During his address to the Indian-origin Tamil community in Sri Lanka, Modi praised them saying they speak one of the oldest surviving languages in the world and it was a matter of pride that "many of you also speak Sinhala."
He congratulated the Tamil community for their hard work and their contributions to the two countries.
"We remember your forefathers. Men and women of strong will and courage, who undertook the journey of their life from India to then Ceylon," he said and added that "in more recent times" the Tamil community "gifted" the world legendary cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan and M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR only.
By taking the names of Muralitharan and MGR, Modi tried to bridge the physical gap that divides the Tamil population in Sri Lanka and India.
MGR, who was born in Sri Lanka's Kandy, was an Indian actor and politician who served as chief minister of Tamil Nadu for 10 years between 1977 and 1987. Regarded as a cultural icon and one of the most influential actors, MGR has an unparallel admiration among the Tamil community.
And Muralitharan, a former Sri Lankan cricketer who is rated among the greatest Test match bowler of all time, was also born to a Tamil family in Kandy.
He is the highest wicket-taker in Test Cricket and ODI Cricket. In 2005, he married a native of Chennai.
First Published: May 12, 2017, 4:55 PM IST