Pongal (mid-Jan). One of the most colourful and important Tamil festivals, celebrating the harvest, when thresholds are decorated with beautiful designs.

Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhana (Jan). A five-day celebration of Carnatic classical music at Thiruvaiyaru, near Thanjavur, in honour of the great Carnatic composer-saint.

Teppam Floating Festival (Jan/Feb). Worshippers take boats to the shrine in the middle of the great bathing tank in Madurai.

Mamallapuram Dance Festival (Jan–Feb). Month-long classical dance performances against the wonderful backdrop of Arjuna’s Penance.

Natyanjali Dance Festival (Feb/March). Five-day dance festival at the great temple in Chidambaram, with occasional offshoots in Kumbakonam and Thanjavur.

Chithirai (April/May). Maybe the most important Madurai festival, celebrating the marriage of the principal deities of the great Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple.

King Rajaraja’s birthday (Oct). Vibrant ten-day affair when Thanjavur’s magnificent Brihadishwarar temple is decked out fully to celebrate its creator’s birthday.

Kartigai Deepam (Nov/Dec). Statewide extension of Diwali, especially lively in Tiruvannamalai, where pilgrims circumambulate Arunachala.

Chennai festival season (Dec–Feb). A series of Indian classical concerts and dance performances takes place at various venues throughout the city.

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