Competition for Communal Harmony?

Can competition and the spirit of contest lead to the coming together of communities?

விளையாட்டுப் போட்டிகளால் சமுதாயத்தில் நல்லிணக்கம் பெருகுமா?

Competition and contest with a higher purpose of bringing villagers together in the true spirit of rural India.

It is said that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but what about a rolling ball? A ball that has been rolling for the last fourteen years and that doesn’t plan to stop? That’s a whole other story – the story of Isha Gramotsavam. Gramotsavam is a celebration. A rejoicing of the rural spirit of India, brought forth in the villages through a series of sports activities that have been seen to enhance communal harmony, improve health, empower women and increase productivity. Conducted each year in the state of Tamil Nadu, it has been a tool for revival of the vibrant rural culture, and has brought together communities irrespective of caste or creed. For the first time this year, Gramotsavam has taken a slight northeast turn, and entered the “rice bowl of India”, Andhra Pradesh.


The Rural Development Ministry of India is making an ambitious attempt to transform rural areas into economically, socially and physically sustainable spaces or “Smart Villages”, which will stimulate overall development in their respective regions. As sports and recreation have been identified as essential for overall wellbeing, UNICEF, in partnership with Isha Foundation, is conducting a pilot implementation. This initiative is being carried out in 26 Gram Panchayats within the Anandapuram Mandal of Vishakhapatnam district. Regular gatherings for recreational activities will help renew a sense of community by involving villagers irrespective of age or economic level. It also serves to empower women and help people out of addictions and unhealthy lifestyles. “A village that plays together stays together” is something that has been proven time and again wherever Gramotsavam has happened in the past.


Volleyball tournaments for men and throwball tournaments for women have been going on for the last few weeks in the Anandapuram mandal and have been cause for much fun, frolic and fraternity among the communities. Among the teams that did not win, one team was selected from each village and each of these ladies were presented with a flowering plant and a fruit tree sapling. One condition though – they must share the produce of these trees with everyone in their village. It was a gesture that added a touch of grace to the games and generated an atmosphere of acceptance to begin with and went on to create much positivity among the players, who understood the hidden message too well. They even said they would continue to fix and play mandal level tournaments and keep the games going – a small step for the players themselves, but a large stride towards the greater goal of community engagement and communal camaraderie.


Ninety teams from thirty-eight villages participated in the mens’ volleyball tournaments, and fifty-eight teams from twenty-eight villages participated in the womens’ throwball tournaments. Eight teams each will be playing in the quarterfinals that are scheduled to happen on November 25.

Isha Gramotsavam in rural Andhra Pradesh will also showcase village life in the state, capturing its essence through a delightful display of rural games, music and food delicacies. This unique festival – and the final rounds of the volleyball and throwball tournaments – will culminate on November 27 in Vishakhapatnam in the presence of Sadhguru. The culmination is also a celebration of the collaborative efforts of UNICEF and Isha Foundation, whose objective is to inspire the villagers to work in harmony for the transformation of their respective villages and surrounding areas. Over 7000 people are expected to attend the event that would include Anandapuram mandal residents, school children, college youth and general public. The weather forecast is expected to be a windfall of rural spirit with a heavy chance of some individual transformations.


Editor’s Note: The Tamil Nadu Gramotsavam will take place in the coming weeks, with the culmination event happening in front of Adiyogi in Coimbatore on December 22 2017. Please donate here to help make this happen:

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