f the many dimensions of activities that Isha has undertaken, Gramotsavam stands out for its uniqueness and cuteness. Revitalizing rural India through sports is an endeavor that took birth 21 years ago, and found official form and has been around for 16 years. It was caste prejudice that did not allow a certain group of people, who refused to eat with another group that they considered inferior in the caste order, that got me thinking. It was an Isha Yoga program where food was shared that this became an issue. To see that it did not flare up into conflagration, I decided to introduce simple games instead of the sharing of food. Eating together across caste divide was a big issue, but no one had any issues playing together as no prejudiced mind had thought of playing together.
These simple games have worked out really fine in leveling out caste prejudice. I had observed how the states of African-Americans had changed because of the sporting heroes from the community. We have witnessed something similar here in rural Tamil Nadu.
Gramotosvam as an event has grown in its dimension in size quite phenomenally. This year has been a landmark event. Sachin Tendulkar’s participation propelled the event into stratosphere. The sporting phenomenon that he is was a great complement for the rural participants’ enthusiasm and spirit. Six hundred and forty teams with over 7,500 players is indeed movement without compare. Nearly 70,000 spectators and fans gathered. An event without parallel in Coimbatore.
The simple humility of our “Bharath Ratna” surely enhanced the quality of this event. We want to take this movement of revitalizing and transforming rural India through sport to greater heights. Discrimination of caste, creed and gender has been broken through this movement. Many youth have broken through their addictions. Above all, women folk who had never played a game in their lives are coming out and playing in tournaments with huge spectator participation. Seeing ladies of various age groups playing in this manner brings tears of joy to my eyes, as I know how restricted their lives have been.