Kashi Tamil Sangamam initiative of the BJP-led Union government flagged off

The initiative is aimed at rediscovering, reaffirming and celebrating the old-age links between the Tamil culture and Kashi that have existed for centuries.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Nov 18, 2022 | 10:00 AM Updated Nov 18, 2022 | 10:00 AM

Kashi Tamil Sangamam

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi on Thursday, 17 November, flagged off the train carrying the first set of delegates for the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam initiative of the BJP-led Union government — a programme that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken special interest in — from the Egmore railway station in Chennai.

Once the delegates reach Kashi, Modi will inaugurate the event on 19 November at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) located in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi.

As part of the month-long programme that will wind up on 16 December, people from Tamil Nadu belonging to 12 different “clusters”, will be taken on an educational tour to Varanasi as special guests.

The initiative is aimed at rediscovering, reaffirming and celebrating the old-age links between the Tamil culture and Kashi that have existed for centuries.

The event, which is being organized by the Union government as a part of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” and to uphold the Spirit of “Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat”, comes at a time when the BJP is facing criticism from political parties in Tamil Nadu such as the ruling DMK for allegedly undermining the Tamil language and culture.

The BJP has also been aggressively trying to make inroads in the state ahead of the 2024 general elections.

Confluence of cultures

During his recent visit to Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul to take part in the convocation ceremony of the Gandhigram Rural Institute, Modi spoke about the initiative.

“The Kashi-Tamil Sangamam will celebrate the bond between Kashi and Tamil Nadu. The people of Kashi are eager to celebrate Tamil Nadu’s language, culture and history. This is ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat’ in action. This love and respect are the basis of our unity,” he said.

Minister of State in the Union government L Murugan also published a column in one of the English dailies in the state explaining the rationale behind the programme.

Talking about the bond between Tamil Nadu and Varanasi, he said that despite the differences over the language spoken, they share the same cultural, philosophical and spiritual heritage.

“This connection between Tamils and Kashi Vishwanath, one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines, is resplendent in rich intellectual wisdom and Hindu civilisational history,” Murugan wrote.

It may be noted that on the religious front, two of the main Hindu pilgrimage sites in the country are located in Kashi and Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu.

There are several historical connections between the two places too. For example, Tamil king Adhiveera Rama Pandiyan of the Pandya dynasty dedicated a Shiva temple in Tenkasi of Tamil Nadu after his pilgrimage to Kashi.

The great poet and nationalist Subramania Bharathi, an icon for the Tamils, also lived in Varanasi for five years from the age of 16.

The initiative explained

The programme would entail taking people from Tamil Nadu belonging to 12 different clusters — students, teachers, literature, culture, professionals, entrepreneurs, business, artisans, heritage, spiritual, rural and temple — as special guests. These guests would travel in groups to Kashi in special coaches attached to trains that depart from Chennai, Coimbatore and Rameshwaram on 12 different dates.

Each group, comprising around 210 persons each, would spend eight days in total, and will attend academic sessions based on their core interest area at the BHU, apart from visiting other iconic locations in Varanasi such as the Kashi Vishvanath Dham, local temples, the ghats, Kumarswamy Mutt, Ramnagar fort and the house of Subramanya Bharati. They would also be taken for the Ganga aarti and a river cruise.

While the Ministry of Education is organizsng this one-of-its-kind event based on an idea given by the prime minister, IIT Madras and BHU are the knowledge partners for the Kashi Tamil Sangamam initiative.

The other knowledge partners include the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), Chennai, SRM University, Chennai, Pondicherry University, and Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysuru.

Speaking to South First, director of IIT Madras V Kamakoti expressed his happiness about the involvement of the premier institute in the Kashi Tamil Sangamam, which he believed would help in creating awareness among Tamil people about the deep academic, cultural and social connections between Tamil Nadu and Varanasi.

After they publicised the portal https://kashitamil.iitm.ac.in/ asking interested persons under each cluster to apply for the programme, according to Prof Kamakoti, they received over 25,000 applications.

Out of this, a committee shortlisted around 2,500 of them across disciplines. While shortlisting the delegates, special attention was given to geographical and gender-based representation.

Of academics and cultural programmes

As for the academic sessions which will be held at the BHU, it will be centred around a series of themes such as literature, ancient texts, philosophy, spirituality, music, dance, drama, yoga, Ayurveda, handlooms, handicrafts as well as the modern innovations, trade exchanges, edutech, and other gen-next technology. Seminars, discussions and lectures will be held on these themes by subject experts.

Additionally, the art, culture, cuisine, handlooms, handicrafts of Tamil Nadu will also be exhibited as part of the cultural programmes.

Apart from seven different cuisines from Tamil Nadu, performances of Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, Tamil folk music, Nadaswaram music concert, Thevaaram Thiruvaasagam, debate on Kamba Ramayanam, Villu-paattu, Bommalaatum, Silambaattum, Kaavadi Attam, Karagam, Pattimandram, Tamil folk dances Karagattam, Poikkal Kuthirai, Thappaattam have also been organised in specially designated locations for people of Varanasi to savour.

A young college student, who is part of the first delegation that boarded the train to Kashi from Egmore, was excited about the journey.

“I have always wanted to go to Varanasi. This is a perfect opportunity for me to explore the place. I’m looking forward to the knowledge and culture exchange,” he said.