Carnatic vocalists Sudha Raghunathan and T. M. Krishna were honoured with the P. Obul Reddy and P. Gnananba Memorial cash awards as the 23-day cultural festival hosted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Chennai got off on Sunday.

The launch of the festival, which will showcase music, dance, harikatha, bhajans and literary discourses, also featured the felicitation of veteran musicians A. K. C. Natarajan and Chengalpattu Ranganathan and presentation of cash award to young artistes. In an acceptance speech on behalf of the awardees, Ms. Sudha Raghunathan said being a first-time awardee of an award started by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was special. The cultural festival has established itself as a curtain-raiser to the music season in December, she said. Launching the festival, M. Narendra, Chairman and Managing Director, Indian Overseas Bank, said classical music had the capacity to mould the personality of the musician and the rasika. Preetha Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals, who launched a painting exhibition by H. N. Suresh, underscored the responsibility of citizens and organisations such as Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to safeguard the country's culture and heritage.

Former Chief Election Commissioner and chairman of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Chennai Kendra T. S. Krishnamurthy said the organisation had, of late, been makingn changes to its programmes, such as instituting awards to encourage distinguished and upcoming artistes. A Sanskrit seminar on the relevance of the Vedas and sastras in music and dance is one of the high points of this year's festival. The Bhavan's expansion plans on a site in Tiruporur included establishing an old-age centre and a women's college, he said. Nalli Kuppusamy Chetty, Brahma Gana Sabha president, said the cultural festival set the tone for the December music season. Bhavan's director K. N. Ramaswamy also participated.