Isha Gramotsavam is a celebration of village life showcasing the essence of rural Tamil Nadu through an elaborate display of rural games, art, drama, dance, music and food specialties. The finale event on September 4 featured the final rounds of a state-wide inter-village sports tournament and much more!

The 12th edition of Isha Gramotsavam came to a magnificent close as thousands of people at the overflowing Codissia Grounds in Coimbatore joined this extravagant grand finale.

The Road to Victory

Gramotsavam is not just a single event, but a culmination of a month-long rural sports tournament which has fired up the entire state in the spirit of sport and celebration! This year’s matches brought together 10,360 players from 4,500 villages, covering 25 of Tamil Nadu’s 32 districts. The players from these 880 teams range in age from youth of just 13 years to 78-year-old grandmothers!

In August 2016, the tournament of men’s volleyball and women’s throwball kicked off. 40 clusters faced off in the first round of matches. Winners and runners-up from each cluster advanced to the 2nd round of matches on August 21st. These “Mini-Gramotsavams” were held with great festivity and joy in 10 divisions across the state. Winners from these divisions moved on to compete in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final league matches in Coimbatore. These matches began on September 2nd in Nehru Stadium, hosted by the Volleyball Association and culminated at the Gramotsavam finale event on September 4th.

For the first time in Gramotsavam history, a seated volleyball game for disabled athletes was also held during the September 4th event in association with the Paralympics Association of Coimbatore. Kabbadi matches were also held in the morning alongside folk art performances, rural games, and food festival. Breaking the caste, religion, community and gender barriers, Gramotsavam is an opportunity for every villager – man or woman, young or old, irrespective of caste or creed – to revel in the joy of the game and the spirit of competition and collaboration.

The Final Matches!

On the morning of the finale, Silver medalist at the Rio Olympics PV Sindhu along with ace cricketers and commentators Shikar Dhawan, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Harsha Bhogle sent special video messages to encourage the players of Tamil Nadu, particularly the women teams whose participation in Gramotsavam has doubled since 2015.

On the morning of the finale, Silver medalist at the Rio Olympics PV Sindhu along with ace cricketers Shikar Dhawan, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and commentator Harsha Bhogle sent special video messages to encourage the players of Tamil Nadu, particularly the women teams whose participation in Gramotsavam has doubled since 2015.

Shri Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting and the first sportsperson in independent India to win individual Silver at the Olympics along with Dr Kiran Bedi, Governor of Puducherry and India’s first woman IPS Officer were the Chief Guests and Shri. P. Nagaraj, MP, Coimbatore was the guest of honour. The chief guests served the first balls for the Women’s Throwball and Men’s Volleyball Finals.

After thrilling matches with amazing plays from all sides, the Women’s Devarayapuram Throwball team and Men’s Vellore Latheri Volleyball team emerged as winners of the Isha Rejuvenation Trophy. The Women’s Gobi Muruganpudur throwball team and Men’s Cuddalore Karunguzhi Volleyball team were runner ups. During the matches, drums and cheers from the packed crowd kept all the teams energized and at the top of their game! Commentary from actor and stand-up comedian Badava Gopi also kept the crowd of over 25,000 spectators laughing and cheering thoughout.

Sadhguru and Chief Guests Address the Crowd

Shri Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore praised the atmosphere of the games, claiming, “I think it was better than any IPL match!” He expressed that “Gramotsavam is an example of how communities can come together. You don’t need an Olympics to come together. We can have a Gully, Mohalla, town or even state-level competitions to bring people together. One of the fastest ways of making friends is Sport. It is one area where only merit counts. It is also an example of how a coach (Sadhguru) can show the way.”

Overwhelmed at seeing the joy on people’s faces at Gramotsavam, Hon’ble Lt. Governor of Puducherry, Smt Dr Kiran Bedi said, “The position I am placed in, I am always looking for solutions. Sadhguru and Gramotsavam have given me a solution today. Right now we are cleaning Puducherry, but what do we do after that? We will play. These tournaments cost so little but deliver so much. If PM Modi comes to know about Gramotsavam, he will definitely take it up. It is time to move from Swacch Bharat to Swasth Bharat. This Saturday I am going to a village in Puducherry and when I go there I will take a volleyball and a football.”

Sadhguru, who instituted Gramotsavam 12 years ago to revive the socio-cultural fabrics and well-being of Tamil Nadu, addressed the crowd saying, “These 12 years of Gramotsavam have been an evolution. But I want it to be a revolution. It has changed people’s attitudes towards caste, creed, religion and gender. The joy in playing sport is something that every human being should know. We as a nation should become a playful nation. If we are playful then many undulations and hardships will be smoothed out. This is something we have to bring back in our culture. We may not be able to provide resources to our people for a dignified life for a variety of reasons. But we must bring playfulness. The Andhra Pradesh Government has invited us to bring Gramotsavam. We will be taking it to AP in a big way. And soon we will set Puducherry also on fire.”

The Chief Guests then presented the prizes to the tournament Winners and Runners-up. Isha Vidhya student Karthikeyan, who bagged a gold medal in archery in Indo-Nepal youth rural games was also felicitated, alongside Gaurav Siddharth, a cyclist currently on a record-setting ride across all the 29 states and 7 Union territories of India.

Costumes, Colors, Drums and Dance!

In addition to the matches, the festival was a delight of local delicacies, rural games, cultural performances and folk art. Rural and fun games included:

  • Kola poti for women (Rangoli competition)
  • Traditional preparation of Pongal
  • Lemon and spoon race, 3-legged race, tire race, jute bag hopping, tug-of-war, balloon bursting, musical chairs
  • Valuku maram (greased pole climbing) and Uri adithal (breaking the pot)

One integral goal of Isha Gramotsavam is to preserve and nurture rural culture. Unfortunately, Tamil Nadu’s ancient art forms are under threat of extinction. Of the 100 unique folk art forms of Tamil Nadu, half have already disappeared. Of the remaining 50, a mere 20 are commonly known. A dwindling last generation of performers struggles to keep the other 30 art forms alive, but after them, no one has stepped forward to continue this rich heritage for future generations to enjoy.

To revive these dying folk arts, 20 ancient folk art forms involving around 200 artists from across Tamil Nadu performed at the Gramotsavam, welcoming attendees to the event with colorful, eye-catching, rhythmic and daring performances throughout the grounds and on the main stage.

Some of the art forms showcased included Thol Paavai Kootu (Puppet show), Paraiattam, Thappattam, Karagam, Pambai attam, Kokkili kattai, Nayyandi melam, Sakkai kutchi attam, Puli attam, Jiggattam, and Devarattam. Isha Samskriti students also offered a demonstration of Kalaripayattu on the main stage.

Mr. Augustin of Karagattam folk art troup “Saga” shared, “I have been coaching youth from surrounding villages and coming to Gramotsavam for the past 6 years. We are proud to join such a great festival.”

Mr. Sridharan, leader of Pambai Attam folk dance troupe from Dharmapuri shared, “This art form is in very poor condition with few opportunities to perform. The chance Isha has given us is very nice. Isha has organized so many folk troupes in one place at this amazing event. We should all support this.”

Editor’s Note: For Isha’s Action for Rural Rejuvenation, sport has been the key to inspiring exuberance and oneness in the rural villages. It has become a tool of transformation, weaning villagers away from addiction, breaking caste barriers within the community, bringing women out of the home and empowering them, and reviving spirit and pride in individuals and the village as a whole.

To support this initiative and to learn more, visit Gramotsavam.org