Four-day festival in centuries-old neighbourhood offers tourists and residents a guided cycle rickshaw tour, a glimpse of art, a taste of traditional food and lots more
Compared to Mylapore’s unbroken centuries-old history, Dakshinamoorthy’s jaunty yellow three-wheeler is a rather modern convenience to traverse its slender streets.
As he steps on the pedal and jumps masterfully on to his cycle rickshaw, Dakshinamoorthy takes both discerning tourists and boastful locals on a ride around this vibrant neighbourhood as part of the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival.
Curated by festival directors Vincent D Souza and R. Revathi, in the 11 edition of this 4-day jamboree, the locals open their doors to serve elai sappadu to visitors, and streets accommodate mammoth kolams from over 150 enthusiasts.
The Kapaleeswarar temple is the cultural fountainhead from where heritage, spectacle and continuity spill on to the streets of Mylapore. And it is from here that Dakshinamoorthy begins his unhurried tour of the Mada streets that envelope the temple, and the distant roads, which are still bound by the axis that is the historic temple.
To some, ATMs next to a 100-year old house, and a supermarket by oil and coconut stalls may seem like anachronisms, but this centuries-old neighbourhood needs no scaffolding to hold on to its past while at the same time, establishing its relevance to the future.
S. Gopalakrishnan, who lived in Mylapore for 22 years before moving out, believes that not all neighbourhoods lend themselves to such a festival. “I moved out of Mylapore in 1985, but I keep coming back,” he says, talking about the Shorthand School where he passed his lower examinations.
For C.K. Raman, Mylapore is filled with microhabitats. “There’s a street full of jewellery, and then one with musical instruments. You don’t have to step out of here,” he says. His only link to the neighbourhood, he adds, is that his uncle had two houses here.
“The three of us belong to three generations, and Mylapore has evoked three very distinct responses from us,” says Parvathy Raman, a relative of his, who had come along with her four-and-a-half-year-old son to the festival. “It would be interesting to have something of this nature on Ranganathan Street,” she added.
“We have close to 37 volunteers and we are on the lookout for people to perform and participate in this festival throughout the year. For the kolam competition, we have participants from places as near as Koyambedu and as far as Kancheepuram,” says Ms. Revathy.
Down the road, past the Sannidhi Square on either side, were ‘eat street’ and ‘art street’, one lined up amni kozhakattais, javarsi bondas, and Mangalore polis, while the other exhibited Tanjore and oil paintings.
As the evening set in, the crowds grew denser, the chatter raucous, and the streets more inviting.