Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi on Saturday, highlighting the bond between Kashi and Tamil Nadu, both being ancient centres of culture and civilisation. He expressed hope in this event acting as a catalyst to generate the feeling of ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ (One India, Best India), and took the opportunity to honour the ‘aadhinams’ (religious leaders) of Tamil Nadu’s various religious places and monasteries.
He also released the translated versions of the Thirukkural, and interacted with students from Tamil Nadu who had come to visit Kashi.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Modi greeted the audience with ‘Vanakkam Kashi, Vanakkam Tamil Nadu, Har Har Mahadev’. “Both regions are the centres of the oldest languages, Sanskrit and Tamil. In Kashi, we have Baba Vishwanath, while in Tamil Nadu, we have the blessings of Lord Rameshwaram. Both Kashi and Tamil Nadu are ‘Shivmay’ and ‘Shaktimay’,” said the PM, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.
Paying rich tributes to poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharathi, the Prime Minister said, “There is a great personality from Tamil Nadu, Subramania Bharathi, a great poet and freedom fighter, who lived for a long time in Kashi and studied here. It is said that it was here (in Varanasi) that he (Bharathi) sported his popular moustache.” He hailed the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) for establishing a chair dedicated to Bharathi which, he said, enhanced its pride.
He stated that India is a nation that has lived in natural cultural unity for thousands of years and despite having one of the world’s oldest living languages, i.e. Tamil, we have failed to honour it fully. “This is the responsibility of 130 crore Indians to preserve the legacy of Tamil and enrich it. If we ignore Tamil, we do a great disservice to the nation, and if we keep Tamil confined in restrictions, we will do it great harm,” added Mr. Modi.
The Prime Minister claimed that the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam is unique in many ways and this confluence signifies India’s cultural foundation. “Our nation’s cultural hub today is Kashi, which encompasses the entirety of India. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu and the Tamil culture are the foundation of India’s antiquity and pride. This confluence is as sacred as the Ganga and the Yamuna. Like Ganga and Yamuna, it is a source of limitless potential and power,” he added.
Mr. Modi also highlighted the role played by Tamil Nadu in the making of Kashi. He said Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, who was born in Tamil Nadu, was the Vice-Chancellor of the BHU. The renowned Vedic scholar Rajeshwar Shastri lived in Kashi, even though he had his roots in Tamil Nadu. He said that the people of Kashi also miss Pattabhirama Shastri who lived on Hanuman Ghat here.
“If you visit Kashi, you will see the Kashi Kaam Koteshwar Panchayatan Mandir, which is a Tamilian temple on the banks of Harishchandra Ghat, and the 200-year-old Kumarswamy Matt and Markande Ashram on Kedar Ghat,” he said.
In his speech, Mr. Modi went on to highlight the historical, cultural and civilisational contribution of both Kashi and Tamil Nadu in India’s cultural evolution. “Both Tamil Nadu and Kashi are inspirational sources of art, literature and music. While tannumai is played in Tamil Nadu, tabla is used in Kashi. Banarasi sarees are made in Kashi, while Kanjeevaram silk from Tamil Nadu is well-known worldwide. Both are the birthplace and workplace of the greatest masters of Indian spirituality. Tamil Nadu is the home of Saint Thiruvalluvar’s devotion, while Kashi is the home of Tulsi. One can see the energy of Kashi and Tamil Nadu in every walk of life,” the PM said.
Throwing light on the rich culture of both Kashi and Tamil Nadu, he said, “even today, the relevance of Kashi Yatra comes up during the traditional Tamil marriage procession.” He underlined that the unending love for Kashi from Tamil Nadu signifies the feeling of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’, which was the way of life of our ancestors.
Mr. Modi said that the Sangamam is a matter of experiencing more than just words and expressed hope in the people of Kashi leaving no stone unturned in providing memorable hospitality to their Tamil guests. Mr. Modi was accompanied by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Mr. Adityanath welcomed everyone in Tamil by saying, “Ungalai Kashiyil Varaverkirom (Welcome to Kashi).” In his speech, he also mentioned the ancient temple of Lord Vishwanath in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu. Tenkasi means Kashi of the South. He said that the jyotirlingas in Rameshwaram and Lord Adi Vishweshwar in Kashi are central to the relationship between Tamil Nadu and Kashi.
The month-long Kashi Tamil Sangamam, is aimed at reviving cultural links between Kashi and Tamil Nadu through the depiction of various forms of art and culture. Thousands of guests from Tamil Nadu, from diverse backgrounds like archaeology, history, art, music, yoga, education, literature and Ayurveda, have been invited to visit Kashi for the Sangamam.
Several seminars based on intellectual, cultural, spiritual and artistic subjects are scheduled over the next one month. Apart from this, South Indian music, tradition and art will also be showcased. Cultural programmes highlighting the culture of Tamil Nadu like Meenakshi Chittaranjan’s Bharatanatyam, folk music of Tamil Nadu, Irula and other tribal dances and Villupattu, an ancient musical story-telling, will also be organised.