Mahabalipuram, the temple town in the state of Tamil Nadu and the treasure house of the antediluvian relics of the artistic and architectonic dexterity of bygone era is widely reckoned amongst the domestic as well as foreign tourists as the open air museum of erstwhile Pallava architecture.
The tourists visiting Mahabalipuram make it a point to buy the stone sculptures, artistry works, granite statues, images of Hindu gods made from soapstone, handicrafts, wood carvings, jewellery, sea shell articles, and such souvenirs commonly sold here. Mahabalipuram is also a locale where tourists indulge in various delightful activities and amusements such as bike rides, boating, fishing trips, strolling at the beaches and relaxing, trekking and attending Yoga camps etc. Apart from that, the picturesque vistas of the exquisite antique vestiges spread over an extensive stretch of land that have survived the test of time leaves its beholders absolutely dumb founded here.
The major religion of Mahabalipuram is Hinduism, yet; people following other religious faiths also dwell happily and harmoniously in this cosmopolitan town. The chief languages spoken at Mahabalipuram are Tamil and English. The inhabitants of this region are friendly, hospitable and fun loving, and the culture of Mahabalipuram other than its precious heritage, is marked with several annual festivals celebrated here with unequalled zest and gusto. Some of the major festivals of Mahabalipuram that draw thousands of tourists to this temple town nested along the Coromandel Coast include Mahabalipuram Dance Festival, Masi Magam or Masi Makam Festival, Pongal, Elephanta Festival, and so on.
Mahabalipuram Dance Festival
Mahabalipuram Dance Festival also popularly known as the ‘Open Air Dance Festival’ is organized by the tourism department of Tamil Nadu government every year. This festival of Mahabalipuram reputed and venerated on the international platform commences from 25th December and continues till the first week of February. The festival is conducted on all Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays during this span of time. Celebrated dancers from every part of the country alight at Mahabalipuram to participate in this prestigious and grand event. The stage of this yearly dance festival is set up against the backdrop of the magnificent monument of Mahabalipuram; Arjuna’s Penance. Classical dances, tribal and folk dances, music concerts and puppet shows presented here are indeed a feast to every human eye and all tender souls. This vibrant and vivid dance festival of Mahabalipuram hosts various performances of Bharat Natyam, Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Kathak, Odissi and Kuchipudi dances. This ostentatious cultural festival of Mahabalipuram beckons swarms of tourists from every part of the globe.
Masi Magam or Masi Makam Festival
Masi Magam or Masi Makam Festival one of the most revered religious festivals of Mahabalipuram is celebrated at the Thirukadalmallai Temple in the month of Chithirai (February or March). Acclaimed as one of the most important, colorful and extravagant festival of Mahabalipuram, Masi Magam is the second biggest fete of this temple town. On the day of Masi Magam, Lord ‘Perumal’ and his consort ‘Nilamangai Thaayar’ are carried to the Mahabalipuram beach in a grand procession known as Oorvalam here. A special abhishekam amidst the chanting of the mantras and other rituals is offered to the Lord and both Lord Perumal and Goddess Nilamangai Thaayar are bathed in the sea water. Thousands of devotees throng the Mahabalipuram beach to witness the Masi Magam rituals and they immerse themselves in the holy water where the deities are bathed. It is believed by the devotees that this sacred bath is extremely auspicious and sin cleansing. Special attractions of the Masi Magam Festival are the Float Festival and the Deepotsavam. Once in every twelve months the Masi Magam Festival is celebrated as the Maha Magam in a lot more regal and pompous manner.
Pongal is a four days harvest festival that is celebrated in the month of January. It begins with the last day of the Tamil month Margazhi and continues for next three days of the Tamil month Thai. The first day of Pongal is ‘Bhogi’ when people clean their houses. The second day is celebrated as ‘Surya Pongal’ in the honor of Lord Sun when a delicacy named ‘Chakkara Pongal’ made from rice and jaggery is prepared and homes are decorated with Kolam designs. ‘Mattu Pongal’ is the third day when cattle are ceremonially bathed and adorned with flowers and beads. ‘Kaanum Pongal’, the fourth day of this festival is the day of meeting relatives and friends. On this day the agricultural laborers are honored.
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