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    Save the date for the ongoing Pondicherry Heritage Festival with talks, performances and music on offer

    Three editions on and still going strong. The Pondicherry Heritage Festival is back, not only with an expanded array of events but also a significantly longer duration, 22 days to be precise. Sunaina Mandeen, one of the founding organisers, credits it to the increase in the number of people coming forward to organise events on their own. Having begun last week on February 5 with a bharatanatyam dance performance called The Legend of Bangari and Singari, at the ancient Mulanathaswami Temple in Bahour, the festival will continue today with the launch of an exhibition by Dr Veeren Koneru, where he will be showcasing photos showcasing the local flavour and architecture of Pondicherry taken during his 10-year stay there. The remaining two weeks (it ends on February 26) promises enough to keep anybody spoilt for choice—from photowalks and guided tours in heritage spots to cultural trails, interactive talks, dance and many other events.

    Past perfect
    Considering that the festival was inspired by the depleting condition of Pondy’s heritage structures, especially triggered by the fall of the 144-year-old Mairie Building due to continuous rain, it comes as no surprise that the organisers have put the emphasis on heritage. Besides a special focus on Bahour (“it’s the most ancient inhabited place in Pondicherry dating back to 900 AD,” says Mandeen), events like Veeren Koneru’s photo exhibition, a showcase titled Archive of the Tamil Agrarian History 1650-1950 (organised by the Institut Française de Pondicherry and PondyArt), and a heritage walk by INTACH starting from Bharathi Park, promise to attract those interested to go down memory lane. Those who are familiar with the work of the late American Canadian journalist, Jane Jacobs, may want to attend the phototowalks conducted by Urban Design Collective as well, titled Revisit Pondicherry.

    Dance divine
    Dance gets its fair due in this 22-day event. The inaugural performance by Salangai Cultural Academy apart, there is also a performance by the Chandrakala Bhoomi Dance Troupe from the Anengudi Heritage Village called Birds of Paradise and the Dancing Girl. Many are looking forward to A Million Sitas, Anita Ratnam’s famous interpretation of female characters from the Ramayana. Also, do not miss the performance by the children of Mohaman Cultural Centre, themed on Pondy’s heritage.

    The perfect note
    On the musical front, expect performances by Svaram who will play heritage-inspired music, vocalist Arimalan Padmanabhan
    and the release of the book, Aatthamathil Thilaitthavan, of poems by Subramania Swamigal. There is also a performance by the Pondy-based band, H2O, besides a tribute to MS Subbulakshmi.

    Best of the rest
    If you want to take a break from culture and heritage, then we suggest you check out the performance by magician Lawrens Godon. That said, everybody will love the open house tours at iconic architectural spots like Ashram Library, Dumas Guest House, Pondicherry Museum, Indian Coffee House and a walk called the French Connection Trail conducted by Storytrails. As for the kids, they will love the roller skating competition conducted by The Hotel Association of Pondicherry. And if you are disappointed by the lesser number of talks this time, spare a thought for the organiser. “Not many attend these talks,” admits Mandeen.

    Till February 22. Details: pondicherryheritagefestival.org
    —  Karan Pillai

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