audience, we are confident that these traditions will endure,” shared an artiste from Virudhunagar’s Kodangi Kalaikuzhu, who performed in a packed venue at the Semmozi Poonga.

The troupe includes performers from the trans community, many of whom are first-time graduates. “We are so happy by how appreciative and inclusive people have been of our art and our identities. It’s a moment of pride for us,” shared a trans artiste from the troupe.

Kurumans Sevaiyattam. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Kurumans Sevaiyattam. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Beyond performances, the venues hosted several stalls featuring a diverse collection of products. Notably, stalls showcased products made by persons with disabilities, self-help groups, and those promoting nature, such as items based on Palmyra.

“We’ve received incredibly positive responses from visitors for our products, which are entirely based on palmyra palm. There is no maida or sugar added to it. Through this, there is awareness of the importance and significance of palm trees, providing livelihoods to those dependent on it,” shared Preethi, a member of Aetram Commune.

Palm based products by Aetram Commune on display at Chennai Sangamam. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Palm-based products by Aetram Commune at Chennai Sangamam. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Back to the roots

The event also served as a gathering place for people from different districts who have migrated to Chennai to connect with artistes from their respective regions.

“Neenge Srivilliputhur ah? Naanum dhan! (Are you from Srivilliputhur? So am I!)” exclaimed a woman, warmly greeting an artiste at the Corporation Ground in T Nagar, another performance venue.

Kodangi Kalaikizhu Viruthunagar. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Kodangi Kalaikizhu, Viruthunagar. (Roshne Balasubramanian/South First)

Having moved to Chennai several years ago for livelihood, she reflects, “I have lost all ties back there. It’s an emotional moment to meet someone from my ooru. While Chennai has become home, it’s a wonderful feeling to connect with someone who grew up on the same soil as me. I am thankful for this event for reminding me of my roots,” said 40-year-old Ponmani, all smiles.

Ponmani’s son, Kesavan, is now keen on learning to play the parai. “I believe you can never stray too far from your roots; it eventually calls you back. I am pleased that he has developed an interest in it. Breaking the stigma around playing this instrument through events like these is creating a positive mindset in the younger generation. I will make an effort to enrol him in a class soon,” Ponmani added.

The purpose of Chennai Sangamam was precisely this – to bring the traditional arts to the forefront. It seems to have successfully achieved its goal, of effectively promoting and celebrating traditional arts.

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