Kashi Tamil Sangamam: What This Young Student From Tamil Nadu Realised On Taking A Dip In The Ganga At Varanasi
A participant of the Kashi Tamil Sangamam from the Tamil temple town of Palani relives his memorable experience in Uttar Pradesh.
Prabathyan from Tamil Nadu’s temple town Palani took his friend’s advice and went to ‘Kasi’ as part of the first batch of the Kashi Tamil Sangamam participants.
He has now returned and can’t stop talking about his experience.
The 21-year-old, who is doing his Master’s degree in Political Science in Chennai’s Presidency College (“from the same college as Rajaji”), shared with Swarajya his once-in-a-lifetime journey from Chennai’s Egmore to Varanasi and back.
“I had never imagined it would be anything like this,” says Prabathyan, who travelled with 216 people — 200 students and 16 coordinators.
“It was my first tryst with this temple town, and I have long wanted to visit Uttar Pradesh since it is in the news all the time, and wished to know what it is to be there,” he says.
He says he went there without any expectations, and the experience was something he cannot describe in words. It was literally “vere level” (at a different level), says Prabathyan, as he tries to relive the entire visit.
From the “spectacular” Ganga aarti to the “Kashi Vishwanath corridor”, the experience was “wonderful”, he says. Ask what was the one thing that touched him the most, and the young mind says, “it was the care and love that was shown to us”.
From boarding the train at Egmore Station to the welcome and hospitality we received at various other stations along the journey with the “garlanding and people’s elation upon seeing us”, it was something different.
“But when we reached Varanasi it was around 1 am and I honestly didn't expect that welcome at that hour. But our honourable Education Minister Dr Dharmendra Pradhan was waiting for us at the railway station to welcome us along with Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai and around 500 others, and this was truly unexpected,” says Prabathyan.
“I knew that the minister may see us in Varanasi but didn't expect him to be there at 1 am to welcome us.”
It has changed his “perception” of both Uttar Pradesh as well as “the cadre of BJP”, he says. “I realised, irrespective of ideology, people come first.”
As he narrates the next four days of his tour of Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya, Prabathyan has countless anecdotes that he says have etched the journey in his mind forever.
“There were 17 stations en route and we were greeted at most stations with the same grandeur and warmth,” says Prabathyan, adding that hearing vanakkam was heartening especially given the entire politics around “Hindi imposition”.
Throughout the train journey, “we had such sumptuous Tamil food and IRCTC ensured we were truly taken care of”.
A fellow student though asked why they didn’t get to relish much of the north Indian fare. Says Prabathyan: “our Education Minister Dr Pradhan explained that ‘stomach is a sensitive matter’ and since we weren't used to it, it was to ensure our journey isn’t affected”.
The Prime Minister was there on his first day as the team toured the Banaras Hindu University, which he says he once sought to be a student of but couldn’t, and the “speech by the PM, where he dwelt on Tamil, its richness and its connect to Kashi, was truly enlightening”.
On Day 2, the group visited the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, where they were “treated like VVIP pass holders”. From the darshan to the group photo at the shrine to the prasad and some Tamils among the temple officials he met, Prabathyan says everything about the temple truly made him feel “special and cared for”.
“We had lunch at the temple which I truly consider as a privilege,” says Prabathyan.
The group then headed to Prayagraj and Ayodhya both of which were “unique experiences” with all the cultural performances, the insight into the history of the land and the dips in the sacred rivers.
“On the last day, we got a chance to visit the Ram Janmabhoomi, a privilege that is at present denied even to the natives of Ayodhya,” says Prabathyan, as he quickly gives us a recap of the temple construction that is ongoing, the visit to the banks of River Sarayu, before they could head back to Varanasi. “And this was how our four golden days were spent,” he says as he sums up the itinerary.
“The main purpose of this programme was to re-establish the age-old link between Kashi and Tamil Nadu. To this end, for someone like me, although I knew of Tenkasi, I didn't know it was ‘the Kashi of the south’. Only after this visit did I come to know that Tenkasi is because Kashi is, and so much more in the two days of the visit and discourses.”
Such was his elation that he tweeted his entire journey upon return, from his cultural rendezvous to the friendships that happened.
And his elation was only elevated when the “PM quote tweeted my tweet”.
For, he didn't expect him to do so, as “so many people tag our PM and tweet, he has around 80 million followers on Twitter”.
“I had tweeted to just share my experience but when he retweeted I was jumping up and down in the class,” he says in all innocence, adding that he has “invited the PM to his home for food”.
And it is this elation that is helping him resist and withstand the “different treatment” being meted out to him by fellow students back in college.
“Especially the student wing of certain political parties and ideology are looking at me differently, calling me a ‘Sanghi’ but then like I tweeted, this was neither a political tour, nor a spiritual tour, it was an educational tour,” he says, wishing the young “DMK minds” too get to have this “enlightening experience”.
“The government should actually takes these people to ‘Kasi’,” he reiterated, “because nothing was imposed there, so if they experience it may be it will change their minds”.
For it has changed his for sure, he says, giving an instance of how, he had always seen the slogan of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ be portrayed as if it is a ‘BJP slogan’ until now.
“Not even the Congress will say it aloud here in TN often. But the dip in the Ganga for him, made him truly experience it differently,” says a nostalgic Prabathyan.
For he says, he could relive the words of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (he quotes) whose lines until then were mere lines, but not anymore.
“Hum jeeyenge toh is Bharat ke liye, marenge toh Bharat ke liye, aur marne ke baad bhi Ganga jal main behti hui hamari asthiyon ko koi kaan lagakar sunega toh ek hi awaz ayegi, woh hai Bharat mata ki Jai,” says Prabathyan signing off, and wishes every Indian can visit Kashi and experience it for themselves.
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