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Five Things PM Modi Did to Showcase Tamil Culture

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The informal meet between PM Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mamallapuram has kickstarted various conversations beyond the domain of bilateral issue.

PM Modi sporting the traditional Tamil attire ‘Veshti’ for this special event, setting a new normal by going away from the practice of restricting major events to the national capital or cities around it, etc have found a resonance in social media conversations.

It is not uncommon in the case of PM Modi to touch upon the points of local and regional pride wherever he goes. Apart from weaving one grand Indian narrative on a global platform, PM Modi makes it a point to showcase India’s diversity to the world whenever he finds an opportunity. Since, he camped in Tamil Nadu, let’s look at the instances where he brought the Tamil culture and pride to the fore ever since he became Prime Minister.

This also serves as an answer to the propaganda that certain sections have been trying to push without any basis that Modi-led administration doesn’t respect diversity.

Showcasing Tamil Literature to the World

PM Modi has placed Tamil language and culture on the global stage.  Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, he quoted legendary poet Kanniyan Pungundranar’s famous words of “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir” which means ‘we belong to all places, and to everyone’. PM Modi said that this sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India. PM said this was said by the legendary poet almost 3,000 years ago in the world’s most ancient language of Tamil.

During the annual convocation of IIT Madras, PM Modi said quoting Tamil at the United Nations and describing it as the oldest language in the world has made Tamil resonate across the world.

Recognising the High Position of Tamil Language

During the Pariksha Pe Charcha event PM Modi had famously said this about Tamil language.

“Tamil is the oldest language. It is older than Sanskrit and is beautiful. I can only say ‘vanakkam’ (greeting) and I regret I cannot go beyond this.”

PM regretted not knowing Tamil beyond ‘Vanakkam’ which is used for greeting.

Understanding & Honouring Tamil Tradition

Prime Minister Modi showed his respect towards Tamil culture when he extended his support to the tradition and appreciated the cultural significance Jallikattu holds for Tamil Nadu. Observing that while the matter is sub-judice, he extended full support to the state government to take all measures to address the legitimate demands of the people to revoke the ban on Jallikattu and hold it in accordance with applicable animal laws.


Respect for Tamil Icon Thiruvalluvar

Over the years, PM Modi has on multiple occasions, demonstrated his deep respect and appreciation for the works of ancient Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar best known for his magnum opus Thirukkural.  Thirukkural, a collection of couplets on ethics, governance, love and war is one of the most celebrated literary works of classical Tamil literature.

Launching the Gujarati version of Thirukkural in 2015, PM Modi highlighted the strong influence of Thirukkural on humanity and the relevance it continues to have even after two millennia.  Calling Thirukkural ‘Universal Veda’, PM noted how Thiruvalluvar does not refer to any nation, leader, society, language, religion or caste in the entire book.

Addressing a group of Indian Diaspora in Malaysia in 2015, PM Modi said just like how Mahatma Gandhi wanted to learn Tamil so that he could read Thirukkural and capture its wisdom in its original form, he also wanted to learn Tamil to read Thiruvalluvar’s famous work. The Prime Minister added that Thiruvalluvar’s words on friendship capture the feeling that he gets each time he comes to Malaysia.

PM Modi also quoted Thirukkural during his address to the Defence Expo 2018 in Mahabalipuram. Amidst applause he quoted a verse from Thirukural which says “just as how one needs to dig deep to get a spring of water, one also needs to learn deeply to get wisdom”.

Highlighting the Greatness of Chola Empire

The fact that our school and college texts have talked less about the southern kingdoms for the longest period after the Independence, PM Modi has made a conscious effort to shape conversations around such topics. His reverential reference to the Chola empire shows how his vision of building new India includes the spirit of greatness from across the country.

PM Modi on two separate occasions spoke about the greatness of the Chola empire and its navy. In the 38th Edition of Mann Ki Batt, speaking about Indian navy and history of its naval power, PM Modi heaped praises on the Cholan navy and highlighted its achievements. He said the Chola empire, one of the longest ruling dynasties of ancient India reached its zenith in large part due to its powerful naval fleet. He also recounted an interesting fact about Cholan Navy which around 900 years ago itself had women warriors on its warships.

Inaugurating Defence Expo in 2018 at Mahabalipuram, PM Modi had said that he was very happy to be in the land of the great Cholas who established India’s historical civilization links through trade & education. He added that this is the land of glorious maritime legacy from where India ‘looked east’ and ‘acted’ East thousands of years ago.

Now, with the Modi-Xi meet, Mamallapuram has also evoked interest among travel enthusiasts. All these efforts by the PM in showcasing Tamil Nadu indicates at a larger point that he and his administration have a deep understanding of India, and a vision which is not Delhi-centric.