New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) Asserting that India is the world's oldest democracy with numerous historical references to democratic principles, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said an over 1,100-year-old inscription in Tamil Nadu talks about rules for a local body, including provision for disqualifying a member.
Speaking at Tamil New Year celebrations at the residence of Union minister L Murugan here, Modi said Tamil is the world's oldest language and every Indian is proud of this.
Dressed in traditional Tamil attire, Modi said Tamil literature is also widely respected and the Tamil film industry has produced some of the most iconic works.
"India is the world's oldest democracy. It is the mother of democracy. There are numerous historical references to this. An important reference is Tamil Nadu," Modi said.
He said that in Tamil Nadu's Uthiramerur, there is an inscription which is 1,100 to 1,200 years old where one gets a glimpse of the democratic values of the country.
"The inscription found there is like a local constitution for the gram sabha there. In this, it has been told how the assembly should be run, what should be the qualification of members, and what should be the process to elect the members. Not only that, in that era, they had decided how a member would be disqualified," the prime minister said.
There has been a major political slugfest between the BJP and the Opposition parties after the disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha following his conviction and sentencing in a 2019 defamation case.
In his remarks, Modi said, "As a country, it is our responsibility to take forward this culture and tradition but we all know what happened earlier. Now I have been given this responsibility."
He also talked about how he spoke in Tamil at the UN and other efforts to promote Tamil culture, including in Sri Lanka.
The event also saw performances by Tamil artists and was attended by many people from Tamil Nadu.
Modi said there is so much in Tamil culture that has shaped India as a nation.
"Tamil culture and people are eternal as well as global. From Chennai to California, from Madurai to Melbourne, from Coimbatore to Cape Town, from Salem to Singapore, you will find Tamil people who have carried with them their culture and traditions," Modi said.
The ancient Tamil culture and tradition of taking new energy from 'Puthandu (new year)' is truly amazing, he said.
"This makes Tamil Nadu and Tamil people very special. That is why, I have always been enchanted by this tradition and have also had an emotional attachment to this," he said.
Recalling the strong presence and great love of the Tamil population in his erstwhile assembly constituency in Gujarat, the Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for the love of the Tamil people for him.
He also talked about one of the 'Panch Pran' that he had mentioned from the ramparts of Red Fort -- that is pride in one's heritage.
Recalling the sterling contribution of the Tamil people in the freedom struggle, the prime minister also underlined their contribution to the growth of the country after Independence.
He remembered titans such as C Rajagopalachari, K Kamaraj and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and said that in the fields of medicine, law and academics, the contribution of Tamilians is beyond comparison.
He also mentioned Venkatesa Perumal temple in Kanchipuram and Chathuranga Vallabhanathar Temple for their astonishing modern relevance and their rich ancient tradition.
The prime minister remembered quoting in Tamil at the United Nations and attending the Grih Pravesh Ceremony at Jaffna.
Modi pointed out that he is the first Indian prime minister to visit Jaffna and many welfare projects were undertaken for Tamils there during and after his visit.
"This feeling of continuously serving the Tamil people fills me with new energy," the prime minister said.
He also expressed deep satisfaction with the success of the recent Kashi Tamil Sangamam. "In that programme, we celebrated antiquity, innovation and diversity simultaneously," Modi said.
Referring to the craze for books of Tamil learning at the Sangamam, the prime minister said, "In the Hindi-speaking region, in this digital age, Tamil books are loved like this. It shows our cultural connect."
"I believe, the lives of Kashi residents are incomplete without Tamil people. I have become a Kashi Vaasi and without Kashi the lives of Tamil people are incomplete."
Modi also mentioned the new Chair in the name of Subramania Bharati and a place for a Tamil person in the temple trust of Kashi Vishwanath.
The prime minister underlined the strength of Tamil Literature as a source of future knowledge and past wisdom.
Referring to the mention of Shree Anna in ancient Sangam Literature, he said, "Today, on the initiative of India, the whole world is connecting with our thousand-year-old tradition of millets."
He asked the gathering to put millets in the food plate once again and inspire others to do so.
Stressing the need to promote Tamil art forms among the youth and showcase them globally, Modi said, "The more popular they are among today's young generation, the more they will pass them on to the next generation. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to educate the youth about this art."
"In the Amrit Kaal, it is our responsibility to know about our Tamil heritage, and tell it to the country and the world. This heritage is a symbol of our unity and the spirit of 'Nation First'. We have to continuously advance Tamil culture, literature, language and Tamil tradition," the prime minister added.