Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, recently made a statement about Taj Mahal and other minarets having no connection with India’s culture or heritage at a function in Darbhanga, Bihar. Speaking in the context of gifts given to foreign dignitaries, he said, “This is the first time this has happened that when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes abroad, or any foreign president visits India, he is gifted the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita or Ramayan“.

Here’s the video where Yogi Adityanath speaks about Taj Mahal having no connection with India’s culture.

Yogi Adityanath is right that Prime Minister Modi has gifted copies of Bhagavad Gita on a few occasions. It was in news when he gifted one to President Obama. Also when he visited Japan, he carried them for Emperor, Akihito and Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. But Yogi is in for a shock if he sees the full list of gifts presented by Mr. Modi in the last three years.

When it comes to gifts, one size doesn’t fit all. Gifts for Prime Minister’s foreign trips seem to be carefully picked keeping the recipient in mind. They not only represent India’s diversity and rich cultural heritage but also the relationship between the two countries.

On his visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Modi’s gift for King Salman represented an important part of Indian cultural heritage and India-Saudi trade ties. It was a gold plated replica of the first mosque in India, the Cheraman Juma Masjid built in 629 AD.

When Mr. Modi visited Iran, he carried a special gift. A rare 7th century manuscript of the Holy Quran written in Kufic script.

For the president of Uzbekistan, he carried a specially commissioned replica of Khamsa-i-Khusrau by the 13th century Sufi poet, Amir Khusrau who was born in Uttar Pradesh.

For Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland, he carried a reproduction of historic manuscripts & papers of two Irish officials who made important contribution to India during the British rule. Thomas Oldham was appointed the geological surveyor in 1850s. His joining day is marked as foundation day of Geological Survey of India. Sir George A Grierson conducted the 1st linguistic survey of India, which was published over several years between 1903 to 1928. It provided the first scientifically based taxonomy of Indo-Aryan languages.

To David Cameron, Mr. Modi presented a bookends with inscriptions from the Bhagavad Gita.

For the Queen among other gifts, he had Darjeeling tea from Bengal and organic honey from Jammu & Kashmir

To Prime Minister Harper, Modi presented a traditional Indian miniature painting showing Guru Nanak Dev with his disciples Bhai Bala & Bhai Mardana.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon was presented with a painting of Mahatma Gandhi.

Here is a partial list of gifts given by Mr. Modi during his foreign trips as compiled from the information shared by him and Ministry of External Affairs through their tweets:

Country Gift
Australia

A copy of Australian lawyer, John Lang’s 1854 petition against East India Company on behalf of Rani Lakshmibai

A replica of Man Singh trophy, a prized possession of Sikh regiment battalions

A replica of Mahatma Gandhi’s charkha and three cricket balls signed by him, Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni

Bangladesh Handwoven tapestry in Jamdani style woven in Andhra Pradesh showing Kalpvriksh tree and the Kamadhenu cow
Canada Traditional Indian miniature painting showing Guru Nanak Dev with his disciples Bhai Bala & Bhai Mardana.
China Replicas of a stone casket of Buddhist relics and a stone statue of Buddha that were excavated from a 3rd -4th century AD stupa at Dev-ni-Mori – a site 80 kms east of Vadnagar, Gujarat
France A painting titled ‘Tree of Life’ reflecting traditional societal respect for nature in India
Germany Reproductions of manuscripts and papers by Indian Nobel Laureate Sir CV Raman
Iran Rare 7th century manuscript of the Holy Quran written in Kufic script.
Ireland

Reproduction of historic manuscripts & papers of Oldham and Grierson, two Irish officials in India during the British rule

Handcrafted piece of silver, marble and sandstone

Japan

Copy of Bhagavad Gita

Books on Vivekananda

Kazakhstan A set of books relating to religions born in India
Korea Handwoven stoles on which Tagore’s poem on Korea is hand embroidered
Kyrgyzstan Hand knotted carpet of fine grade wool blended with silk
Mongolia Specially commissioned reproduction of 13th century manuscript on the history of Mongols
Nepal A copy of Samvidhan – Making of Constitution of India
Saudi Arabia Replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid, the first mosque in India, constructed in the 7th century
Singapore Reproduction of a map of the island of Singapore dating back to 1849
Turkmenistan Specially handcrafted horse saddle
Tajikistan Specially commissioned miniature painting of the tomb of 17th century poet, Abdul Qadir Bedil
United Kingdom

Handcrafted pair of bookends with verses from Gita on them

Tanchoi stoles for the queen

United States

AIR recording of Marion Anderson’s 1957 interview at the Gandhi Memorial

Copy of 1st telegram from US to India’s Constituent Assembly

A copy of Bhagavad Gita

Uzbekistan Specially commissioned replica of Khamsa-i-Khusrau by the 13th century Sufi poet, Amir Khusrau.

The above list may not meet with Mr. Adityanath’s approval but it captures very well, the cultural diversity and rich traditions of India. Be it a replica of the first Indian mosque or miniature painting of Guru Nanak Dev, be it a manuscript of the Holy Quran or a copy of the Bhagavad Gita or a book on Indian religions, the list is far from a narrow minded interpretation of the idea of India. It showcases art and traditions from different states of India. It is well researched and has a personal touch. For eg., Chancellor Merkel who is a doctorate in Chemistry was presented papers of Nobel Laureate, CV Raman. The list doesn’t grudge history, it accepts it, as in the case of historic manuscripts acknowledging contributions of famous Irishmen during the British rule.

When we compiled the list, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought and preparation that seems to have gone into it. Yogi Adityanath may disagree, but the list is a fairly balanced representation Indian culture, history and traditions. Kudos to those who came up with it.

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