Delivering her maiden Budget speech in Parliament Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who hails from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, quoted a verse from the poem ‘Purananuru’, a Tamil Sangam-era literature piece which deals with the life of a king.
While speaking on the subject of taxation, she said: “At this juncture Sir, I find wisdom in a line from Purananuru which is a Sangam Tamil literature piece. This was sung as an advice to the Pandian king Arivudainambi by Pisiranthaiyaar. It’s a long verse; I’m picking the first line, some lines from the middle and the end.”
After reciting the verses in Tamil, she went on to explain the meaning of the poem. “A few mounds of rice from paddy that is harvested from a small piece of land would be sufficient for an Elephant, but what if the Elephant itself enters into the field and starts eating? It would eat far lesser than what it will trample with its foot. I hope the meaning is clear,” she said.
Purananuru is a compilation of four hundred poems composed by multiple Tamil poets on what are considered ‘external’ themes. Majority of these poems deal with how a king should govern the land, how generous he should be, how he should treat his people, etc.
“The advice given to Pandian king Arivudainambi is valuable advice that this government appreciates. If an Elephant is given mounds of rice (referring taxation) it will be quiet happy, It doesn’t have to enter into the field and trample to eat the food, so we don’t intend to trample anybody,” she added.
Lok Sabha MPs from Nirmala Sitharaman’s home state were all smiles as she quoted from Tamil literature. Sitharaman is the sixth Finance Minister from Tamil Nadu to present the Union Budget in Independent India.