On his first visit to Kerala after becoming President, Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday paid glowing tributes to the manner in which different faiths and religious communities go about in the state.
"It is remarkable to note the mutual accommodation and understanding of different faiths and religious communities in Kerala's history. This is a state where one community has willingly given space to another.
"This is a history that we cannot forget and must learn from. And this is an accommodation and understanding that is at the essence of spiritualism," he said at the 64th birthday celebrations of Mata Amritanandamayi at Kollam, about 85 km from the state capital.
Kovind reached Thiruvananthapuram from Delhi in the morning, flew to a spot near Alappuzha on a helicopter, and then drove to the Mutt at Kollam.
He pointed out that Kerala has done so much to defend "our ethos and our culture".
"I refer to Kerala's role as one of the leading spiritual homes of our country and of our composite society. The bravery of our soldiers and the compassion and wisdom of our spiritual leaders are twin pillars on which we rest our hopes.
"These keep our civilisation secure. The flame of spiritualism shines brightly in Kerala and has done so for thousands of years.
"I refer to such revered people as Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Narayana Guru and Ayyankali. They did so much to unite our country with a common sense of spiritualism, as well as to push for much needed social reform," he said.
The President also launched the Rs 100 crore clean water initiative for rural India and also distributed certificates for 'open defecation free' status achieved by 10 villages adopted by the Mutt.
Kovind returned to Delhi via Thiruvananthapuram after the function.