Priests, cooks, and cow shelter staff from various temples in Tamil Nadu, alongside students, teachers, and entrepreneurs from the State will participate in a month-long Kashi-Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi from November 16 to December 19.
Over 200 students above the age of 18 from various districts of Tamil Nadu will be among the 2,500 delegates at the event, apart from experts and opinion makers.
Delegates have been selected from a total of 12 categories such as students, academia, literature, culture, professionals (law, management, medicine, media, engineering), entrepreneurs, business, artisans, heritage (art performers, yoga teachers, ayurveda doctors), spirituality, rural (farmers) and temple (priests, cooks, temple administrators, cow shelter workers) will be present.
Of the total 2,500 participants expected to attend the event, a batch with 210 delegates each will arrive from Rameswaram, Chennai, and Coimbatore and will spend a total of six days in Uttar Pradesh. This will include two days each in Varanasi, Ayodhya, and Prayagraj — considered to be holy by Hindus.
IIT Madras, which is overseeing the logistics along with Banaras Hindu University, is providing IT support for registration of participants as well as framing academic sessions and identifying resource persons. Its Director, V Kamakoti told The Hindu that efforts are being made to ensure participants are selected from districts across the State, and students are spread across various disciplines such as engineering, law etc. “Preference will be given to those who have not been to Varanasi before,” he said.
It has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IRCTC for ferrying delegates from Tamil Nadu to Uttar Pradesh.
“In Varanasi, the delegates will visit the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor which connects the Kashi Vishwanath temple with the different ghats. They will also see Ganga aarti, take a cruise on Ganga and visit the Sarnath temple,” explained Chamu Krishna Shastri, Chairperson, Bharatiya Bhasha Samiti, on whose proposal the Ministry of Education is conducting the event. They will also visit other sites important to Tamil people such as the house of Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi in Varanasi.
The main venue will be the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), which will host a fair. During the day, there will be an exhibition and workshops as well as seminars, and in the evening, there will be cultural programmes.
There will be a total of 70 stalls at the exhibition, which will depict various facets of Tamil culture including its handicrafts, handloom, food, language, literature, art forms. Similarly, there will also be exhibits showcasing “North Indian culture”, says BHU Professor Harish Rathore.
Participants can also visit the trade facilitation centre in Varanasi which will showcase a textile museum.
To a question asked on why a government-appointed panel tasked with exploring ways to promote the growth of Indian languages recommended an event like the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam, Mr. Shastri said, “The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 talks about language, knowledge, art and culture. All four domains are inter-related and we need to take a holistic approach [to promote languages] without segregating any one aspect.”
When asked as to why has Tamil Nadu been identified for such an event, Mr. Shastri said, “There is a big relationship between Kashi [the ancient name for Varanasi] and Tamil Nadu. Kashi finds mention in several Tamil scriptures. Wherever you go in Tamil Nadu, you find a Kashi temple, be it Tenkasi or Sivakasi. There is also a trade connection between Kancheepuram and Banaras. We are also holding the event during the Tamil Kartik Maas, during which lamps are lit at Shiva temples indicating a strong Shaivite influence in the State.”
This, he said, indicates the underlying harmony or unity in diversity in the country.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “enthusiastic” about the event, which he said was a celebration of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” and “the beautiful Tamil language as well as culture”.