By Preetha Nair
The Ramayana and the Gita are not religious texts and should be taught in schools, according to union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
Sharma said that including the Ramayana and the Gita in school curriculum was an attempt to inculcate spiritual and cultural values in children.
"It is an attempt to teach spiritual values to children. Ramayana is a way of life and it tells stories about many relationships - son and father, wife and husband and brother and brother. Likewise Gita is the knowledge given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. These are not religious texts," Sharma told IANS in an interview.
The minister further said that the importance of these texts are recognised even in countries like Indonesia and Mauritius. "Ramayana is a great book and its importance is being recognised in Indonesia and even Mauritius. These countries have set up Ramayana centres. It's high time we recognise their value," added Sharma.
Denying reports of him saying that the Bible and the Quran are not central to India's soul, Sharma said that he respected all religions and had been misquoted. However, he stressed that while the Bible and the Quran are religious texts, the Mahabharata and the Ramyana are not.
"I respect all religions. Bible is a religious text of Christians and Quran is a religious text of Muslims. Gita never advocates the worship of any God or religion. They are karma granths. But Bible and Quran preach to worship a particular God and religion. They are specific religious text for religions," said Sharma.
The minister had recently stoked controversy by saying that western culture is making inroads into Indian culture and polluting it.
Talking about the foreign culture, the minister said that young people should learn Indian languages like Sanskrit and Hindi to fight the "cultural pollution".
Sharma said that he wanted students to emphasise on learning Indian languages. "It is a shame that students learn German and Spanish before learning Sanskrit or Hindi. I would like to term it a cultural pollution. Hindi is an optional language in many schools now. Sanskrit and Hindi should be made compulsory in all schools," he said.
Recently, the culture ministry's decision to revamp Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) sparked controversy as Congress leaders and many historians termed it an attempt to tamper with India's first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru's legacy. Contesting the charge, the minister said, "We are trying to preserve and acquire documents of nationalist leaders of modern India. The museum is not about one person," Sharma said.
The ministry also has plans to re-examine the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as the director of NMML, the minister said. "There are certain irregularities in the appointment. The appointment was made despite the EC's order to the Culture ministry on May 12, 2014 asking it to postpone the appointment of Rangarajan," the minister said.
Rangarajan's appointment was approved by the UPA on May 14, two days after the last day of polling -- when the Election Commission's Model Code of Conduct ceases to be operational. The minister added that Rangarajan took charge as director on May 19, 2014. "We will re-examine his appointment," the minister said.