Folk Artists Treat Chennaiites for Pongal

Parai artists from Madurai's Alanganallur say the art is becoming popular even among urban youth.

A beautifully choregraphed tribal dance performance by a group of Toda tribal women from the Nilgiris, draped in Toda embroidered sari stunned the audience at Island Grounds, one of the locations for this edition of Chennai Sangamam. “This is a confluence of all art forms. This is an opportunity that takes our art form around the world. We are hopeful this would now open us new opportunities for our performance” said Amsamalli a Toda artist to tellmystory.in  Another artist added “We are just 1500 of us in the Nilgiris. We need continuous government support and encouragement to preserve our identity and culture.”

More than a thousand Folk artists from across Tamil Nadu are making Pongal very special for Chennaites this year as they perform at 18 locations in Chennai including the Island Grounds, Eliott’s Beach and Nageshwara Rao Park in the evenings from the 15th to 17th.

Hit hard by the pandemic over the last few years this has come as an opportunity to revive their livelihood.

Also turning many heads, a group of Parai artists from Alanganallur in Madurai who cris-crossed the stage beating their slender drums, dressed in dazzling yellow and pink shirts. Vel Asaan, the Guru who’s team had performed around the world after the earlier editions of Chennai Sangamam says many artists had to pledge their gold and property to tide over the lack of opportunity when the pandemic struck. “There was a silver lining too” he adds. “Many educated youth showed interest to learn Parai and I do have zoom classes even now. For six months.

This group of Toda woman artists from Nilgiris are stunning audience with their performance.

Pambai artists from Dharmapuri too in silky blue engaged audiences with their fancy smaller version of mridangam like leather percussion instrument. In the past these were used exclusively for temple festivals and occasions. “We have travelled around the world. Now we perform at other functions too including government programmes. Although we earn Rs 1500 to 2000 every day, we get offers only for around six months in a year. It would help the art if the government would help” says Kalaivalarmani P S Murugasamy. 

The Tamil Nadu government has revived the Chennai Sangamam after more than a  decade. It was a feast for their eyes, ears, mind and pallet for hundreds of Chennaites. Raghu a techie says “My wife and I loved this. This helped to celebrate Pongal in its true spirit with these incredible folk artists”. Shailaja a mother said “It was a different Pongal experience with a treat of folk  art and food”. 

Calling this a festival art, culture, food, traditon and identity, DMK MP Kanimozhi says the state government is creating these opportunities to open new income generating avenues and opportunities to talented folk artists. She added “The remuneration for each artist has been increased to Rs 5000// this time. This has set the standard. We thank the Chief Minister for making this a state sponsored event and for promising to hold these throughout the year.”

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