When books become CM’s tool to showcase TN’s culture

When books become CM Stalin’s tool to showcase TN’s culture

Those meeting the Chief Minister have also been strictly advised to avoid giving shawls and expensive items but instead gift to a book

Tamil Nadu CM hands over a book as a gift to Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi. Credit: Special Arrangement

Apart from the agenda, one thing that stands out when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin meets high-profile national leaders is the ‘gift’ that he presents to them. The gift is nothing but books by renowned authors that chronicles the literary, cultural, and historical magnificence of the Tamil language and its heritage.

In his four months as Chief Minister, Stalin has used books on Tamil Nadu and its ancient and contemporary heritage as a “cultural and political tool” to stress the importance of the language and its rich roots. Selections of the books have led to a debate on social media, especially on Twitter, with netizens discussing their contents and significance. 

While previous Chief Ministers had presented shawls or flowers to the dignitaries while welcoming them to the state or meeting them at their offices, Stalin prefers books. 

Those meeting the Chief Minister have also been strictly advised to avoid giving shawls and expensive items but instead gift to a book. Thousands of such books are ‘donated’ to various libraries across the state for public use.

Also Read | 'In Keeladi, archaeological finds that validate Sangam corpus': R Balakrishnan

The books that Stalin gifted to dignitaries like President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were carefully chosen by the CM’s team consisting of seasoned bureaucrats. 

Modi, who often quotes from the rich Sangam Literature, was presented with ‘Sculptors of Classical Tamil: Tholkappiam’, when Stalin met him on June 17 at his official residence in New Delhi. 

“The books are chosen very carefully, and it goes through a meticulous procedure. We want the dignitaries to appreciate the state’s rich heritage and culture through pictures and words of renowned authors. The impact that books create is huge,” a senior official told DH.

These books have existed for a long time, but when the Chief Minister of the state presents them to the who’s and who of the country, it leads to debates and discussions, the official added. 

When Stalin gifted ‘Multiple Facets of My Madurai’ by Manohar Devadoss to President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi on July 19, social media was dotted with references to the historical significance of the ancient town that served as the capital city of the celebrated Pandya kings. Kovind was also presented with 'Early Writing Systems' by Prof K Rajan, 'Vaadivaasal Arena' by C S Chellappa, 'Lamps in the Whirlpool' by Rajam Krishnan and 'Early Tamil Epigraphy' by Iravatham Mahadevan.

Prof Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, said the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to present books on the state to national leaders is a “good move.”

“It is a very good culture, and such a move will support the writers as well as artisans if the CM gifts products from the state. It is good to see Stalin, who is the son of a great writer M Karunanidhi, carrying his father’s legacy differently,” he told DH.

Much discussion was also centred on ‘Journey of a Civilization: Indus to Vaigai’ by retired Odisha-cadre bureaucrat R Balakrishnan that Stalin presented to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on June 18. The book explains what might have happened to the culture and language of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) after it disintegrated.

The choice of the book assumed significance amid a debate about the archaeological findings in Keeladi, a nondescript village outside Madurai, that are said to be at least 2,600 years old. Balakrishnan’s book also talks about similarities between IVC and Keeladi.

Check out latest DH videos here

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox