Pleasant weather, the backdrop of Arjuna's Penance, pleasing music and a reverberating Bharatanatyam performance set the tone for the inauguration of the world-famous annual Indian Dance Festival in Mamallapuram on Saturday.

A large number of foreign and domestic tourists had converged in the temple town and sea resort of Mamallapuram to witness the inauguration of the festival . There was a deluge of visitors from Chennai as Christmas coincided with the weekend. With schools remaining closed, a large number of families had also assembled at the venue.

The festival assumed greater significance with UNESCO declaring Mamallapuram as World Cultural Heritage Site. The dance festival, held for the 19th year, was inaugurated with the formal beating of traditional drums by Suresh Rajan and T.M. Anbarasan, Tourism and Labour Ministers respectively.

The stage was set in the backdrop of Arjuna's Penance, the world's biggest bas relief sculpture.

Prior to the inaugural function, there was a performance by faculty and students of Government Music College, Chennai on the veena, violin and mridangam.

They performed classical, devotional and popular Tamil film songs of yesteryears. Later, there was a Bharatanatyam presentation by Shobana Ramesh and her troupe members. The presentation depicted the ‘aimperum kaappiyam.' The festival is being held since 1992 but became a month-long event only from 2007-08. A tourist from Berlin, Germany, said he had been visiting the Mamallapuram Dance Festival for the past 18 years. Running a radio station, he was accompanied by a colleague and the annual visit gave him a lot of inputs to his research on music and dance forms. Among others who were present at the inauguration included S.S.Jawahar, Secretary to the Tourism and Culture Department; A.C.Mohandoss, Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation; and Ashish Chaterjee, Kancheepuram Collector.