Culture of Chennai

The capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, boasts of several accomplishments in the domains of music, dance, cinema, health & safety and the preservation of heritage sites. Here are some facts about the culture of Chennai that would give you an idea of just how incredible this city truly is.

A Bharatanatyam performance by Children

The Music of Chennai

Chennai has a thriving Carnatic music scene that has gained attention all over the world. Chennaiites embrace traditional music and vibe to the tune of the tambura. Carnatic music, also known as Karnataka sangitam, is a subgenre of Indian classical music that is relevant to south India. Carnatic music concerts called kutcheris are popular in the city. Margazhi music season happens in December when Carnatic musicians across the country give incredible performances. Chennai is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network owing to its rich musical history and traditions.

The Dance of Chennai

Bharatanatyam is a popular dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu. Apart from being an elegant and graceful dance form in India, Bharatanatyam is a cultural entity that has stood the test of time. The ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram contains text referring to Bharatanatyam, written in the 2nd Century CE, making it the oldest classical dance tradition in the country. Chennai hosts several recitals promoting Bharatanatyam throughout the year. Children, especially girls, are encouraged to embrace the art form leading to dozens of Bharatanatyam dance studios across the city.

Heritage Buildings and Temples

The capital of Tamil Nadu boasts 2,467 heritage buildings, the highest number of heritage buildings within its metropolitan area in India. The majority of these buildings have been around for about two centuries. Chennai Central, Ripon Building, Senate House and Chennai Egmore are notable heritage buildings.

Chennai has a rich spiritual history making it home to dozens of heritage temples. These temples showcase intricate architecture, traditional art and the rich cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu. Kapaleeswarar Temple, Marundheeswarar Temple, Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanam Temple and Anjaneya Swamy Temple are prominent temples in the city.

The Lifestyle of Chennai

Most Chennaiites give immense value to their cultural and religious roots. While people of all religions exist in Chennai, Hindu traditions and culture have played a dominant role in Chennai’s history. It is common in several households to wake up early in the morning to perform religious rites and prayers. Women decorate their doorsteps with kolam (rice powder) for decorative and religious purposes, and most people visit a temple at least once a week. Religious festivals and ceremonies are celebrated with great fervour as these traditions have a massive influence on the lifestyle choices of Chennaiites. These traditions and ceremonies are strongly linked to the city’s history and literature.

These are just some of the facts that showcase the dominant influences governing the culture of Chennai. When we delve into the various subcultures that co-exist in the city, we can get to know how diverse and inclusive the city truly is. Chennai has a growing independent music scene and a thriving hip-hop scene. Not to mention, Kollywood, one of the largest film industries in India, is based in Chennai. People from all walks of life can be found here as it has one of the largest cities with a significant urban population. Different religions, ideologies and lifestyles are followed here, like in any other city. In 2016, the Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. It was even named the “hottest” city by BBC in 2015, owing to its perfect blend of modern and traditional values. The city welcomes all, and the culture remains inclusive while maintaining its roots and traditions.

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