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To Create A Tolerant Generation…

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the Islamic Nation in Western Asia having one of the world’s youngest populations, with approximately 50% of its population of 34.2 million being under 25 years old – is eager to boost cultural ties with Hindu-majority India. Riyadh has hinted that it would include Indian Epics in the curriculum of Saudi school students. Indian Epics are centred on the study of two epic narratives, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. These two master-texts have exerted unequalled influence throughout the greater Indic civilisational realm for two millennia, and continue to form and inform the Indian National Consciousness today.

According to the Saudi Ministry of Education, the proposed move will be a part of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s new vision for the education sector, Vision 2030. As per the vision, Saudi students will have to study the History and Culture of other countries Riyadh shares cordial ties with. Hence, the Saudi students would be taught Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Ministry has further claimed that the study would focus mainly on globally significant Indian cultures, like Yoga and Ayurveda. Furthermore, the Vision 2030 will also make the English language mandatory.

Meanwhile, a person – named Nouf-al-Marwai – has made an attempt to explain the Vision 2030 by dismissing all the confusion regarding the changes in the education sector. On Twitter, she has written: “Saudi Arabia’s new Vision 2030 and syllabus will help build a future that is inclusive, liberal, and tolerant.” Sharing a screenshot of her son’s syllabus that contained a wide array of cultures, al-Marwai stated: “The screenshot of my son’s school exam today in the book of Social Studies includes concepts and history of Hinduism, Buddhism, Ramayana, Karma, Mahabharata and Dharma. I enjoyed helping her study.

It may be noted that al-Marwai had received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2018 for being the first certified Yoga Instructor in Saudi Arabia. It is because of her Yoga has got legal and official recognition in the West Asian nation. As no faith, other than Islam, is permitted to be practiced in Saudi Arabia, the country has no churches, temples or other non-Muslim houses of worship. Still, there are nearly a million Christians, as well as Hindus and Buddhists, in the Kingdom. The majority of them are workers from abroad.

al-Marwai receiving Padma Shri from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind

Although New Delhi and Riyadh established formal diplomatic relations soon after India gained Independence in 1947, trade and cultural links between these two countries date back to the third millennium BC. By 1000 AD, bilateral trade ties flourished and became the backbone of the Arabian Economy. Before the arrival of the European Imperialist Powers in India, Saudi traders held a monopoly over the spice trade between India and Europe. Currently, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to India, while the South Asian Nation is one of the top seven trading partners and the fifth biggest investor in Saudi Arabia.

In a series of reforms undertaken by Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Saudi Arabia, education has taken one of the top spots. Now, a tweet about Prince Salman’s Vision 2030 for the country has gone viral on the Social Media.

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