Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that the richness of Persian heritage is an integral part of Indian society and the time has come for India and Iran to “regain the past glory” of their traditional historical ties.
“Centuries of free exchange of ideas and traditions, poets and craftsmen, art and architecture, culture and commerce have enriched both our civilisations,” Modi said at the inauguration of a two-day conference titled “India-Iran Two Great Civilisations: Retrospect-Prospects”.
The event is being held as part of the “Cultural Festival of India in Iran” being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in collaboration with the Indian embassy in Tehran, Bonyad-e-Sadi, and Farhangistan-e-Zaban-o-Adab-e-Farsi.
“India and Iran have always been partners and friends. Our historical ties may have seen their share of ups and downs. But throughout, our partnership has remained a source of boundless strength for both of us. Time has come for us to regain the past glory of traditional ties and links. Time has come for us to march together. In this endeavour, you, the eminent scholars, have a defining role to play,” he said.
“Our heritage has also been a source of strength and economic growth for our nations,” said Modi on the second and final day of his visit to Iran.
He said while a part of Iranian culture lives in Indian hearts, a slice of Indian heritage is woven into the Iranian society.
Modi said that the centuries-old association between India and Iran was a perfect response to the those who preach radical thoughts in the two societies.
Referring to a rare manuscript called “Kalileh-wa-Dimneh” containing the Persian translation of tales from the Jataka and the Panchatantra, which he released ahead of his speech, he said it captured the close historical links between India and Iran.
“It is remarkable how the simple stories of the Indian classics of Jataka and Panchatantra became the Persian ‘Kalileh-wa-Dimneh’,” Modi said.
“It is a classic example of exchange and travel of cultural ideas between two societies. A beautiful demonstration of how our two cultures and countries think alike.”
The Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that the ancient heroes and epics of India and Iran had striking parallels.
“The dargahs of Ajmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin in India are equally revered in Iran,” he said.
“Mahabharata and Shahnama, Bhima and Rustam, Arjuna and Arsh exhibit similarity in our world views and values.”
He said that though crafts like Zardozi, Guldozi and Chanderi were a part of Iranian society, these were equally common in India too.
“In the richness of Iranian culture, who can forget the poetry and beauty of its vehicle -- the Persian language,” Modi said.
“In India, we regard it as one of our own. The great medieval poets of India have called the Persian and Sanskrit the two sisters. India’s religious epic Ramayana which has seen over a dozen translations in Persian is known to have about 250 words of Persian.”
He also said that Persian served as a court language in medieval India.
“But, its popularity is also because it is written on the hearts of the Indians. It is taught in around 40 universities in India,” he said.
Modi pointed out that India has a proud collection of almost five million manuscripts of Persian language in public and private collections.
“There are more than 20 million documents in Persian in national and state archives,” he said.
“Many of these have common heritage as they were written by Iranian calligraphers and painted by Indian artists,” he stated, adding that a major effort to digitise all manuscripts, including Persian, was currently underway in India.
“As two ancient civilisations, we are known for our ability to be inclusive and welcoming to foreign cultures,” the Prime Minister said.
“Sufism, a rich product of our ancient links, carried its message of true love, tolerance and acceptance to the entire mankind,” Modi said.