He said Malaysians need to set their differences aside and unite in maintaining their freedom to practice their different religions and cultural traditions.
"We do not want any extremism, be it Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian... because we want to maintain peace in Malaysia.
"Ours is a multiracial country and when our forefathers shaped it for us, it was hard. To defend it, though, is even harder.
"(But) it is our duty to defend the country's harmony, so I urge all to do so," he said in his speech to a crowd of nearly 15,000 at the Ugadi Carnival 2017, organised by The Telugu Association of Malaysia at Stadium Merdeka, today.
Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the gathering was not a political or racial assembly, but a manifestation of the right of Malaysians to celebrate different cultures and festivities.
The Deputy Prime Minister has been dubbed "Bapa Telugu" (Telugu father) for his efforts in defending the Telugu language, and championing for it to be taught as a subject in primary schools, earlier in his career.
Also present at the event were Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president and Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Malaysia People's Progressive Party president and Transport Ministry advisor Tan Sri M. Kayveas, and Federal Territories deputy minister Datuk Dr Loga Bala Mohan.