You may already be familiar with Isha Foundation’s social outreach efforts for health, education and environmental action. But did you know that, for years, Isha has also been reaching out to empower people through sports and games? As part of the efforts of Action for Rural Rejuvenation (ARR), team sports and recreation have been encouraged in rural areas of southern India to provide a healthy alternative to the growing problem of abuse and addiction.
This simple but powerfully uplifting intervention renews the joy and spirit of communal kinship. Playing games every day in the evening has brought a spectacular change in the lives of many villagers. For women, the blossoming of their self-confidence and spirit of initiative in this space is the bedrock for societal change tomorrow. In addition to the rural games, ARR provides a comprehensive approach to improved health, livelihood and community revitalization, and to date has reached over 4600 villages and forty-two lakh people.
The First Gramotsavam…
One bright, sunny day in 2007, over 500,000 villagers from all across Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India, turned up at a ground in Chennai to witness a unique event – a rural olympics. Featuring kabaddi, bullock-cart races, stick fighting, pole climbing and many other games of truly rural vintage, the event was the first Isha Gramotsavam – an initiative to rejuvenate and re-establish the state’s age-old rural culture and spirit. Since then, hundreds of thousands of villagers have gathered regularly to witness the festival, which has evolved over the years into a much-looked forward to event.
Gramotsavam is a celebration of village life that showcases the essence of rural Tamil Nadu, through an elaborate display of rural art, drama, dance, music and food specialties. The event also highlights the role of sports in rural life by featuring the final rounds of the state-wide inter-village sports tournament. Featuring volleyball for men and throwball for women, the tournament 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. Every village is eligible to enter a team in the tournament, and this year Round 1 matches took place in 32 locations in the state, and Round 2 matches in 8.
Gramotsavam 2015 with Sadhguru and Sachin
On September 4th, the final eight teams faced off at Gramotsavam 2015, held at CODISSIA grounds in Coimbatore with Sadhguru in attendance alongside special guest Sachin Tendulkar.
Signboards throughout Coimbatore city displayed the cricketing legend’s image alongside Sadhguru in advance of the evening’s finale, and when the day arrived, over 600,000 spectators and fans gathered to enjoy the day. After the thrilling matches ended and the winners were declared, Sadhguru and Sachin took the main stage to address the cheering, exuberant crowd.
Each in turn stressed the importance of sports and games for individual health, as well as the wellbeing of families, communities, nations and the world. To close the event, the two offered fans a special treat, as Sadhguru grabbed a ball, Sachin a bat….
Watch the address and event finale below:
Want to support Empowerment through Sport?
By making a contribution, you can support not only the annual Isha Gramotsavam event, but also ARR’s year-round efforts toward rural revitalization and community upliftment. Donate today, and you can help change the face of rural India – Click to support Action for Rural Rejuvenation