As Kamban Kazhagam turns 15, a young member pens her reflections

By Aruthy Kumanan
Author Aruthy Kumanan (centre) taking part as one of the narrators in this Ramayana theatrical show {Kalai Theri Arangam} that took place in 2018 as part of Kamban Tamil Literary Festival. Pic supplied

To think that this year marks the 15th anniversary of Kamban Kazhagam Australia baffles me.  Having had the honour and blessing to have been involved with the organisation from day one, Kamban Kazhagam has and will always hold a special place in my heart, my learnings, my culture and social calendar.

Looking back, I can distinctly remember one of the early events we hosted in 2007, a debate (vazhakkaadu mandram) at the Sydney Murugan Temple on a topic that nine-year old me could not understand. Little did I know that it marked the beginning of an organisation that would soon prove to be integral in cultivating and supporting the Tamil community not just in Sydney but Australia.

Kamban Kazhagam strives to support, foster, promote and encourage the Tamil community and most specifically, the next generation of Tamils. Through the study of Kambaramayanam, an epic and beautiful piece of Tamil literature as well as other Tamil texts, and through the hosting of various events, the organisation ignites and sustains passion for Tamil language and culture.

As a first generational Australian Tamil, Kamban Kazhagam has given me a family of fellow Tamil lovers who share a passion for the language. After having attended community language school for 12 years, Kamban Kazhagam is the next place that allows for me to continue my learnings of the language and many others would say the same. Kamban Kazhagam Australia’s motto translates to ‘Through the praises of Kamban, shall we foster Tamil’ and I’d say we have stayed true to this.

Kamban Kazhagam Australia Inc. Pic supplied

Weekly Kamban classes that have been running for free since 2013 brings together hundreds of students all over Australia to share their learnings. Since 2016 we have been hosting Naanalam, an event dedicated to providing a platform for up and coming young Tamil public speakers. Vellum Sol, an impromptu speaking competition established in 2015 really gets us on our toes with our ability to converse in Tamil in a fluent and authentic manner.

The annual Kamban Tamil Literary Festival (Kamban Vizha) is the highlight of Kamban Kazhagam. A weekend full of celebrating Kambaramayanam and Tamil, it is an opportunity for both local and international speakers to share and debate various topics derived from Tamil literature. It is a wonderful opportunity for Tamil enthusiasts from all over Sydney to band together, to share their passion and immerse themselves in their culture.

It is a holistic experience; what more could one ask for? The opportunity to dress in cultural attire, to engage in cultural rituals such as auspicious beginning to events with prayers, experiencing various forms of Tamil speech, listening to the beautiful language and of course serving free lunch on these event days; bringing all aspects of the Tamil culture into one weekend.

Kalai Their Arangam, an event that occurs during Kamban Vizha is the perfect combination of our talents in Tamil language, literature and arts where young people research, direct, produce and perform dramatic representations of scenes from Kambaramayanam.

Kamban Kazhagam Australia Inc. Pic supplied

As an organisation, we also recognise and award leaders of the Tamil community through ‘Maruthi Award’ and ‘Sandror Awards’, celebrating achievement and community service, inspiring future generations.

However Kamban Kazhagam does not stop at just celebrating and teaching Tamil literature.

In 2008, we hosted our first Isai Velvi, music performances by world renowned Carnatic musicians, which marked the beginning of many to come. One of our most recent ventures, Aadal Velvi (dance performance) in 2018 saw the staging of world-renowned Bharatanatyam artist Smt. ‘Aadalarasai’ Priyadarshini Govind. In conjunction with Kamban Vizha, we have been hosting Gnana Velvi which is the exploration of many literary topics, ranging from philosophy to language and religion. These events not only promote Kamban Kazhagam’s cause but also are our fund raiser events which allow us to host free events such as Kamban Tamil Literary Festival, Naanalam, Vellum Sol, Ramayanam classes and more.

It’s not just the Tamil community, however that Kamban Kazhagam aligns itself with. Since 2016, we have participated in Clean Up Australia Day in our local communities. Over the years, we have forged strong and meaningful relationships with our local MPs and Councillors who have become regulars at our events.

Kamban Kazhagam Australia Inc. Pic supplied

Recently, following the Black Summer in 2020, we hosted the charity event ‘Amirthavarshini’ which brought together over 35 Tamil organisations and donated $15K to the NSW Fire Brigade.

Recently, with COVID-19 putting a hold on our ability to gather in person, we have shown immense perseverance in our cause by adapting to the online world. For the past couple of years, we have continued to host our events Vellum Sol and Kamban Vizha online.

On top of this, in partnership with Ilangai (Sri Lankan) Kamban Kazhagam, we run monthly ‘Munthu Tamil’ debates for a global audience.

Over the years, Kamban Kazhagam Australia has demonstrated that it is an invaluable part of the local and national community, whether that be within the Tamil community or the wider Australian one. To me, this organisation is a safe place that allows for me to share my connection and love of Tamil with my fellow peers. I can only hope that we continue to grow and support the local Tamil language, community, culture and talents. Here’s to many more years!

Aruthy Kumanan is a young member of Kamban Kazhagam, Australia. The views expressed are her own

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