Natyanjali Dance Festival – Thanjavur
Thanjavur is a famous city located by the Kaveri River in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The most important landmark here is the towering Brihadeeswarar temple built by Raja Raja Chola in 1010 AD. As of now it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and bears witness of the intricate art and architecture of that era.
This heritage city has a rich cultural background that includes unforgettable Carnatic melodies, graceful dance forms and the famous Thanjavur paintings that were earlier made with gold leaf and precious and semi-precious stones. Thanjavur was also the ancient capital of various ruling dynasties including the Cholas, Nayaks, and Marathas. It attained its height of glory during the Chola rule between the 10th and 14th centuries when it was a great center of learning for arts and culture.
Modern-day Thanjavur reflects the past glory of its ancestral legacy of art and culture which is still very much practiced by its people. The Chidambaram region of Thanjavur is known as the ‘City of the Cosmic Dancer’ and is where the yearly Natyanjali festival is conducted. The ancient Nataraja temple here comes alive on the night of Mahashivaratri when trained dancers pay special homage to Lord Nataraja (the dancing form of Shiva).
This Natyanjali festival is celebrated for 5 days during the months of February-March within the temple premises. Leading dancers from all over the country congregate here during the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri to pay homage to Lord Nataraja. Many dancers are sentimental about offering their first public performance within the vicinity of the temple’s sanctum sanctorum and consider it a big blessing. This ancient Nataraja temple is built in the center of the Chidambaram region and has a bronze dancing figure of Nataraja which is known as the world’s most perfect synthesis in metal art.
The Natyanjali dance festival is organized by the Natyanjali Trust in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, Tamil Nadu. Special pujas are conducted before the commencement of the Natyajali festival which draws a massive crowd of art lovers. Aside from the Nataraja temple, other temples including the Brihadeeswarar temple also celebrate this dance festival. In the Brihadeeswarar temple, this festival is known as Brihanatyanjali and is celebrated for 7 days.
You too can enjoy this cultural extravaganza as Thanjavur is easily accessible by rail and road connections as well as an hour’s drive away from the nearby Trichy airport. You could stay over at the heritage Sangam hotel here which is itself an ode to the delightful culture of the region.