Amid Centre’s Tamil outreach, historical claims come under scrutiny

An attempt to establish a ‘lost’ Tamil connection with the PM’s home State, Gujarat, was made in April, but experts say there is no proof that ‘invasion by Islamic radicals’ forced people to migrate to south India

Updated - May 25, 2023 11:48 pm IST

Published - May 25, 2023 07:37 pm IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the closing ceremony of Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam via video conferencing in New Delhi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the closing ceremony of Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam via video conferencing in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The Centre’s decision to install the Sengol, a historic sceptre from Tamil Nadu, in the new Parliament building is a continuation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent efforts to reach out to Tamils and deepen the BJP’s base in the State ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha election.

In November 2022, the Centre organised a month-long Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, Mr. Modi’s parliamentary constituency, to emphasise the religious and cultural ties between the ancient holy city in north India and the southern State. An attempt to establish a ‘lost’ Tamil connection with Mr. Modi’s home State, Gujarat, was also made through the Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam in April 2023.

Now, the Centre is planning a Kedarnath Tamil Sangamam to forge a link between Tamils and the shrine in Uttarakhand. The programmes come under the framework of the Centre’s Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat initiative, which seeks to enhance interactions and promote cultural ties between people of different States and Union Territories.

The events are intended to counter the Dravidian ideology that dominates politics in Tamil Nadu. “Divisive thoughts have existed in Tamil Nadu for decades. It is the Prime Minister’s vision to bring people together,” said Chamu Krishna Shastry, chairman of the Bharatiya Bhasha Samiti under the Ministry of Education, who was involved in organising the programmes.

However, experts say there is no recorded evidence of claims made at the Saurashtra Tamil Sangamam that “invasion by Islamic radicals” forced people to migrate to south India to “protect their faith and identity”.

Back to the roots

For the event, about 3,000 people from Tamil Nadu with roots in Saurashtra were taken to Gujarat in special trains to help them reconnect with the land of their ancestors. The visitors, who were termed “pilgrims”, were selected from a list of 25,000 people who had registered for the event, and offered free food, boarding and guided tours.

During their 10-day stay, the visitors received a booklet, Saurashtra & Tamil Confluence: Woven Together in a Silken Thread, which linked the “migration to south [India] between the 11th and 16th centuries to the destruction of the Somnath Temple, starting from its raid by Muhammad of Ghazni in 1024”.

“It is noted on stone inscriptions found during modern archaeological excavations between 1024 and 1500 that a series of invasions by Islamic radicals forced industrious, prosperous, skilful and peace-loving communities to flee their homes to escape destruction and death,” the booklet said.

‘Protecting faith’

In his welcome speech, Union Minister Piyush Goyal had urged the visitors to repeat “Jai Somnath” after him. Addressing the event’s closing ceremony via videoconferencing on April 26, the Prime Minister said the migration followed the “first major foreign attack on the country’s culture and honour”, which was on the Somnath Temple.

“A large number of people migrated from Saurashtra to Tamil Nadu to protect their faith and identity. The people of Tamil Nadu welcomed them with open arms and extended all facilities to them for a new life,” Mr. Modi said.

However, Y. Subbarayalu, epigraphist and former head of Indology at the French Institute of Pondicherry, said there is no evidence to substantiate these claims.

“There are people from Saurashtra settled in Madurai and other parts of Tamil Nadu. They migrated gradually, mostly during the reign of the Vijayanagar empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. There is no inscription to prove that their migration was from Somnath,” he said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.