The morning ragas rendered by young children offer a perfect start to the day, while the synchronised movements to traditional beats provide a seamless finish to it. In-between, craft and cuisine steal the show. Blessed are those such as Vijay Madhavan who live in the midst of these sights and sounds and get to experience the racing pulse of old culture and tradition brought alive by the short-but-enriching Mylaopre Festival.
From being just a Kolam contest for residents of Mylapore, it has turned into a big fest recreating the magic of Thiruvizha on city streets. “The idea was to rope in the local community and conduct events that would showcase our art forms and revive dying traditions,” says T.T. Srinivasaraghavan, managing director of Sundaram Finance, which organises the festival.
Bringing dance and music out of confined spaces, the Mylaopre Festival has tried to make them something to be widely celebrated. Be it outside the Kapileeshwarar Temple or at a public park, the street is where the fun is for four days.
“We wanted to use available public spaces, such that no restriction is imposed on people partaking of the festivities. There is nothing commercial about the festival and all are ticket-less programmes,” says Srinivasaraghavan.
Also, there is no glamour attached to the celebrations and participants are the real celebrities. Children are an integral part of the festivities as participants, spectators and volunteers. Such is the fanfare for the festival that young students such as Shruti Balaji come back for more every year.
“I come from Delhi to visit my grandparents who live in Mylapore during Pongal, and that is when the Mylapore Festival is also conducted. It is so refreshing to see dying games and art forms being revived by the festival and young people like me get a chance to see rare performances and learn and enjoy traditional games. I never miss the Mikeless Kutcheries by children in the early morning. The event marries the beauty of nature to great voices and provides a rejuvenating experience. My family also participates in the Kolam contest every year.”
A dancer by profession, Vijay Madhavan has donned the roles of performer and an spectator during the festivities. “While it provides a platform for children to showcase their talent, it helps in the creation of new rasikas of music and dance and also popularises different art forms. The young generation is totally involved and they are the highlights of the event. I personally love to walk down the food and art streets.”
The festival enjoys patronage from residents across the city and even abroad, but Mylaopre is the cultural heart of the town and therefore a natural fit for conducting the festival. “The locality is older than Madras itself and imbibes the spirit of the city. The Mylaopre Festival serves as a catalyst for others to recreate similar magic in their respective neighbourhoods,” says Srinivasaraghavan.
The festival also recognises individuals and organisations representing the spirit of Mylapore. Under its eco-friendly initiative, 10,000 cloth bags are given away every year in exchange of plastic bags brought by the audience.
The events today include Mikeless Kutcheri from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. at Nageswara Rao Park, Kolam contest at 3.30 p.m. at North Mada Street, art workshop for children from 10 a.m. to noon at Nageswara Rao Park, Pallankuzhi contest at 5 p.m. at Lady Sivaswamy Girls Schools (participants must get their own Pallankuzhi boards), and Yakshagana, a traditional dance drama from Karnataka, at 8.30 p.m., near the eastern entrance of Kapali temple.