It is that time of the year when many a temple across Tamil Nadu hosts classical dance festivals to celebrate Sivaratri. And so, this week these festivals - some only for Sivaratri evening and some weeklong - will unfold.
This is a tradition that started some four decades ago at the temple dedicated to lord Nataraja in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, in a small and informal manner and was carried forward by a Trust which hosted dance recitals in the outer courtyard of this magnificent temple. The fest was called Natyanjali.
In course of time, similar Natyanjalis were organised in a few other temples by people like dancer-scholar Dr. Padma Subramaniam.
So Chidambaram and Kumbakonam, Nagapattinam and Thirunallar, Thanjavur, Thiruwarur and Tiruchi and many such places had hosts who curated these festivals as a tribute to lord Shiva.
This year, Natyanjali festivals are starting from Feb.19 onwards.
The Natyanjali Trust in Chidambaram (which was asked by the temple Dikshitars to stop having the recitals inside the temple some years ago and now holds the fest in an open campus near the temple) is hosting a five-day fest from Feb.19.
Each evening, some 5 to 6 dance recitals will be held: on Sivaratri day, the recitals are many and end only at 2 a.m. the next morning.
Dancers from across India and abroad are featured at this fest. Sangeet Natak Akademi is also sponsoring groups.
We hear that there will be a festival inside the temple too, hosted by a Dikshitar group but details are awaited.
Dr Padma Subrahmaniam's team is curating the festivals at Nagapattinam (in its 20th year), Thirunallar, Thiruthuraipoondi, Thiruveezhimizhalai and in Vaitheeswaran Koil.
The fest is Nagapattinam is held at the Neelayadakshi Amman Temple for 4 days, from Feb.20. In Thirunallar too, the fest is for 4 days from Feb.20 at Sri Dharbaranyeswarar Temple (popularly known as Saneeswarar Temple).
In Thiruthuraipoondi, it is for three days from Feb.21, in Thiruveezhimizhalai for 2 days from Feb.21 and one day in Vaitheeswaran Koil (Feb.21)
In Thanjavur, the Brahanatyanjali as the festival is called will run for a week from Sivaratri evening. On the first evening though the recitals will spill into the next morning, the recitals on the other days end by 10 p.m. They are held inside the World Heritage site of Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple - dancers perform on the stone base of the giant Nandi image which faces the main temple here.
Festivals will also be held in many towns in Tamil Nadu.
Natyanjali 2020 Schedules