NEW DELHI: India’s Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (stress on the word culture) Mahesh Sharma has said that whilst Hindu epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Gita should be compulsory reading in schools, the Quran and Bible can be skipped over since they are not essential to the soul of India.

"Gita and Ramayana reflect India's soul. But we also respect Quran and would include best thoughts from it. I respect Bible and Quran but they are not central to soul of India in the way as Gita and Ramayana are. As India's cultural minister, I recommend that Ramayana and Gita should be part of our school curriculum and I am working extensively with HRD Minister Smriti Irani towards this," Sharma said in an interview with a leading news channel.

The great culture minister didn’t stop here. He said that students should learn Hindi and Sanskrit before they learn any other language. "Hindi is our national language and should be made compulsory in all schools,” he said (move over Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, … the list goes on).

Sharma also took a hit at the polluting influence of “western culture” saying that he was working toward protecting Indian “culture” from it. "Culture defines a nation. The time has come to win back our culture from the negative influence of Western culture. In our culture women of three generations cook food in the same kitchen... in Europe, a 16-year-old leaves home," Sharma said, adding that "Westernisation in the name of modernity is not right. We have to protect Indian culture as it is the wealth of the country and our identity.”

The culture minister had words of wisdom to share on recent government diktats that have been criticised by many, such as the compulsory meat ban and the renaming of Aurangzeb road. "The Maharashtra government banned it only for four days for Jain sentiments. The Centre will take a call on banning meat during Navratra. It will be a political decision. We would want that. If the sacrifices of a few help maintain the religious sentiments of a section of society, there is no harm in doing this," Sharma said, in a statement that just put religious sentiment at the centre of our supposedly secular polity. On renaming Aurangzeb Road, Sharma echoed his agreement saying, "Aurangzeb was not an inspiring historical figure. I agree with the decision to change the name of Aurangzeb Road after the legendary scientist and former President.”

Watch the full video here, and then scroll down for more wisdom from Sharma:

Sharma has demonstrated his position in other interviews as well, telling The Telegraph that Indian culture is defined by three generations cooking in the same kitchen and eating on the same table; the relationship between parents and children and the respect they have for each other; the emotions Indians have for each other and the relationships they respect; (Indian) values and books should be read before you read novels; and that before youth go to gain wisdom from Thailand, Dubai and Singapore, they must gain wisdom from our own museums and heritage.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Sharma said that cultural pollution can be understood as follows: “Suppose, we teach in Hindi and say ‘G for Ganesh’, then we become ‘non-seculars’ and are blamed for saffronisation. But if we say ‘G for gadha’, then we are secular. This is not fair.”

He also added that there was nothing wrong with saffronisation, because the Indian people had voted the BJP into power and had hence given saffronisation their political mandate (I thought we were voting for development?!).

Sharma also admitted that the move to question the appointment of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library director was a reaction to the Congress protesting the “saffronisation of the NMML” as the BJP government seeks to change the name of the institution. "We knew about Rangarajan's appointment for more than a year," Sharma said. "But had Congress not said anything about our government saffronising NMML, we would not have reacted. We are not unethical, Congress is,” Sharma has been quoted as saying.