18 September, 2010

Ram Navami

The birthday of Lord Rama, the celebrated hero of the famous epic, 'Ramayana', is enthusiastically celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chiatra, all over India. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his human incarnation as Rama, the divine ruler of Ayodhya. Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed. 

People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock, images of him in a cradle to celebrate his birth. Rathyatras or chariot processions of Ram, his wife Seeta, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman are held from many temples. People gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Sarayu for a dip. Some observe a strict fast on this day.

Ayodhya is the focus of great celebrations. Devotees throng the temples of Ayodhya and Pondicherry, two places closely connected with the events of the Ramayana to participate in Ramnavami festivities.

Sri-Ramnavami is dedicated to the memory of Lord Rama. It occurs on the ninth day (navami). The festival commemorates the birth of Rama who is remembered for his preperous and righteous reign. Ramrajya (the reign of Rama) has become synonymous with a period of peace and prosperity. Mahatma Gandhi also used this term to describe how according to him, India should be after independence.

Ramnavami occurs in the month of March. Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed. In northern India especially, an event that draws popular participation is the Ramnavami procession. The main attraction in this procession is a gaily-decorated chariot in which four persons are dressed up as Rama, his brother Laxman, his queen Sita and his disciple Hanuman. Several other persons dressed up in ancient costumes as work by Rama's solders accompany the chariot. The procession is a gusty affair with the participants shouting praises echoing the happy days of Rama's reign.

Surya - The Sun was recognised as the source of light and heat even in ancient times. The importance of the Sun was much more in the higher latitudes from where the Aryans are supposed to have migrated into India. Many royal dynasties portrayed symbols of virility like the Sun, Eagle, Lion etc. as their progenitor. Rama's dynasty considered them to have descended from the Sun. This could have led to the tagging on, of Rama's birthday to a festival devoted to the sun.

On the face of it Sri-Ramnavmi appears to be just a festival commemorating the reign of a king who was later deified. But even behind present-day traditions there are clues, which unmistakably point to the origin of Ramnavmi as lying beyond the Ramayana story.

Sri Ramnavami occurs at the beginning of summer when the sun has started moving nearer to the northern hemisphere. The Sun is considered to be the progenitor of Rama's dynasty, which is called the Sun dynasty (Raghukula or Raghuvamsa, Raghu means Sun and Kula or Vamsa mean familial descendant). Rama is also known as Raghunatha, Raghupati, Raghavendra etc. That all these names begin with the prefix Raghu is also suggestive of some link with Sun worship. The hour chosen for the observance of the lord's birth is that when the sun is overhead and is at its maximum brilliance. In some Hindu sects, prayers on Ramnavami day start not with an invocation to Rama but to Surya (sun). Again the syllable Ra is used in the word to describe the sun and brilliance in many languages. In Sanskrit, Ravi and Ravindra mean Sun.

Significantly, the ancient Egyptians termed the sun as Amon Ra or simply as "Ra". In Latin the syllable Ra is used to connote light. For example, we have Radiance which emission of light, or Radium, which means any substance emitting light or brilliance. The common element is the syllable Ra that in many languages is used to derive words for describing Sun or light.

The occurrence of this syllable in most names used for Rama along with other clues is strongly suggestive that the festival Ramnavami antedates the R- ayana and it must have originated much before the Ramayana, as a 'Sun-festival' for invoking the Sun who was recognised as the source of light and heat even in ancient times. The importance of the Sun was much more in the higher latitudes from where the Aryans are supposed to have migrated into India. Many royal dynasties portrayed symbols of virility like the Sun, Eagle, Lion etc. as their progenitor. Rama's dynasty considered them to have descended from the Sun. This could have led to the tagging on, of Rama's birthday to a festival devoted to the sun.

There is some link between Lord Rama and Sun Worship. The Sun is considered to be the progenitor of Rama's dynasty, which is called the Sun dynasty (Raghukula or Raghuvamsa, Raghu means Sun and Kula or Vamsa mean familial descendant). Rama is also known as Raghunatha, Raghupati, and Raghavendra etc. That all these names begin with the prefix Raghu is also suggestive of some link with Sun worship. 

The hour chosen for the observance of the lord's birth is that when the sun is overhead and is at its maximum brilliance. Significantly, the ancient Egyptians termed the sun as Amon Ra or simply as "Ra". In Latin the syllable Ra is used to connote light. For example, we have Radiance which emission of light, or Radium, which means any substance emitting light or brilliance. The common element is the syllable Ra that in many languages is used to derive words for describing Sun or light.


Pongal - Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh:

In South Sankranti becomes Pongal. It is a celebration of the harvest, which is observed for three days in January. Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal, are the three days of Pongal festivities on successive days. In certain parts cattle races still enliven the village festivities. Pongal is a colourful and traditional festival with many a ceremony devoted to various deities. 

Pongal is an important festival in India, and we pray to the Sun God on this occasion. In North India, it is known as Sankaranthi. 

The sun is very powerful and helps in the growth of the paddy and other plantations. So this festival is very important for farmers and so it is celebrated in a grand manner in villages. The house is cleaned, and all maintenance jobs are done before this festival. During the four-day festival, different varieties of Rangoli are drawn in front of the houses early in the morning.

Bhogi The celebrations start on the last day of Margazhi, which is known as "Bhogi". On this day, we get up very early in the morning to take head bath. We place all the trash in front of the house and inflame it. We dispose old and useless things from our house and replace with new ones. Then we draw rangoli in front of the houses.

Reaping of paddy is done. Using the new rice, the recipe "pongal" is made and offered to God. The sun God moves in chariot driven by seven horses. A picture of the chariot is drawn in an open space when the sun arrives. A small sun is drawn at the centre of the chariot. We place turmeric sprigs and sugarcane in the pooja and pooja is done onto the chariot. Then the dishes are offered to God. Once the pooja is over, everyone in the house takes a small amount of Pongal and sprinkles all over the house, saying "Pongalo Pongal". This is done as a prayer to God to bless their houses.  

Maatu Pongal:

The next day is maattu Pongal - pongal for the cows. Cows are worshipped on this day. Milk suppliers decorate the cows. They paint the horns, apply colours and tie clothes on the cows. Then they take the cows to all the houses.

Kaanum Pongal:

People go out for places and enjoy this day. This is a day to spend time and entertainment outside. In Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore a kind of bull fight called the Jellikuttu is held. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of the ferocious bulls, and unarmed men try to wrest the bundles from them.
With ingredients provided by freshly gathered harvest, community meals are held at many a place.

Dussehra Mela


Dussehra is the 10th day of the month of Ashwin in the Hindu calendar. Dussehra is a very important festival of the Hindus celebrated all over India especially in North India with loads of fun and zest.

Dussehra marks the victory of Ram over the demon Ravana, the victory of good over evil. Navratri is celebrated for nine days preceding Dussehra.

During this time, Goddess Durga, the powerful female deity is worshipped all over India.


On the 10th day of Ashwin, when people celebrate Dussehra, colossal effigies of Ravana are burned in several places to mark the victory of Ram.

Along with Ravana, effigies of his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnad are also burned marking an end of all evils.

People dress up as Ram and Lakshman and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies which are loaded with explosives symbolizing the victory of good over evil.

Mela in Kota:

To mark this occasion a large mela called the Dussehra Mela is organized in Kota in Rajasthan. It is one of the biggest melas to be organized in Rajasthan.

The Dussehra mela attracts thousands of tourists from all over. Ramlila is performed at the meal ground in Kota.

Several items including household items, jewelry are sold in the mela. You can witness a riot of colors in the mela.

Traditional performances, well decorated shops, children dressed as vanar senas are major attractions in this mela.

Weapons are also worshiped during this time as they were an integral part of the Rajputs.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an annual celebration of dance, music and other art forms. The festival is being held every year since 1999 in the month of February at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. The Kala Ghoda Association hosts the weeklong Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is named after the black equestrian statue of Edward VII that used to stand in the Fort area of Mumbai.

Kala Ghoda is a crowd-puller for creative talent. People with Creative bent of mind from all round the country participate and showcase their talent.

Kala Ghoda Festival is also an attraction point for tourists. Tourists from India and abroad come here to have fun and enthusiasm.

The Festival enters into 11th year in 2010; its popularity is growing over the years.

kala Ghoda festival is created to draw attention towards the development by physically improving the area, restoring buildings and porticos, building people-friendly street furniture and improving the amenities.

The festival features Gallery and pavement shows, exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, literary events, film screenings, music concerts, dance performances, theatre shows, workshops, heritage walks and food fiesta.

KGAF will be held between 6-14 February in the year 2010.

The participants range from the modern urban sellers with designer goods to sell, to village artists selling their traditional craftwork.

Time to celebrate:

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is celebrated every year in the month of February at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai.

Indian Derby Weekend


The event of Indian Derby Weekend owns the credit of being one of the biggest events on the Mumbai social calendar. The event is fun packed sporting one which goes for a weekend’s time attracting around 25,000 people. 

There are many attractions to this event other than only the horse racing, like international aerial ballet, professional salsa dancing, and live bands playing tributes to The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Cliff Richard.

The Indian Derby weekend packs in unmatched grandeur with fashion, entertainment and sport on a mammoth scale.

The weekend event is held at Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai. The first event held in 1943 and has been continuously organized every year.

The Indian Derby in Mumbai offers the richest prize purse ever of Rupees 10 million rupees with over six million rupees.
Derby Weekend Celebration 2010:

The Indian derby in Mumbai organizes the popular horse race on one of the weekends in the month of February every year. The Derby Weekend will feature an extravaganza of horse racing over the weekend, along with the assortment of leisure and entertainment activities.

Kerala Village Fair

Mid January is the time for cultural events in the lush villages around Kovalam every year. Traditional thatched houses are decorated during this ten-day long festival and are the venue for folk dances, music and festivities.

A typical Kerala village -'gramam' is recreated replete with the traditional Nalukettu houses, 'chayakkada' local teashops etc.

Traditional thatch houses (Nalukettu) are decorated during this ten-day long festival and are the venue for folk dances, music and festivities. This fair represents the nostalgic recreation of bygone era of rustic simplicity and ethnic charm. Astrologers, artisans and even sorcerers, provide the visitor a glimpse of Kerala's rich past.

Nalukettu, the traditional upper class homestead ('tharavadu'), the quadrangular mansion recreated using wood and tiles with a central open courtyard, corridors, massive pillars and dormer windows is typical of Kerala's Architectural Style. Inside the Nalukettu are displayed a wealth of antiques. Priceless furniture in Teak, Mahogany and Sandalwood, charming curios like Jewellery Boxes, Spice Bowls, Ethnic Jewellery, Exquisite Paintings and Shields and Swords Wielded by men of yore are on show. Musical Instruments, Palmyra Fans, majestic Wooden Four Poster Beds, household utensils remind one of a bygone era.

Decorated with a colourful 'Pookalam', the floral decoration in the courtyard, the Nalukettu looks enchanting with village belles in the traditional Kerala attire, dancing the 'Thiruvathira' around the tall brass lamp.
In the evenings, almost every dance, art and martial art form of Kerala is performed in the open-air auditorium of Gramam. Various classical dances like Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, traditional and folk dances like Oppana, the martial art form, Kalaripayattu and other ritualistic folk arts like Theyyam, Pulikali, Villupattu, Pavakkoothu, Kakkarisi Natakam, Panchavadyam, Thullal and Bhajans etc. are performed.

At the 'Chayakada', the village teashop, relish the taste of the tender coconut, the refreshing tea (chaya) or the tangy limejuice. One can savour local delicacies like 'Kappa' and 'Meen' (steamed tapioca served with fish curry) or 'Puttu' and 'Kadala' (pounded rice cake steamed in bamboo shoots served with a lentil dish) during the festival.

At 'Kamalagramam', the artisans' enclave, are stalls selling handcrafted artifacts. Here one can watch craftsmen at work on traditional spinning wheels, handlooms etc.

17 September, 2010

Thitambu Nritham


"Thitambu Nritham" is the ritual art form in North Kerala more than 700 years old . It is mainly performed by Namboothiris of this part of Kerala. Late Vethiramana Sreedharan Namboodiri is known to be the "Father of Thitambu Nritham". Luckily this ritual art form has not died out with his withdrawal from the stage. Experts in this field like Sri Matamana Sankaran Embranthiri and his disciple Brahmasree Puthumana Govindan Namboothiri are carrying on the great tradition in the north.

There is no scope for expression in this art. The dancer, in the traditional style after performing the usual rituals, comes out of the sanctorum, and standing under the flag, holds aloft the replica weighing about 10 kg-30 kg on his head and starts the divine dance. One namboodiri to bear the thitambu, seven players on percussion instruments, two persons to carry lamps, in all ten persons are needed to present this. The dance begins with "Kotti Urayikkal" (drumming to make the dancer possessed). As the dancer comes out carrying the replica of the idol on his head, the "Maaraar" makes the characteristic drumming when rituals are performed. The word "Thitambu" suggests the direct manifestation of the deity. 

This is placed over a decorated turban known as Ushnipeetam. Idols being carried on top of elephants during festivals as also replicas beings held on shoulders while dancing to the rhythm of percussion instruments are a common sight in South and Central Kerala. But, dancing with the replicas on the heads, is a unique feature in the North. The origin of Thitambu Nritham cannot be easily traced. Replicas called ‘chattam’ are made of bamboo or wood with in which a beautiful frame with intricate designs is created.

Foot work is most important in this dance and this is executed to the rhythm of the drums. Each circumlocution is regulated by a different Thaalam (Thakilati, Atantha, Chempata and Panchari). Thitambu Nritham has undergone some changes in accordance with the trend of the times. Though the basic ones (Thaalavattom) remains the same,there are some changes made in drumming (thaalam). Innovation also adds to the novelty and variety of Thitambu nritham.

The Living Legend:

Brahmasree Puthumana Govindan Namboothiri: The Living Legend With 30 Yrs Of Excellence In Thitampu Nritham

Brahmasree Puthumana Govindan Namboothiri (48), is a legend in the field of Thitampu Nritham. His debut performance was at Sree ATHIYAMPOOR SUBRAHMANYA SWAMY TEMPLE, Kanhangad during the SHASHTHI UTHSAVAM-1979. He hails from Chemmattam Vayal, kanhangad in Kasaragod district. He has performed at almost all the temples (around 200) in north kerala for the past 25yrs. He was inspired by Late Brahmasree THEKKILLAM KESHAVAN EMBRANTHIRI (First VETHIRAMANA AWARD WINNER). He is also famous at the National level throughout India. Video clippings of his performance is even included in the topics of interest of the dance researchers in the foreign universities. 

Thitampu Nritham exponent Sri Govindan Namboothiri, popularly known for developing this as a classical dance form. He was recently honoured by many organizations for having brought out the possibilities of this art form, making free from the rituals at temples. His performance on the stage was appreciated by thousands of dance lovers including fans from other religions. He was given the titles ‘JANAKEEYA NARTHAKAN’ and ‘THITAMPU NRITHA CHAKRAVARTHY’ for the outstanding and valuable contributions in this field. Last year, he has done a number of State level programs like UTHSAV – 2007, LAVANYAM – 2007.

He follows entirely THEKKAN SAILI and has excelled in this area. He has recieved many honours during the past years from well known temples like Sree(CHIRAKKA KAVU,THALASSERY, KUTTAMATH BHAGAVATHITEMPLE, CHERUVATHUR, PALLIKKUNNU MAHAVISHNU TEMPLE, KANATHUR, EDAKKAD VISHNU TEMPLE,KANNUR) etc. Initially he has performed in the telecast on DOORDARSHAN on "KSHETHRAKALAKAL" (in section thitampunritham) while he was performing at Sree KOLLYA MOOKAMBIKA TEMPLE, ULLAL. After that he has performed in many times for various local channels at Kasaragod like Indiavision, city channels and his NRITHAM appears during the UTSAVA season. His performance at VEERABHADRA TEMPLE, CHERUVATHUR (The second famous ARATTUTHSAVAM of north kerala VAYALIL ARATTU) was captured by the ASIANET and was telecasted. 

His performance at CHERUPUZHA Ayyappa temple was considered the best performance in the year 2005 by a panel of old and experieneced experts.His performance at Sree VISHNUMANGALAM temple,Kanhangad will be telecasted in the SURYA channel under the program "KELI". He will be performing for the KAIRALI channel also soon. The legendary artist was honoured by Doordarshan, Trivandrum in a programme ‘KASAVUTHEERAM’ in 2007. He is known to majority of celebrities in other fields as ‘THITAMPU NRITHA PRATHIBHA’. He was given the honour recently by Kollya Mutt Seva sangham, Mangalore for the expertise shown in Thitampu Nritham.

His style of performing Titampu Nitham is unique and makes attractive to the viewers even without the knowledge of this divine art. It is always expected that thre will be a large crowd to watch his performance from areas far away from temples. He keeps all the conventional styles as such with varities which comes under the new trend.he always says "I perform thitampu nritham with bhakthi which is the secret of my success" and he does not believe in the degrading tendencies by the new artists to perform mere dance instead of NRITHAM due to lack of effort. He remains performing different SHAILIS for continuous 30 minutes each for four THALAVATTAMS (For continuous 2 hrs) and says the "ATANTHA" is his favourite. 

He is becoming popular nowadays as he always sticks only to this art and never tries to copy other dances and art forms. Govindan Namboodiri has performed in more than a hundred temples at the age of 25 and has won appreciation and numerous awards from his admirers. Every year he performs at new temples in North Kerala and Karnataka. He has delighted the crowds in various parts of Karnataka including Mangalore and Bangaluru apart from the fans in Trivandrum, Kochi, Thrissur and Calicut. It is a measure of his fame that people even from far away places gather in the temples where he is performing. Every year, Govindan Namboothiri gets invitations from new temples across India. Such is his popularity. It is a reflection on his devotion to this divine art that he is giving training to many aspiring youngsters. He was the only artist selected for a one hour special interview session by Indiavision in Thitampu section last year.

He respects all THITAMPU artists whether they follow THEKKAN or VATAKKAN saili and continues with its majestic performance from vrishchikam to medam. He comes to perform THITAMPU NRITHAM under request which has fascinated thousands of viewers (art lovers) and devotees irrespective of weight of the Thitampu. It is a matter of special interest that there are many temples where he continues to perform since he was assigned since 1979!! He lives as pure NAMBOOTHIRI with pooja and maintains old tradition of the community. The soft spoken expert of Thitampu Nritham is known by majority of marars in North Kerala and respected by them.

He remembers how he was introduced by KADANNAPPALLI SANKARAN KUTTY MARAR to PALLIKKUNNU KANATHOOR temple for performance with Late Brahmasree thekkillam Kesavan Embranthiri. It is a reflection on his devotion to this divine art that he is giving training to many aspiring youngsters. Further, he is doing research on the origin, Drumming, development, scope and other peculiarities of this art and intends to bring out an authentic book. 

The purpose is to rejuvenate Thitambu Nritham which is facing eclipse. He is also trying to prepare two famous reference books on THITAMPU NRITHAM which is in the process of publication. He is known as ‘GURUJI’ to the performers of other classical dance forms. A majority of his fans believes that the honors received by him so far is not sufficient to greet him for his excellence and the dedication he shows in this field.


Canberra Country Music Festival

The Canberra Country Music Festival is a growing event held over three days during the second weekend of November in Canberra, the national capital of Australia. The Festival is the largest country music event in Australia's south-east between Sydney and Melbourne and features music concerts, bush poetry, dancing competitions, awards, ute muster and emergency services teams challenge. The festival is one of the few that features both Australian and international country music performers and is the last major country music festival before Christmas.


The inaugural Festival was held in 2009 at Tuggeranong Homestead in the southern suburbs of Canberra, Australia. This event had some 60 recording artists on 5 stages performing over a 3-day period. Whilst the performance quality was high, the audience was less than expected due to a combination of less than effective promotion and the absence of onsite camping for visitors. The first Festival included performances from Adam Harvey, Bill Chambers, Chuck's Wagon, Danny Mack, Pete Galvin, Brothers 3, The Fry Brothers, Craig Morrisson's Little Cowboys and Nicki Gillis, amongst others.

In 2010, the Festival relocated to at Exhibition Park in northern Canberra due the advantages of onsite camping, substantial infrastructure and the capacity to grow towards that of major event status, as has been the instance with the National Folk Festival.

The Festival has several features that are special events in their own right, including awards, competitions, concerts, workshops and other activities.

The festival hosts two major breakfasts. The National Bush Poets' Breakfast is held on the Sunday morning attracting several hundred people for a feed and a country yarn or two. The International Country Breakfast highlights the international performers at the festival in a intimate meet and greet format. The 2010 festival includes appearances by the Free Bears (Germany), Pete Galvin (New Zealand) and Don McNatt (USA) amongst others.

The Festival hosts three national award presentations. The Federation Song Awards are the culmination of a national songwriting competition specialising in country music. The grand final of the "Country's Got Talent" competition is held on Sunday at the Festival. The Canberra Regional Country Music Awards are presented on the Sunday with an emphasis on recognition for achievements in the surrounding region, including Southern Tablelands, South West Slopes, South Coast, Riverina and Monaro districts.

Canberra Country Ute Van & Truck Muster is a popular event recognising the contribution of the automotive sector in country music. Organisers aim to grow this event to one of the nation's top 5 musters over time and the last significant ute muster of the year.

A Music Industry Exhibition is held at the Festival to showcase musical instruments, recording and accessory items. Participants at the 2010 Festival include some of the industry's leaders in new technologies including Australian Monitor, Turbosound, Copley, Gilmore Guitars amongst others.
Dance is well catered for with four styles featured. Clogging, Bush Dance, Square Dance and Linedance all have specific venues culminating with the National Country Dance on Saturday night.

Dreamtime Country is a special presentation of indigenous performers of country music. This feature received international media attention in 2009 and recognises the contribution and keen interest in country music of Australia's aboriginal and islander communities.

Special activities:

include the Country Walk-up coordinated by the Country Music Association of Canberra, Opening Concert with a "Welcome To Country" ceremony, Bush Balladeers and Bluegrass Heaven. Other features include Dressage Competition, Busker Central, Blacksmiths, Whip-crackers, Mechanical Bull riding, KidZone, markets and displays.

Festival Programme:
The Canberra Country Music Festival runs for 3 Days with an extensive program across 5 stages, numerous displays, industry exhibition, dance presentations, workshops and the ute van + truck muster.
Overviews /Objectives:
The Canberra Country Music Festival was established to promote, showcase and grow Country Music (across all its sub-genres) in Australia's national capital.

We see the Festival as securing Country Music within the community through holding a festival comprising performances, exhibitions, workshops, talent quests, dancing and industry forums.

The Festival also raises funds for local non-profit community organisations as well as fostering country music in the heart of the nation!
"Music Dance Utes Horses - It's A Lifestyle!
Seriously Having A Good Time!"

National Country Music Indusry Exhibition:
The Canberra Country Music Festival is host to the National Country Music Industry Exhibition where music instrument suppliers, manufacturers, recording studios and other related industry service providers gather with a quality trade exhibition. For the serious musician, vocalists, engineers, teachers and related industry interests! 

Time to Celebtate: 12 to 14 November

Edinburgh Festival 2010

Edinburgh Festival 2010: The greatest show on legs:
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe isn’t just another arts festival, it’s an invaluable part of our national life, argues Dominic Cavendish. 

Keep telling yourself it’s just a festival – it doesn’t matter all that much, really.” Always at this time of year, as I’m preparing to pack my bags to trek north to cover the Edinburgh Fringe for The Daily Telegraph, I’m guaranteed to get that quick word-to-the-wise from friends, family and even colleagues bidding me adieu for the month.

The subtext is clear enough: “For pity’s sake, don’t get too caught up in that round-the-clock show-guzzling, booze-swilling frenzy and end up gibbering in a gutter.” I always duly thank everyone for their advice while saying to myself: “They don’t get it, poor things.” 

To bracket the Fringe as “just” another festival is like saying 1066 had its moments. The Fringe is a visceral roller-coaster ride that can take a whole 11 months to recover from. If you go up for the duration and don’t end up wandering the streets at 2am, in an inebriated or sleep-deprived state, accosting strangers with the news that you’ve just seen the future of theatre in a converted phone-box, then you probably need your head examining. 

Since its inception in 1947, when eight theatre companies showed up uninvited to perform during the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has grown to become one of the wonders of the Western world. An unwieldy monster of a wonder, to be sure: in this, the 64th year, there are more shows than ever (2,453) featuring in excess of 21,000 performers – more than twice the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan. 

It’s easy to sneer that the Athens of the North is being besieged by a barmy army of grubby student hopefuls, naive nobodies, pretentious luvvies and fame-hungry comedians, most of whom will return home with whopping hangovers and credit-card bills to match. 

I can understand why, for those who’ve never been or are giving it a miss, the slavering media coverage that attends this three-week mid-hols jamboree can appear at once irritating and irrelevant. I can also see why, to those with a macroeconomic cast of mind, the hive of arty activity that overtakes every nook and cranny of the city might well resemble a monument to unsustainable vanity: a debt-fuelled bubble that epitomises the age. 

And yet, consider this: unless you have an aversion to the performing arts in all their forms, the chances are you will have been entertained very recently by someone who earned their spurs at Edinburgh. Only a few years ago, the likes of John Bishop, Russell Brand, Alan Carr and Michael McIntyre could be found sweating their guts out in stuffy, cramped black-box spaces there. The ubiquitous Mitchell and Webb are products, too, of Auld Reekie’s annual school of hard knocks. You like Al Murray, “The Pub Landlord”? He’s back this year, partly in honour of the fact that the Fringe was the making of him. 

To those who adore those national treasures Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson, I say: remember they won the first Perrier Comedy Award from the Fringe in 1981. And those who’ve flocked to see Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art shouldn’t forget it all began for him here, too, with Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore in Beyond the Fringe (first seen in 1959) – a watershed moment for British satire that helped usher in the subversive Sixties. 

I could go on, and on. It’s true that in terms of the discovery of major playwrights, there’s been nothing quite to match the phenomenal success of Tom Stoppard, whose Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966) swept from a rough-and-ready hall on the Royal Mile straight to the Old Vic. But every year, really, whether it’s at one of the major venues – the Traverse, Assembly Rooms or Pleasance – or in more off-piste locales, something is bound to show up that’s not only destined for a longer life but also catches the imagination and causes a wider stir. 

A few years ago it was the National Theatre of Scotland’s acclaimed Black Watch. Last year it was Bob Golding’s tour de force tribute to Eric Morecambe. This year, who knows? But I’ll be keeping a close eye on Forest Fringe, a newish venue which, harking back to the Fringe’s more affordable, experimental days, is operating on a pay-what-you-can basis and fostering an anything-goes attitude among its resident artists. Here it’s quite possible you’ll get the first glimpse of the next War Horse trotting into being. 

In cold, clear, sober terms of national self-interest, then, we shouldn’t look upon the Fringe as a riotous extravagance but as something we could ill afford to do without. The cost to the public purse in terms of subsidy is minimal, the dividends handsome – both in terms of the boost to the Scottish economy (an estimated £75 million) and Britain’s overall take from the earnings of those who go on to achieve success. And yet what really counts for me – and why I urge anyone who’s ever despaired at our country’s future to pay it a visit – are all the benefits that can’t quite be measured. 

This year, I’ve landed the privilege of chairing the judging panel that decides the Edinburgh Comedy Awards (formerly the Perrier). I wish I could tell you right now what this year’s stand-up trends are, or who’s likely to make it big, but the plain answer is I don’t know. Until as late as the final Wednesday, when the shortlist is announced, it’s always a box of surprises. Last year, when Tim Key won the gong for his killingly funny line in deadpan poetry The Slutcracker, it looked as if cabaret, already seen at the festival with the hit burlesque show La Clique, was creeping back into stand-up. 

And yet, who can say? Maybe this year the award will go to a retired milkman from Aberystwyth. One of the wonderful things about the Fringe is that it’s so remarkably non-ageist. As much as it’s a hormonally charged initiation ceremony for the young it’s also a cross-generational get-together. I love the fact that people are getting excited about 19-year-old comedian Daniel Sloss but also that others are rushing to book to see Henry Blofeld, “the voice of cricket and Test Match Special”, who’s appearing alongside The Antiques Roadshow’s John Bly. Around them swirl countless acts who may be brilliant or hopeless, may get noticed or utterly ignored, but all of whom are united by a strange, foolish, admirable desire to entertain complete strangers. 

After 10 years of covering the Edinburgh Fringe for this paper, I’ve learnt to admit defeat before I arrive: the world’s biggest arts festival is beyond easy categorisation or even any reliable form of comprehensive coverage. It’s as rich and complex, as peculiar and miraculous, as life itself. Like a gruelling marathon it leaves some hobbling, some clutching medals, others finding muscles they never knew they had. 

Put bluntly, nothing like it happens anywhere else. Every year stay-at-home critics queue up to write it off, but the chances of it dying out any time soon, are, I’d wager, non-existent. Just a festival? No, an invaluable pillar of our national life, more like.   

Panic Cell Confirmed For Damnation Festival

Panic Cell Confirmed For Damnation Festival Nov 6th Leeds:

"Globe-trotting metal veterans PANIC CELL will help fly the U.K. flag at this year’s Damnation Festival, they join an electric bill featuring THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, PARADISE LOST, ANAAL NATHRAKH, ALCEST, LAWNMOWER DETH and ROLO TOMASSI.
Festival Director Gavin McInally said "A J├Ąger-drenched evening with PANIC CELL is a highlight of any festival. It's great to have those boys back in the U.K. after playing with the likes of METALLICA,

ALICE COOPER and SLAYER earlier this year!"

Following a busy summer festival season for Panic Cell which saw the band playing to 300,000 people, Panic Cell return home to the UK in October and November 2010 with the long awaited release of CRAZY on October 18th 2010 as a digital download single and video (which features the band as lego figures).  The video for Crazy can be seen soon on Scuzz TV, Kerrang TV and all over the internet!)

October 15th 2010 sees the release of gritty Bollywood gangster movie PUSHER which features music by Panic Cell.
Panic Cell released their 3rd album ‘Fire it Up’ in April 2010 on Undergroove Records to critical acclaim from the press and music industry:

“All metal and no bullsh**t..Excellent!” –  Kerrang “All cylinders are revving at suitably high level –  Guitarist 

“Crunchy groovey goodness..better than ever!” –  Sun Newspaper “Simply stunning..a musical masterpiece” – AltSounds
Frontman Luke Bell says “It’s the most honest, hard worked album we’ve produced to date”.  And who would dare argue with the big man - From the blistering barrage of opening track ‘Burden Inside’ to the brutality breakneck of new video ‘UnBroKen’ - the Jagermeister drench inspired ‘Black Juice’ the bone crushing ‘Splitting Skulls’ to the beautifully crafted album closing track ‘To Die For Lust’ - Panic Cells new album is their best yet.  The band describes it as “a burner that’s rewarding and rich - we dug deep and tried something different whilst at the same time keeping the big riffs, hooks and choruses."

Panic Cell celebrated the release of Fire It Up with a Jager fuelled slot at Hammerfest II, European dates with Life of Agony, The Damned Things, Anthrax and 3 Inches of Blood -  and appeared at Download 2010 twice, headlining the Red Bull stage and making their debut live acoustic appearance on the Jagermeister acoustic stage.  

The band opened the main stage at Sonisphere Prague June 19th 2010 to Metallica, Slayer, Alice In Chains, Megadeth, Anthrax and Devildriver. July 2010 saw Panic Cell playing the biggest show of their career at Przystanek Woodstock in Poland alongside Papa Roach, Life of Agony and Nigel Kennedy!?! playing to over 250,000 people, the following day the band played the Lokerse Festival in Belgium opening the main stage for Alice Cooper and further European dates with Anthrax, Life of Agony and ILL Nino.

Panic Cell feature on the soundtrack to new video game ‘APB’ by Electronic Arts &  Realtime Worlds.

Currently the band are writing new material for an acoustic mini album which is scheduled for release early 2011.

Fire It Up follows the bands first 2 albums ‘Bitter Part of Me’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’ and tours with No.1 Billboard acts Disturbed and Staind, Mudvayne, Devildriver, Drowning Pool, Soil, Testament, Flyleaf, In This Moment etc and festival appearances at Download, Fields of Rock, Wacken, Bloodstock Open Air etc.  2008 saw the band produce soundtrack music for MTV’s smash hit series ‘Fur TV’, the band also starred in various episodes.

Dates 2010:

October 1st – The Big Finger Festival  - Billing Aquadrome – Northampton, UK
October 28th -KCLSU (with Blaze Bayley) – London, UK
October 30th – Mosh for Dosh (with Gun) – Victoria Hall – Stoke on Trent, UK
November 6th – Damnation Festival – Leeds University – Leeds, UK

14 September, 2010

Karthigai Deepam

Karthigai Deepam is the popular festival of southern part of India and is the oldest festival with splendid and elaborated celebrations all over the state of Tamil Nadu. The festival is also termed as “Festival of Lights” and is also considered the extension of Deepavali Festival.


Once upon
a time the Devas, the heavenly immortals, put in their best possible efforts to have a complete Darshan of Lord Shiva.

During this process Lord
Brahma took the form of a swan and Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar conducted an extensive search in the sky and in the neither world did they find him.

Lord Shiva asked Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find out the exact location of his head and his feet.
Since Lord Shiva took a gigantic form, they were not able to find him anywhere. Then Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a flaming light whose ends cannot be defined on the hill of Thiruvannamalai. Therefore, this festival is also known as Annamalai Deepam. Here, a special torch is lighted on the zenith of the hill and it is believed that Lord Shiva's Jyoti will be visible on this day. The festival is celebrated in a special manner in Thiruvannamalai.

Lord Muruga took the form of six babies in a lake called "Saravana Poigai". On this day, Parvati (his mother) united all his six forms and so Lord Muruga has six faces. Special pujas are performed to Lord Muruga on this day.


Karthigai Deepam is the oldest festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu and Southern India, even before Deepavali and Navarathri celebrations. The reference of Karthigai Deepam can be found in many ancient Tamil literatures like ‘Ahananuru’ (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.) ‘Tolkappiyam' that dates back to 2,000 or 2,500 BC, 'Jeevakachintamani', an epic written by Jain poet, Thiruthakka Thevar, in the Sangam period, 'Karnarpadu', 'Kalavazhi Narpadu' dating around 1,000 BC and 'Pazhamozhi', even the famous poetess Avaiyyar, also mentions about the festival in her literary work.

Karthigai Deepam: Extension of Deepavali:

Karthigai Deepam is also called the festival of lights and believed to be extension of Deepavali Festival as many families practice the trend of doubling the number of lamps every day from the day of Deepavali till the festival day of Karthigai Deepam and thus the large number of blazing lamps offers a captivating manifestation during the night.

Like Deepavali, there is general practice of
cleaning houses and decking up houses beautifully with stunning illuminations and multihued 'Kolams' or Rangoli. People place lamps or Agal in their puja room and place them at different
places in the house after the completion of 'Deeparathana' (puja). The streets provide visual treat on this festival with lamps all around.


Karthigai Deepam is the major festival of Tamil Nadu and is also referred as Annamalai Deepam. The festival is celebrated for nine auspicious days with each day having its own special importance. There are special celebrations organized at Arunachaleswarar Temple amidst Annamali Hills in Thiruvannamalai.

The celebrations begin with the flag hoisting on the Uttradam day and the festivity continues for nine days. The popular Bharani Deepam in five ’agantams’ is lit in Arunachaleswarar’s Sannithi in early morning hours of the tenth day. Devotees move to the Annamali Hills to worship the Bharani Deepam on the final day of the festival. It is believed that the flame of the lamp does not sputter on this day and divulge into the form of Lord Muruga, reaching up to the sky.

The Bharani Deepam is actually a colossal circular metal vessel with a capacity to hold about 2,000 liters of ghee, a height of five and half feet and diameter of five feet. The wick of the lamp itself is made up of 30m of 'Ghada' cloth burnt using 2 kilos of camphor. It is claimed that on the night of 'Karthigai Pournami', when the lamp is lit it can be seen across an area of 35km around the shrine.

In the evening, the Pancha Murthis are brought to the Katchi Mandapam. At dusk (Pradosham), with the Karthigai day harmonizing with full moon day, the deity, Ardhanareeswarar, is taken in a grand procession on the decorated vehicle to this place with the five deepams, which are put in a big receptacle near the flag staff. At the same time, the guiding light on the hill is lit and huge crowd raise cry in a loud voice "Annamalaikku Arogara." It is a sight for the Gods! The lighting of the beacon on the top of the hill is the finale of
ten days of merriment in the town.

Time for celebration:

The festival of Lights, Karthigai Deepam is observed in the month of November or December. The burning lamp with the divine flame is considered an auspicious symbol and believed to fend off evil forces and escort ecstasy and prosperity.

According to Tamil calendar the festival falls in the Tamil month of Karthigai. Karthigai Deepam is celebrated on the full moon day f the Karthigai month which coincides with the Krithigai Star. Even
the name Karithigai of this month was also derived on the basis of the name of the star Krithigai. The month of Karthigai is of special importance as it is believed that Lord Muruga, the divine light of Lord Shiva, took his form during this month. In 2010, the festival is on dec 1.