Indulge turns 15: Here are ten popular festivals in Chennai that attract tourists from all over the world

Our city has always been known for its festivals, but over the last few years, that number has drastically increased! We track the most popular fêtes in town
Popular festivals like Surf Turf, Short and Sweet Theatre Festival and Bonjour India, celebrate Chennai
Popular festivals like Surf Turf, Short and Sweet Theatre Festival and Bonjour India, celebrate Chennai

Chennai is slowly transforming into a destination which pulls a large number of tourists from all over the globe. Among the many attractions in the city, there are a number of festivals that have been bringing people to the city for the last few years. Popular festivals like Surf Turf, Short and Sweet Theatre Festival and Bonjour India, celebrate Chennai and promote the intermixing of local and international cultures. We bring you a list of ten popular festivals in the city that take place annually and add the city’s joie de vivre!

Margazhi Festival 

The Margazhi Festival of dance and music is held in Chennai across various locations between December and January, coinciding with the Margazhi month in the Tamil calendar. The festival celebrates Carnatic music and traditional dance, like Bharatanatyam, in the state attracting tourists from all over the globe. The recent edition of Margazhi Festival which was held in mid-December 2021, was laid out in a hybrid format. While the festival took place purely online in places like The Music Academy, venues like Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Arkay Convention Centre and Kalakshetra Foundation chose a hybrid format with pre-recorded concerts online, alongside live performances.

Bonjour India

The fourth edition of Bonjour India was held in April this year, organised by the Alliance Française of Madras. Like every year, it featured an array of cultural events celebrating cinema, music, food and arts (like puppetry) to encourage a cultural exchange between India and France.“The varied participants in the event bring their own culture to the event. For example, French puppet artists this year collaborated with musicians in India. It also benefits Chennai in terms of tourism. So, it’s good visiblity for the state government, for the French artists and the French government, as well,” explains Dinesha Gajendra, the cultural & communication coordinator at the Alliance Française of Madras.

Chennai International Film Festival 

The Chennai International Film Festival’s 20th edition will be held from December 15 to 21, this year. Last year, the festival was held from February 15 to 21 at four screens in PVR and one screen at Anna Theatre, with a great response from audiences. Over 100 films including acclaimed titles like A Hero (Iran), Parallel Mothers (Spain) and Lamb were screened at the festival, which attracted a footfall of nearly 2,000 every day. This year, too, the festival will showcase films from various popular film festivals like Venice and Cannes.“The aim for the festival is to impart the technical excellence involved in the production of films abroad. Film people in the state can use these methods so that they can rise up to the level of foreign films,” said E Thangaraj, general secretary of Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (ACIF) that organises the festival.

The Latin Festival 

The Latin festival focuses on the celebration of Latin culture with dancing, parties and food at the location. The ninth edition of the festival which was held from September 2 to 4, saw nearly 280 participants from all over the country including those from outside the country. The event featured 20 artistes (DJs and dance instructors) from all over the globe. Festival organiser Arun Srinivasan, who is also the founder of dance school Salsa Madras said, “The idea is to attract more international dancers to come to Chennai. We’ve been achieving this in an organic way. If you think of India, Chennai is not the first place that comes to your mind. But now, with the festival, we have brought in a lot of in a lot of international tourists who come to Chennai and have a good experience.”

Covelong Classic 2022

With the aim to put surfing on the national map, the eighth edition of the Covelong Classic 2022: Surf, Music and Fitness Festival was held this year in Chennai from August 5 to 7. Taking place in the small fishing hamlet of Covelong, the festival attracted around 20,000 people from all over the country along with surfers from nations like Sri Lanka and Malaysia. “It is the largest surf festival in Asia. It’s for everybody. Even on the competitive side, it’s a mix of talent from the fishing village and others coming from different parts of the country. It also increases the domestic tourism in the state,” explains Arun Vasu, the president of Surfing Federation of India and the founder of the Covelong Surf Turf.

44th Chess Olympiad 2022

This was the year when India hosted the International Chess Olympiad for the first time. The 44th Chess Olympiad 2022 which took place in Chennai from July 28 to August 10, was organised by the AICF (All India Chess Federation) and saw nearly185 countries participating in the event. The opening and closing ceremony of the Olympiad was held in The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort Hotel & Convention Center served as the main venue for the event. On the importance of the Olympiad for India, the tournament director for the event, Bharat Singh Chauhan said, “It was a great thing for all sports not only for chess. There is a great chess culture in Tamil Nadu and there was wonderful support from the state government.”

Mithran Theatre Festival 

The first edition of the Mithran Theatre Festival was held in August, celebrated the life and achievement of the late Mithran Devanesan who passed away in 2010. With three shows spread across two weeks at Alliance Française of Madras and Medai —The Stage, the festival attracted nearly 1,200 people.“In English theatre in Chennai, there is no such festival specially dedicated to a veteran. Along with Mithran, we are celebrating theatre as well. So, it will be very interesting for upcoming generations,” explains B Charles, organiser of the festival.

Short + Sweet Theatre Festival

Spanning for over a month, the Short+Sweet Theatre festival features short 10- minute plays, with a set of 10 plays each day. The eighth edition of the festival will be held this year, covering all of November. This year, 50 teams will be competing in the festival at the Alliance Française of Madras. “The festival is a mix of both professional and amateur groups. In a given day you can watch 10 plays which is a unique experience. And also, it is a mix of English and Tamil plays. So, I think all this can be open up a space to bridge the divide between the English and Tamil plays, and attract audiences, as well,” explains Meera Krishnan, the festival organiser.

Kite Festival

Earlier, this year in August (13-15) the skies of Mahabalipuram were brimming with kites, courtesy the Tamil Nadu International Kite Festival. Kites shaped like tigers, bears, pandas were floating against the endless blue as nearly 25,000 people gathered to soak in the majestic view. This was the first edition of the festival organised by Global Media Box with 10 teams from four countries, making it a unique experience. Benedict Savio, director of Global Media Box said,“The festival saw people from the around the country and abroad, creating a unique international flavour along with music and other elements.”

The Little Theatre Festival

The 11th edition of the Little theatre Festival which was held from July 1 to 8 this year at the Kalakshetra Foundation was sold out. The festival featured shows from South Korea along with two Indian productions with nearly 500-600 people attending each of the performances. Aysha Rau, Managing Trustee at the Little Theatre Trust, said, “The whole idea of doing an international theatre festival is for children to be exposed to other cultures. I feel when you are able to see other cultures and listen to other languages. You start understanding different people and I think that is important.”

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