Kamban Festival in Paris
The people of Indian origin usually live around Paris and wherever they are, there is least one Indian association. To get a single voice, they created the Federation of Franco-Indian associations and organise regular events throughout the year in addition to their usual festivals. We attended the Annual Kamban Festival in North Paris on October 18. Between the Thirukural of Thiruvallouvar, symbol of the ancient Tamil literature and Bharatyar who gave a new life to Tamil poetry at the beginning of the 20th century, a great poet, Kamban, wrote the Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban.
It is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas, as opposed to Valmiki's 24,000 couplets. It is not a verbal translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but a retelling of the story of Lord Rama. According to the legend, Ganesha wrote the poems that Kambar dictated to him in one the night.
Kamban is a reference for the Tamil scholars and families in France who are doing their best to protect and transmit their language to their children. Every year in mid-October, the cultural association Kamban Kazhagam France organizes during two days the Kamban Festival. It is an opportunity for the Tamil associations to gather and share with the non-Tamil their love for their poets, writers, philosophers while the youngest show their talents in classical and Tamil dances. The President of the association, Mr. K. Barathidasan is also a poet and has been teaching Tamil online reaching students all over the world. For the inauguration of the festival’s thirteenth anniversary, Mr. Ramesh Babu, First Secretary at the Indian Embassy in France, expressed his happiness about Kamban Kazhagam.
In India as there are lots of fan clubs for actors but not such a club dedicated to a poet! Mr. Joginder Kumar, President of the Federation of Franco-Indian Associations, started the session by explaining the differences between both Ramayanas, followed by many Tamil scholars who gave a deeper analysis of Kamban poetic style. Mr. Satchidandam Ganessan, awarded the Knight for the Order of Academic Palm by the French General Consul in Pondicherry in 2006 for his translation of French books in Tamil, received with lots of emotion the Kamban medal in recognition of his long career dedicated to the promotion of the Tamil language.
Many of his former students settled in France and Pondicherrians attended the function to share this cheerful moment with him. Of course, most of the discussions were in Tamil but for those who are still trying to learn the language, many teachers were ready to enrol us for a course in their training centre.