Demolishing the Clichés
   19-Feb-2019
The 10th Hindu Spiritual & Service Fair (HSSF) held in Chennai from January 30 to February 4, showcases patriotism, cultural ethos and demolishes various cliches about Bharat
The 10th Hindu Spiritual & Service Fair (HSSF) organised at Guru Nanak College in Chennai concluded on February 4, 2019. The six-day fair began on January 30 and witnessed the participation from all sections of the society. The event was organised to showcase various cultures and traditions within the Hindu society. The organisers claimed that more than 50 lakh people visited the Fair in six days. The Fair had more than 400 stalls showcasing unique traditions of the Hindus and the service activities and cultural aspects of Hindu organisations from all across Tamil Nadu.
 
 
A model of the Cellular Jail at HSSF-2019 in Chennai 
 
Each day of the Fair was dedicated to a particular theme. The first day started with the theme of preservation of ecology, followed by inculcation of family and human values the next day, fostering woman’s honour, sustainable
environment, instilling patriotism and ended with the theme of conservation of forest and wildlife. Swasthi Sri Dhavalakeerthi Swamigal of Arani Thirumalai Mutt Jain Matathipathi, Sri N Srinivasan, Chairman of TVS Capital Funds Limited, were the chief guests at the inaugural ceremony.
 
 
School children participating in the yajna at HSSF-2019 
 
The Fair also witnessed the participation of Air Office Commander Sri J Ranjendra, VSM, Maj Gen Sri Karthikeyan, Nrithyodaya president and Bharatnatyam dancer Padma Subrahmanyan, HSSF Trustee Sri R Rajalakshmi, HSSF president Sri Omkarananda Mahaswamiji, Dharmapura Adheenam Sri Guru Masilamani Desiga Gnanasambhanda Swamigal, Sriperumbudur Sri Embar Jeeyar Mutt Jeeyar Srimath Paramahamsethyathi Sriperumbudur Appan Paramala Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamigal, Kanchipuram Sri Kanchi Mutt’s 70th Peetathipathi Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Chairman Sri N Ravi, were among the luminaries who graced the Fair.
 
 
A Model of Jallianwala Bagh at HSSF-2019 
 
Patriotism Unlimited With patriotism being one of the themes of the Fair, the venue witnessed huge participation from students and children along with their parents. One of the shows that captured everyone’s attention was the sound and light show on Jallianwallah Bagh and the Andaman’s Cellular Jail. The sound and light show was beamed on the replica of these two iconic places.
 
Documentaries on Kappalottiya Thamizhan, Velu Nachiyar, Veera Vanchi and Veerapandya Kattabomman drew great response from the visitors. Life-size statues of Veera Vanchinathanand other freedom fighters Shows on freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev was the cynosure of school students at the Fair.

 
Patriotic Stage with PVC winners at HSSF-2019 
 
The Fair also showcased the rich culture of music and dance of Bharat. During the six days, the Fair was witness to a range of performances, musicals, traditional dance dramas including Oyilattam, Sammakka Sarakka of Telangana, Silambam, Valveechu, Kummi and cultural shows from troupes from Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
 
The highlight of the cultural events was Bharatnatyam ‘Natyathon’ prior to the inauguration of the Fair by more than 2500 students at the same time. Likewise, a ‘Ganathon’ where more than 11,000 students dressed in traditional attire sang devotional songs at the same time. A Vivekananda Rath Yatra was organised in the city which visited hundreds of schools and residential areas and involved children in taking the message of Swami Vivekananda forward. A ‘Cyclethon’ was also organised in the run up to the Fair. Mata, Pita and Guru Vandana by thousands of children was another highlight of the Fair, which concluded with the Sreenivasa Kalyanam organised by Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam.
 
 
Senior saints at the inaugural ceremony of the HSSF-2019 
 
Demolishing Caste Cliches’
Most of us have read and heard of the cliches about caste and ‘caste system’ in India and how it needs to be abolished. The HSSF 2019 gave an altogether different perspective on caste and the way communities operate in today’s India. The HSSF had 38 stalls from different caste groups and communities from all across Tamil Nadu. This is a huge increase from the 6 stalls at the last edition of the HSSF. These stalls showcased the charity work and social services done by these communities. Their voluntary services range from giving aid to education, weddings, preserving ecology, keeping a language live, assisting people for Kashi pilgrimage to distributing organic manure from cattle. It was also observed that equal stance had been given to all castes during temple festivals and
harvest seasons.
Over 50 lakh people visited the Fair, which had over 400 stalls showcasing the service activities, cultural aspects & unique traditions of the Hindu organisations from all across Tamil NaduPattu Nulkarars: Keeping Language and Traditional Skills Alive
Sourashtra or the Pattu Nulkarar (silk thread weaver) community are the ones who migrated from the Kutch Sourashtra region during invasions. Their weaving skills are so precise that they can say the colour of a to-be woven silk sari by just looking at the colours of the silk thread. This handful community of 20 lakh have come up with the writing practice book similar to cursive writing practice book for their Sourashtra language script. They make the younger ones practice the language by reading, writing and speaking to their next generation in their native language. These weaver communities in Kanchipuram and Delta areas are keeping the accumulated experience intact. Their textile stalls at HSSF showed that it is very much possible to keep traditional skills alive in the modern world. Kunnuvar Mannadiyars: Preserving
Fact Sheet: HSSF-2019
  • Grown from 30 organisations in 2009 to 4,000 organisations in 2019 
  • More than 1000 schools, hundreds of communities, organisations and corporates participated
  •  The Fair also had a wide range of Peethams from across Tamil Nadu showcasing their service activities
  • Very rare items like Gau ark (Urine of Cow), Vilakku made of 108 moolikas, water purifying drops etc were displayed at the fair
  •  The Fair had a good collection of unique books on vedic calculation,Vaastu, Astrology, etc
  •  Stalls on Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Patanjali Yoga drew the attention of visitors
  • Showcasing the unique Sikh culture, traditions and values was another highlight of the Fair
 
 
Ecology is their Innate Quality
The Palani Malai Kunnuvar Mannadiyar community is a tribal community spread out in Palani Hills. This small community of about 20,000 have flower worship as their tradition. They worship Kurinji flower (a rare species which blooms once in 12 years) in a unique ritual called Veriyattu. This worship can be traced back to Sangam era of Tamil nadu. Their marriages are solemnised by tying the Thali made of Marudham flower to the bride. Their Kul Devata is Kulandhai Velappar (An avatar of Lord Muruga). Their main occupation remains hill farming. Their stall at HSSF showcased their art of making unique garlands. It is their belief in their tradition that has kept the ecology of the hills intact despite pressures from the so-called eco-tourism lobby and land sharks. This small community needs to be protected and empowered economically to sustain their traditional hill lifestyles in the hills.
 
The Kallars: Fighting Tooth and Nail to Keep Temple Traditions Alive
Originally, a war tribe, the Kallar community is very keen to protect their temple traditions. Kallar or Kalavar means people who fight in battlefield and they are mentioned in the ancient Tamil literature of post-Sangam era. They have more than a 1000 surnames, the most in any caste in Tamil Nadu. Their much appreciated stall at HSSF was a proof of their reverence to temple culture, which displayed the statue of Alagar and their walls were filled with the temples they revere. The stall also had a display of their traditional war weapons like Valari and Vel Kambu. Today, the community is at the forefront in warding off threats posed by political and ideologically inimical groups and upholding the temple traditions. The Temple chariot festivals they conduct every year is an avenue for the people from the community to come together and be part of their culture and tradition. It is important to note that the Kallar community has witnessed very less of no religious conversion at all.
Kurumbas: A Lifestyle with no
 
Carbon Footprint
The Kurumbas are the shepherds of Tamil Nadu. They are spread in and around 28 districts. Their stall at HSSF was full of saints from the Kurumba community. The community takes pride in having one of their own, Perumizhalai Kurumba Nayanar, among the 63 Nayanmars, the Shaivite saints. The stall also displayed a fully hand woven blanket made from goat’s hair. They are also struggling to keep their traditional skills alive. Just like the Kurumbas, the Javvadu Malayali Gounders are a hill tribe living in the Javvadu hills. An interesting fact is that their land can only be sold and bought by sons of the hills and not outsiders. This is to preserve the hill ecology and to transfer land only to tribes who are devoted to the upkeep of hills.
 
Nattu Kottai Chettiars: Charity is thy Name
The Nattu Kottai Chettiars is a trading community who are known for their devotion to Bhagwan Shiva and Vishnu. Their stall at HSSF showcased the communities 9 main temples and the traditions associated with them. They take pride in inviting people going to Kashi to stay in their chathiram (Resting place) at no cost. Such charity of the Nattu Kottai Chettiars are well known for ages and it is indeed pleasing to know that HSSF gave them a chance to showcase the same and let the world know. A tightly-knit community, they feel very aggrieved whenever a religious conversion takes place in their midst.
 
Mudaliars: Bhakti Precedes Politics
The stall of the Mudaliars at HSSF showcased veterans from the community across all genres. Their regular social service is in the field of education of the downtrodden. They take pride in tall leaders of their community like Sri Arunai Vadivel Mudaliar, who wrote commentary on Saiva Thirumuraigal, Mu. Varadharasanar, a great literary writer, Bharatidasan (Poet) and Ethiraj Mudaliar (founder of Ethiraj women’s college) rather than Annadurai, who was a fore runner of the Atheist movement and Anti-Hindu Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu.
 
Krishna Vagai: Framework is the Word
The Krishna Vagai community is a small community of around 1 lakh people settled in and around Kanyakumari’s Nagarkoil District. Their stall at HSSF showcased the framework of the community. The framework serves as a role model to any community to work together in a disciplined and organised manner. They have a small governing body known as Pidagai. Each Pidagai has its own temple, tank and a tax system. They are also devotees of Krishna. Every year, during Krishna Jayanti, they conduct sports festival across all Pidagais. This is to establish communication across Pidagais. The community has a separate benefit fund for their welfare activities. It is interesting to note that Shri C.Velayaudham, first BJP MLA is from this community. The community has identified sporting talents as their strength and have planned to develop sports complex in the land bought by their trust.
(A report by VSK Tamil Nadu with inputs from Bengaluru Bureau)