Speech by Prime Minister on ''India and Iran, Two Great Civilizations: Retrospect and Prospects''

23-May-2016 20:04 IST

Speech by Prime Minister on the occasion of inauguration of Conference on ''India and Iran, Two Great Civilizations: Retrospect and Prospects'' and release of rare Persian manuscript (May 23, 2016)

Excellency Hadid Adel ,the Head of Farhingstan

Dr Janati, the Minister of Cultural Affairs of Iran,

Distinguished scholars,

Ladies and gentlemen

The wise words of Dr. Adel and Dr. Janati before me have set the tone for this Conference. Your conference is most ideally timed. It is an occasion to recall and renew our centuries old association. It is also a perfect response to the those who preach radical thoughts in our societies. It also fulfils a responsibility to familiarize our younger generations with the beauty and riches of our cultural heritage. No one is more qualified to shoulder this task than this gathering of learned men and scholars. I must particularly congratulate Dr. Adel, who has been ahead of the curve in realizing this need. His ongoing project to bring out Encyclopaedia on the Indian sub-continent in Persian would be of great service to researchers and scholars. It is indeed an honour and privilege to be amidst such a galaxy of scholars and thinkers of Iran.


In the world of today, political pundits talk of strategic convergence. But, India and Iran are two civilizations that celebrate the meeting of our great cultures. The rare Persian manuscript Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, released just now, captures 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. 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. A true depiction of the wisdom of our ancient civilizations. For those with the sweet tooth it is शक्कर from India. I cannot help but recall the lines from Hafez, though slightly reversed for the occasion:

शक्कर-शिकन शवंद हमे बुलबुलाने-अजम

ज़े ईन क़दे-हिन्दी कि बे-तेहरान मी रसद्

(Meaning: All the nightingales of Iran get this fresh sweet arriving in Tehran from India)


Centuries of free exchange of ideas and traditions, poets and craftsmen, art and architecture, culture and commerce have enriched both our civilizations. Our heritage has also been a source of strength and economic growth for our nations. The richness of Persian heritage is an integral part of the fabric of the Indian society. A part of Iranian culture lives in Indian hearts. And, a slice of Indian heritage is woven into the Iranian society. Our ancient heroes and epics bear striking parallels. The dargahs of Azmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin in India are equally revered in Iran. Mahabharata and Shahnama, Bhima and Rustam, Arjuna and Arsh exhibit similarity in our world views and values. Crafts like Zardozi, Guldozi and Chanderi may be a part of the Iranian society. They are equally common in India too. In the richness of Iranian culture, who can forget the poetry and beauty of its vehicle—the Persian language. 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. It 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. All India Radio has been running the Persian language service for last 75 years. India has a proud collection of almost 5 million manuscripts of Persian in public and private collections. There are more than 20 million documents in Persian in National and State Archives. Many of these have common heritage as they were written by Iranian calligraphers and painted by Indian artists. In Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad, such a combination can be found in many manuscripts. A major effort to digitize all manuscripts, including Persian is currently underway in India. Every year, the President of India has conferred awards on the Persian Scholars.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As two ancient civilizations, we are known for our ability to be inclusive and welcoming to foreign cultures. Our contacts have not just refined our own cultures. They have also contributed to the growth of moderate and tolerant societies globally. Sufism a rich product of our ancient links, carried its message of true love, tolerance and acceptance to the entire mankind. The spirit of Sufism is also reflected in the Indian concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the World as one family.


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.

It is indeed my great pleasure to inaugurate the Conference "India and Iran, Two Great Civilizations: Retrospect and Prospects."

In extending my best wishes for the success of your conference, I would also keenly look to receive the ideas that emerge out of your discussions. I am happy to see that ICCR and Farhangistan have worked closely to organize this Conference. Your deliberations indeed provide a body of strength to our literary, academic and people to people ties.

Let me thank you all once again for inviting me.

I wish all you and the conference only the very best.

Shukran, Thank you.

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