Kashi-Tamil Sangamam: When Kanchipuram meets Banaras
New Delhi, Nov 19: Kashi-Tamil Sangamam, a month-long event, has started to reestablish age-old links between the cultures of Varanasi and Tamil Nadu, began in Varanasi. The sangamam is part of India's 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' and to uphold the Spirit of 'Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat'. The programme, which will continue till December 16th, is to rediscover the centuries-old bond of knowledge and ancient civilisational linkage between Kashi and Tamil Nadu.
Talking about Kashi and Tamil, one might list the number of differences these two ends of the country has, but the historians would tell you how these, despite differing in so many ways, have so much in common. They depict the centuries old cultural connection between Tamil Nadu and Kashi. Surprising as it may sound, hundreds of temples in Tamil Nadu bear the name of Kashi.
Kashi and Tamil Nadhu have a past we must know
To delve deeper into this connect between Kashi and Tamil Nadu, let us scurry through history.
Dr Vinay Kumar of the Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture, and Archaeology, at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), told TNIE the connection between Kashi and the Tamil region is deep and old. "It is very difficult to elaborate on the rich cultural heritage of India in totality. Sometimes, north and south India are seen as two separate streams but, culturally, both these regions share a common spiritual linkage. The link between TN and Varanasi is of special symbolism. Although both these regions are geographically far apart, their relationship is very strong," he said.
According to the legends, Pandyan ruler Parakrama Pandyan, who ruled over the region around Madurai during the 13th century, wished to build a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, and he travelled to Kashi in Varanasi to bring back a lingam from there. While returning, he stopped to rest under a tree, but when the King woke up to continue his journey after his overnight stay, the cow carrying the lingam refused to move. Parakrama Pandya accepted this as the Lord's wish, and installed the lingam there itself, a place that came to be called Sivakasi.
The worship of Lord Shiva in Kasi Viswanathar Temple along with his consort Ulagamman (Kali temple), is considered equivalent to that of worship in Varanasi. The temple is located in Tenkasi town in Tamil Nadu bordering Kerala.
The massive tower of the temple is the second highest in the state, next to Srirangam Temple. It is believed that the divine sages of Narada, Mrugandu, Agasthya, Indira, Vali and Nandhi were all praised and worshipped at this temple. The history of this temple is also available in the stone inscriptions there.
"Much later, another king, Adhivir Ram Pandyan, after returning from a pilgrimage to Kashi, constructed another Shiva temple in Tenkasi in the 19th century," said Dr. Kumar. "Sant Kumara Gurupara from Thoothukudi district had negotiated with the princely state of Kashi to get a place for the consecration of Kedarghat and Vishvesvaralingam in Varanasi. He also composed Kashi Kalambagam, a collection of grammar poems on Kashi," he was quoted as saying in the TNIE report.
People from Rameswaram would take a dip in the Koti teertha (in the temple) before visiting Kashi for darshan; and they would bring back (Ganga) water from Kashi for abhiseka at the temple in Rameswaram. Only this would complete their pilgrimage at a time when it took six months to travel between Kashi and Rameswaram.
The month-long Kashi-Tamil Sangamam, one-of-its kind event, which aim to reestablish age-old links between the cultures of Varanasi and Tamil Nadu, began in Varanasi. The sangamam is being organized by the Government of India as a part of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' and to uphold the Spirit of 'Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat'. The programme will be organised in Varanasi from November 17th to December 16th to rediscover the centuries-old bond of knowledge and ancient civilisational linkage between Kashi and Tamil Nadu.
As part of the program, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Indian Institute of Technology- Madras (IIT-M) will serve as a knowledge partner, with an objective to bring to light the deep academic, economic, social and cultural relationships between Kashi, also known as Varanasi, and Tamil Nadu.
More than 2500 delegates from Tamil Nadu will be visiting Kashi. They will participate in seminars, site visits etc to interact with local people of similar trade, profession and interest. A month-long exhibition of handlooms, handicrafts, ODOP products, books, documentaries, cuisine, art forms, history, tourist places etc of the two regions will also be put up in Kashi.
A senior Ministry of Education (MoE) official said,''The endeavour is in sync with the new National Education Policy 2020's emphasis on integrating the wealth of Indian knowledge systems with modern systems of knowledge.'' "IIT Madras and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) are the two implementing agencies for the programme," the official added.
Railways to run 13 special trains from Tamil Nadu to Varanasi
During month long 'Kashi Tamil Sangamam', Indian Railways shall roll out total of 13 services from Tamil Nadu to Kashi, Uttar Pradesh. These trains shall halt at 21 stations en route. Each rake shall carry 216 passengers. The guests shall travel in groups to Kashi in special coaches attached to trains that depart from Chennai, Coimbatore and Rameswaram on 12 different dates. Each group shall spend 8 days in total from start to return. As a part of this tour, they will attend academic sessions, visit places in and around Kashi, and Ayodhya including the Ganga cruise. All guests are entitled to free travel and free accommodation at Kashi and Ayodhya.
Delegates from Tamil Nadu leave for #Kashi_Tamil_Sangamam— Southern Railway (@GMSRailway) November 17, 2022
T No.22535 Rameswaram - Varanasi Express left Rameswaram at 23.55 hrs on 16th Nov 2022 with 34 delegates. Shri Pon Radhakrishnan, Former Union Minister joined the event at Rameswaram and interacted with the delegates pic.twitter.com/fL9p0HoegU
Tamil Nadu Governor flags off train carrying first batch of delegates
Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi along with Dr L Murugan, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, Government of India flagged off the train carrying first batch of 216 delegates for the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam. About 35 delegates from Rameswaram, 103 from Tiruchchirappalli and 78 from Chennai Egmore boarded the train. All the delegates were students from various educational institutions from across Tamil Nadu.
RN Ravi interacted with the Kashi Tamil Sangamam Selection Committee Members-Industrialist Dr Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, Dr Sudha Seshayyan, Vice-Chancellor, The Tamil Nadu Dr MGR. Medical University, V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras and Professor Dr. Mohansankar Sivaprakasam, IIT Madras, Social & cultural activist Mohammad Asif Ali.
Glad to see great enthusiasm towards Kashi Tamil Sangamam among the wonderful people of Tamil Nadu! https://t.co/3idwedEc8E— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 17, 2022
The Governor also interacted with the student delegates and congratulated them for being a part of the initiative to revive and reaffirm Tamil Nadu's cultural and historic links with Kashi.