From the Big Temples to the Silver Screen
The Music of South India Home Page

Course Description
Registration, etc.
Travel Safety & Comfort
Day-by-Day Schedule Page Syllabus Page
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About the Instructors
Contact Mark for more info
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From the Big Temples to the Silver Screen—The Music of South India offers rich, profound encounters with South Indian music and musicians and the historic, religious, classical, folk, and popular contexts in which this art grew and still flourishes.


From the Big Temples to the Silver Screen
Brihadiswara in Thanjavur – Prasad Studios film academy in Chennai – Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram





Tentative Itinerary
Overall Cost   TBD  
  • 1/06—Chicago departure
  • 1/08—Early a.m. Bangalore arrival, settle in with Pt. Nagarajrao Havaldar and family at Sunaada Foundation
  • 1/08-1/12—At Sunaada Foundation, Bangalore, for intensive music lessons with visits to Lalbagh, Karnataka Folk Museum, and other sites in Bangalore
  • 1/12—Afternoon train to Chennai. Settle in at Madras Christian College’s International Guest House
  • 1/12-1/17—At Madras Christian College with visits to suburban Tambaram, British Madras, St. Thomas Mount, Prasad film studios, A.R. Rahman’s K.M. College of Music and Technology, and concerts and other sites in Chennai
  • 1/18-1/20—Visit Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple, cave temples, dance festival, and the nearby Dakshina Chitra living museum
  • 1/21-1/25—At Madras Christian College with visits to a rural village, Kalakshetra fine arts academy, historic Mylapore’s temples and churches, including Luz Church, San Thome, & Kapaliswara, and concerts and other sites in Chennai
  • 1/26-1/28—Experience the Tyagaraja Aradhana festival and many local sites, including Thanjavur’s Brihadiswara (Big Temple), City Palace museums, historic Tyagaraja sites in Tiruvaiyaru, and the Marabu Foundation in nearby Thillaisthanam
  • 1/29—Last day at MCC, final valedictory
  • 1/30—Early a.m. Chennai departure, Chicago arrival
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Madras Christian College—Chennai
MCC students perform folk dances at Martin Hall – New saris! – Journaling & relaxing on guest house veranda





Course Description
  • From the Big Temples to the Silver Screen—The Music of South India
    This experience offers rich, profound encounters with South Indian music and the historic, religious, classical, folk, and popular contexts in which it grew and still flourishes. Each student adopts an independent research project to pursue during our weeks in India. Sunaada Foundation, our Bangalore host, provides an immersion in Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, with intensive music lessons from Pt. Nagarajrao Havaldar offering a comprehensive introduction to raga, tala, gamaka, improvisation, form, gharana, and other musical/cultural aspects of this venerable musical tradition. Madras Christian College, our Chennai host, provides further resources for independent research, including lectures & discussion sessions, Karnatak (South Indian) classical music lessons, and other “hands-on” activities with renowned Indian musicians, scholars, and dancers. We make music, learn yoga, and enjoy India’s vegetarian-friendly cuisine. We go to concerts and festivals featuring India’s finest musicians, witnessing world-class performances at Chennai’s famed “December Season” festival (one of the largest in the world), and joining 1,000 musicians at Tiruvaiyaru’s famous Tyagaraja Aradhana as they sing the Pancharatna Kritis on the anniversary of the great composer’s death. Side trips in Bangalore include visits to Lalbagh Gardens and the Karnataka Folk Museum. During our time in Chennai, we tour British Madras, A.R. Rahman’s music school, St. Thomas sites, a film studio, a dance academy, ancient and modern churches and temples, see a “Kollywood” movie, and visit a rural village. For a field trip to Mahabalipuram, we stay at a beach resort on the Bay of Bengal, attend the annual Dance Festival, visit a stone-carvers’ colony, and tour a suite of U.N. World Heritage monuments surrounding the historic Shore Temple (India’s oldest free-standing stone temple). In Thanjavur we visit the historic Brihadiswara (Big Temple) complex, a museum filled with iconic Chola bronze statues, a library housing the accumulated literary treasures of several Thanjavur dynasties, and a foundation in a rural village that teaches music to children of all castes. This third-world immersion seeks to provide an authentic Indian experience. Accommodations will be safe but often simple. (We cannot always guarantee access to hot showers, Western-style toilets, or toilet paper!)
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Marabu Foundation village procession—Thiillaisthanam (near Thanjavur)
Marabu children – Ritual procession through the village streets – Marabu children play traditional games





Registration & Other Practical Matters
  • Registration is now closed! For further information about the course and international travel, students can contact the instructor or go to the International Studies office in Center for Professional Excellence, Circle Hall.
  • What to do after your registration is accepted? Going to India is not like going to Europe. Here are a few things to take care of:
    • Apply for a passport ASAP if you don’t already have one or if your passport will expire before August 2016.
    • Apply for an Indian tourist visa. You can do this anytime after you book your flights ... but you need your passport first!
    • Take care of immunizations, antimalarial prescriptions, and so on. Some vaccines require multiple injections; for instance, the hepatitis B vaccine requires three shots over six months to reach full strength! Visit the CDC India website for the latest recommendations and visit a local travel clinic!
    • Hopefully you have already applied for International Studies scholarships. Also check with the Financial Aid Office and tell them you’re going to India. At the very least, you may be eligible for additional loans.
  • Due to a last-minute change in format, the cost for 2016 is yet to be determined, but we estimate it will be around $3,500.00 give or take a few $100 (not including airfare, visa, or other incidental expenses). This comprehensive fee covers just about everything once you get to India: all local travel, meals, and lodging for 25 days. The big stuff is covered; just bring money for souvenirs, laundry, and other incidental expenses.
  • For more information on Elmhurst College policies on international travel, visit the International Studies Office in Circle Hall and take CPP 250: Preparation for International Education during the fall semester 2015.
  • For information on required readings, assignments, and other course requirements, click here to visit the Syllabus page.
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Dance Festival & World Heritage Sites—Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)
Descent of the Ganges bas-relief – Dancers onstage at Arjuna’s Penance – Beach resort at dawn on the Bay of Bengal





Travel Safety & Comfort

Rest assured we will do everything possible to insure your safety in India. The following may help you make an informed decision:

  • India has occasionally been the victim of terrorist attacks, but these are relatively rare, and we will avoid the kinds of places that have been targets in the past. For instance, we’re not spending time in Mumbai or staying in five-star hotels—we want to meet real Indian musicians, students, teachers, and villagers where they live and work. It is easy to imagine things are much dangerous than they really are when traveling to a place so unfamiliar and so far away, but remember that India, like the U.S., is a big place. If a maniac in Los Angeles opens fire at a fast-food restaurant, does your mother call you in Chicago to ask if you are okay?
  • Europe has been a frequent terrorist target in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped tourists from visiting London, Paris, Madrid, Cologne, etc. If terrorism is a concern, you should know South India is much safer than Europe right now.
  • South Indians are among the friendliest people on earth!

Bring clothes for a warm climate! Our time in South India will be delightful—mid- to upper 80s F. (30 C.) and sunny every day! (No matter how hot, dress modestly if you want to be treated respectfully by Indians!) Evenings may feel cool by comparison, but you will never need more than a jacket or sweater.

Even under the best of circumstances, travel in India can be strenuous. India’s ADA-style regulations are not as comprehensive as in the U.S., and in some locations you will need to climb stairs, sometimes with your luggage—a good reason to travel light! Some sites require vigorous hikes over difficult and/or hilly terrain (often without toilet facilities).

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About the Instructors
Mark Harbold
Surendran Purushotham
With Smt. Sudha Ragunathan after a concert in Chennai
With students at Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram
MarkSudhabig.jpg SuriKanchiCrop.JPG

Professor of Music
Elmhurst College

Assistant Professor of History
Madras Christian College


Mark Harbold earned a Ph.D. in Composition from University of Buffalo. As Professor of Music at Elmhurst College, he is a coordinator for the music history and theory/composition programs.

He has traveled to India nine times since 2005, coordinating three previous UMAIE courses. He has gone as a fellow in the 2008 NEH Summer Institute, “Bharata Darshan: Past & Present in the Study of Indian History & Culture”; as a fall 2009 Visiting Professor at Madras Christian College (his second home!); and as a “groupie” on the 2010 Tablaphilia Tour in Karnataka.

He is fascinated by the close bond that emerges in his contacts with Indian musicians. “Our cultures and musical styles differ, but our common experiences and music’s universal expressive power create an immediate kinship.”

Surendran Purushotham holds M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in History and is a senior History faculty member and Assistant Professor at Madras Christian College. In addition to teaching History courses, Suri is the Thomas Hall Warden and faculty coordinator for U.S. student groups from Furman University and Elmhurst College.

Suri is an expert on the history of India and its art and architecture. He has often taken visiting U.S. students on site visits to historic temples in Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram. In 2013 he was Visiting Professor of History at Elmhurst College. A huge Beatles fan, Suri has done the Beatles tour of Liverpool and encouraged performances of Beatles songs at MCC hall festivals.

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Scenes from Bengaluru and the Sunaada Art Foundation
With Pt. Havaldar & family – Lalbagh Gardens floral display – Music lesson with Pt. Havaldar’s son Omkar




 Page created 21 September 2014 by Mark Harbold—last updated 1 October 2015.