Kashi Tamil Sangamam: Modi’s cultural tour de force

Kashi Yatra for people from Tamil Nadu is a ‘dream coming true’ moment as it epitomises a significant achievement in a Tamilian’s lifetime.

Published: 16th December 2022 12:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2022 12:12 AM   |  A+A-


Mahakavi Subramania Bharati sang: “We shall invent devices to hear the poetic words from Kashi in Kanchi.” Little did we realise the prophetic undercurrent of his poetic foresight at that time. Now, Kashi Tamil Sangamam (KTS) has emerged to be a true reflection of Bharati’s song as the entire nation witnessed this month-long civilisational carnival from different parts of India and abroad. While the visiting delegates and guests from Tamil Nadu were physically connected to the KTS emotions, the remote audience was digitally connected with varied emoticons. True to the words of Bharati, the sound and spirituality of Kashi was heard not only in Kanchi but also all over the world, thanks to technology.

With over a 2,00,000 inclusive footfall, millions of digital footprints, 800 artists from Tamil Nadu and 500 from Kashi, 75–100 experts from Tamil Nadu and Kashi from diverse backgrounds, friendly matches (cricket, hockey, kabaddi, kho-kho, etc.) involving Tamil Nadu and UP teams, and 300 special guests from different walks of life, the KTS enriched the civilisational capital of Kashi and Tamil Nadu in its truest multi-forms.

In addition, the special exhibition that displayed the handlooms, handicrafts, textiles, literature, cuisine and other forms of arts and crafts from Tamil Nadu showcased different skills and also served as a commerce platform for the artisans from Tamil Nadu, who not only touched the hearts and tickled the tummies of Kashivaasis but also made them touch their wallets through their quality workmanship. To top it all, what captured the imagination of KTS amongst the visiting delegates was the permanent image of the warm hospitality showered by the organisers during the cold winter. Armed with a platoon of volunteers, the organisers of KTS made every commoner-visitor from Tamil Nadu feel like the King of Kashi. Here is why:

Kashi Yatra for people from Tamil Nadu is a ‘dream coming true’ moment as it epitomises a significant achievement in a Tamilian’s lifetime. In the olden days, this yatra was undertaken by walking and later in bullock carts, and it took years for people to go to Kashi and return home. The sincere hardship they endure and the divine blessings they accrue make them such saintly figures that local people worship the yatra returnees. The dhams and choultries built by the Nagarattar community from Tamil Nadu throughout the route served as places for stay and food for this arduous ‘Yatrathon’. As transport facilities improved with time, the Ganga-Cauvery Express train from Tamil Nadu to Varanasi became the connecting transport of choice. As a small kid, I recall travelling on this train with my grandfather, who undertook this trip to perform rituals at Kashi for his ancestors. When Kashi Yatra is undertaken by a commoner in the olden days, the entire household plans this event six to nine months in advance with ticket bookings, place of stay, local arrangements, etc. On reaching Kashi, beginning with the negotiations at the train station with the local rickshaw, the struggle for stay, the thronging crowd at the shores of Ganga, and the rush to Vishwanath temple through the narrow streets, are challenging but cherished moments that stay for eternity. The delegates of KTS had a different experience.

In one of the participant’s own words, “We were treated like royal family members.” Beginning with a seamless registration and train booking, a festive send-off from the train stations at Tamil Nadu, Rameswaram, Trichy, Coimbatore and Chennai, the specially curated bogies were like a palace on wheels with homely hospitality inside the train, ensuring good food, care and a journey filled with joyous activities. The delegates were received in major stations with sounds of music and showers of flowers.

As the train chugged into the Varanasi platform, the fitting welcome for the student delegates was not only the midnight reception given by the Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, but also the personal interaction they had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the inaugural day of November 19, 2022, which was the cherry on top.

Throughout the month, delegates from Tamil Nadu left for Varanasi in twelve different batches, and every visitor’s festive reception was followed by a lifetime experience that included academic sessions, a holy dip in Ganga, a Ganga cruise and aarti, a visit to Kashi Vishwanath corridor, Sarnath, Ayodhya, Prayagraj Triveni, cultural evenings, visits to the local museum, street walks in Kashi, interaction with people, and familiarising themselves with the Kashi culture.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple in the olden days could accommodate only a few thousand every day, and the darshan in the sanctum was a momentary flash. Today, the newly built Kashi Vishwanath corridor that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi in December 2021, sees over a lakh footfalls every day. The visiting delegates felt they were not one among the lakh but the only one with providential luck to be proximally blessed by Lord Vishwanath. The unexpected ‘State-Guest’ status to visitors was planned and executed to perfection.

True to the desire of the prime minister, every visiting delegate was treated as his personal guest. As the delegates and visitors return after sharing and showcasing Tamil Nadu’s pride and as is the usual practice to leave something behind in Kashi, the Tamilians leave tons of gratuitous affection at Kashi, carrying back a Sangamam of eternally etched memories for the generations to come. In short: Kashi Tamil Sangamam is Modi’s civilisational tour de force connecting the past with present for future.

Dr S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University

(Views are personal)


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