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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Tamil people

?????? Tamil people (also called Tamils)

Tamils (Tamil: ??????, tamiḻar [?]), are an ethnic
group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India,
and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka.
They speak Tamil (?????), with a recorded
history going back two millennia.[8] Emigrant
communities are found across the world. The
Tamils are mostly Hindus with sizable Chris-
tian and Muslim populations.
Tamil was the first Indian language to be
given classical status. The art and architec-
ture of the Tamil people encompass some of
the notable contributions of India and South-
East Asia to the art world. The music, the
temple architecture and the stylised sculp-
tures favoured by the Tamil people in their
ancient nation are still being learnt and prac-
ticed. The classical language of Tamil has the
oldest extant literature amongst other
Dravidian languages.[9] Tamils have been re-
ferred to as the last surviving classical civil-
isation on Earth.[10] The Pallava script, a
Thiruvalluvar • Srinivasa Ramanujan • M.I.A. variant of Southern Brahmi used by the Tamil
Viswanathan Anand • Rajaraja Chola • Abdul Pallava dynasty, was the basis of several of
Kalam the writing systems of Southeast Asia, includ-
A. R. Rahman • C. N. Annadurai • M. S. ing the Burmese, Khmer, Thai, Lao and
Javanese scripts.[11]
Total population

77,000,000 [1] History of the term

Regions with significant populations See also: Sources of ancient Tamil history
It is unknown as to whether the term Tamilar
India 60,793,814 (2001)[2] and its equivalents in Prakrit such as Damela,
Dameda, Dhamila and Damila was a self des-
Sri Lanka 3,092,676 (2001)[3]
ignation or a term denoted by outsiders. Epi-
Malaysia 2,100,000 (2007)[4] graphic evidence of an ethnic group termed
as such is found in ancient Sri Lanka where a
Canada 200,000 (2007)[5]
number of inscriptions have come to light
Singapore 111,000 (1993)[4] datable from third to first century BCE men-
tioning Damela or Dameda persons. In the
Languages well-known Hathigumpha inscription of the
Kalinga ruler Kharavela, refers to a Tramira
samghata (Confederacy of Tamil rulers)
Religion dated to 150 BCE. It also mentions that the
88% Hindu, 6% Muslim, 5.5% Christian. league of Tamil kingdoms had been in exist-
ence 113 years before then.[12] In Amaravati
Related ethnic groups in present day Andhra Pradesh there is an in-
Dravidians · Telugus · Kannadigas · Malayalis scription referring to a Dhamila-vaniya
· Giraavarus[6] · Sinhalese[7] (Tamil trader) datable to the third century
CE.[12] Another inscription of about the same

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

time in Nagarjunakonda seems to refer to a

Damila. A third inscription in Kanheri Caves
refers to a Dhamila-gharini (Tamil house-
holder). In the Buddhist Jataka story known
as Akiti Jataka there is a mention to Damila-
rattha (Tamil country). Hence it is clear that
by at least the third century BCE, the ethnic
identity of Tamils has been formed as a dis-
tinct group.[12] Tamilar is etymologically re-
lated to Tamil, the language spoken by Tamil
people. Southworth suggests that the name
comes from tam-miz > tam-iz ’self-speak’, or
’one’s own speech’.[13] Zvelebil suggests an
etymology of tam-iz, with tam meaning "self"
or "one’s self", and "-iz" having the connota-
tion of "unfolding sound". Alternately, he sug-
gests a derivation of tamiz < tam-iz < *tav-iz
< *tak-iz, meaning in origin "the proper pro-
cess (of speaking)."[14]

See also: History of Tamil Nadu

Tamils in India
Pre-historic period
Possible evidence indicating the earliest
presence of Tamil people in modern day
Tamil Nadu are the megalithic urn burials, Grey pottery with engravings, Arikamedu, 1st
dating from around 1500 BCE and onwards, century CE.
which have been discovered at various loca-
tions in Tamil Nadu, notably in Adichanallur speaking region. Classical literature and in-
in Tirunelveli District[15][16][17] which con- scriptions also describe a number of Velirs,
form to the descriptions of funerals in classic- or minor chieftains, who collectively ruled
al Tamil literature[18]. over large parts of central Tamil Nadu.[20]
Various legends became prevalent after Wars between the kings and the chieftains
the tenth century CE regarding the antiquity were frequent, as were conflicts with ancient
of the Tamil people. According to Iraiyanar Sri Lanka.[21][22] These wars appear to have
Agapporul, a tenth/eleventh-century annota- been fought to assert hegemony and demand
tion on the Sangam literature, the Tamil tribute, rather than to subjugate and annex
country extended southwards beyond the nat- those territories. The kings and chieftains
ural boundaries of the Indian peninsula com- were patrons of the arts, and a significant
prising 49 ancient nadus (divisions). The land volume of literature exists from this peri-
was supposed to have been destroyed by a od.[20] The literature shows that many of the
deluge. The Sangam legends also added to cultural practices that are considered peculi-
the antiquity of the Tamil people by claiming arly Tamil date back to the classical peri-
tens of thousands of years of continuous liter- od.[20]
ary activity during three Sangams.[19] Agriculture was important during this
period, and there is evidence that irrigation
Classical period networks were built as early as 2nd century
From around the third century BC on- AD.[23] Internal and external trade flour-
wards, three royal dynasties—the Cholas, the ished, and evidence exists of significant con-
Cheras and the Pandyas—rose to dominate tact with Ancient Rome.[24] Large quantities
the ancient Tamil country.[17] Each of these of Roman coins and signs of the presence of
dynasties had its own realm within the Tamil- Roman traders have been discovered at

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Karur and Arikamedu.[24] There is also evid-

ence that at least two embassies were sent to
the Roman Emperor Augustus by Pandya
kings.[25] Potsherds with Tamil writing have
also been found in excavations on the Red
Sea, suggesting the presence of Tamil mer-
chants there.[26] An anonymous first century
traveler’s account written in Greek, Periplus
Maris Erytraei, describes the ports of the
Pandya and Chera kingdoms in Damirica and
their commercial activity in great detail.
Periplus also indicates that the chief exports
of the ancient Tamils were pepper, malabath-
rum, pearls, ivory, silk, spikenard, diamonds,
sapphires, and tortoiseshell.[27] The Varaha cave bas relief at Mahabalipuram
The classical period ended around the built by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II
fourth century AD with invasions by the in 7th century CE
Kalabhra, referred to as the kalappirar in
Tamil literature and inscriptions.[28] These had strong trading links with China and
invaders are described as evil kings and bar- Southeast Asia.[36][37] The Cholas’ navy
barians coming from lands to the north of the conquered the South Asian kingdom of Sri Vi-
Tamil country.[29] This period, commonly re- jaya in Sumatra and continued as far as Thai-
ferred to as the Dark Age of the Tamil coun- land and Burma.[32] Chola power declined in
try, ended with the rise of the Pallava dyn- the 12th and 13th centuries, and the Pandya
asty.[28][30][31] According to Clarence Malo- dynasty enjoyed a brief period of resurgence
ney, during the classical period Tamils also thereafter during the rule of Sundara
settled the Maldive Islands.[6] Pandya.[32] However, repeated Muslim inva-
sions from the 15th century onwards placed a
Imperial and post-imperial periods huge strain on the empire’s resources, and
Although the Pallava records can be traced the dynasty came to an end in the 16th cen-
from the second century AD, they did not rise tury.[38]
to prominence as an imperial dynasty until The western Tamil lands became increas-
the sixth century.[32] The dynasty does not ingly politically distinct from the rest of the
appear to have been Tamil in origin, although Tamil lands after the Chola and Pandya em-
they rapidly adopted the local culture and the pires lost control over them in the 13th cen-
Tamil language. The Pallavas sought to mod- tury.[39] They developed their own distinct
el themselves after great northern dynasties language and literature, which increasingly
such as the Mauryas and Guptas.[33] They grew apart from Tamil, evolving into the
therefore transformed the institution of the modern Malayalam language by the 15th cen-
kingship into an imperial one, and sought to tury.[40]
bring vast amounts of territory under their No major empires arose thereafter, and
direct rule. The Pallavas were followers of parts of Tamil Nadu were for a while ruled by
the Hinduism, though for a short while one of a number of different local chiefs, such as the
their kings embraced Jainism and later con- Nayaks of the modern Maharashtra (see Ser-
verted to Hinduism[34]. The Bhakti movement foji II) and Andhra Pradesh regions. From the
in Hinduism was founded by Tamil saints at 17th century onwards, European powers
this time, and rose along with the growing in- began establishing settlements and trading
fluence of Jainism and Buddhism.[35] The Pal- outposts in the region. A number of battles
lavas pioneered the building of large, ornate were fought between the British, French and
temples in stone which formed the basis of Danish in the 18th century, and by the end of
the Dravidian temple architecture. the 18th century most of Tamil Nadu was un-
The Pallava dynasty was overthrown in the der British rule.
9th century by the resurgent Cholas.[32] The
Cholas become dominant in the 10th century
and established an empire covering most of
southern India and Sri Lanka.[32] The empire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Tamils in Sri Lanka

There is little scholarly consensus over the
presence of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka,
also known as Eelam in early Tamil literat-
ure, prior to the medieval Chola period (circa
10th century AD). One theory states that
there was not an organized Tamil presence in
Sri Lanka until the invasions from what is
now South India in the 10th century AD; an-
other theory contends that Tamil people were
the original inhabitants of the island.[41][42]

Pre-Historic period
The indigenous Veddhas are physically re-
lated to Dravidian language-speaking tribal
people in South India and early populations
of Southeast Asia, although they no longer
speak their native languages.[43] It is be-
lieved that cultural diffusion, rather than mi-
gration of people, spread the Sinhalese and
Tamil languages from peninsular India into
an existing Mesolithic population, centuries
before the Christian era.[44]
Settlements of people culturally similar to
those of present-day Sri Lanka and Tamil Inscription dated to 1100 AD left by Tamil
Nadu in modern India were excavated at soldiers in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
megalithic burial sites at Pomparippu on the
west coast and in Kathiraveli on the east from about the 2nd century BC.[21][22]In Ma-
coast of the island, villages established havamsa, a historical poem, ethnic Tamil ad-
between the 5th century BC and 2nd century venturers such as Elara invaded the island
AD.[45][46] Cultural similarities in burial prac- around 145 BC.[50] Tamil soldiers from what
tices in South India and Sri Lanka were dated is now South India were brought to
by archeologists to 10th century BC. Anuradhapura between the 7th and 11th cen-
However, Indian history and archaeology turies AD in such large numbers that local
have pushed the date back to 15th century chiefs and kings trying to establish legitim-
BC, and in Sri Lanka, there is radiometric acy came to rely on them.[51] By the 8th cen-
evidence from Anuradhapura that the tury AD there were Tamil villages collectively
non-Brahmi symbol-bearing black and red known as Demel-kaballa (Tamil allotment),
ware occur at least around 9th or 10th cen- Demelat-valademin (Tamil villages), and
tury BC.[47] Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages and
Historic period
Potsherds with early Tamil writing from Medieval period
the 2nd century BC have been found in ex- In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, Pandya and
cavations in Poonagari, Jaffna, bearing sever- Chola incursions into Sri Lanka culminated in
al inscriptions including a clan name - vela, a the Chola annexation of the island, which las-
name related to velir from ancient Tamil ted until the latter half of the 11th century
country.[48] There is epigraphic evidence of CE.[51][53][54][55]
people identifying themselves as Damelas or The decline of Chola power in Sri Lanka
Damedas (the Prakrit word for Tamil people) was followed by the restoration of the Polon-
in Anuradhapura, the capital city of Rajarata, naruwa monarchy in the late 11th century
and other areas of Sri Lanka as early as the AD.[56] In 1215, following Pandya invasions,
2nd century BC.[49]Historical records estab- the Tamil-dominant Arya Chakaravarthi dyn-
lish that Tamil kingdoms in modern India asty established an independent Jaffna king-
were closely involved in the island’s affairs dom[57] on the Jaffna peninsula and parts of

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

northern Sri Lanka. The Arya Chakaravarthi led to the government adopting a new policy
expansion into the south was halted by called the "three language formula". This has
Alagakkonara,[58] a man descended from a led to Tamils in India becoming increasingly
family of merchants from Kanchipuram in satisfied with the federal arrangement, and
Tamil Nadu. He was the chief minister of the there is very little support for secession or in-
Sinhalese king Parakramabahu V dependence today.
(1344–59 AD). Vira Alakeshwara, a descend- In Sri Lanka, however, the unitary ar-
ant of Alagakkonara, later became king of the rangement led to a growing belief among
Sinhalese,[59] but he was overthrown by the some Tamils of discrimination by the Sin-
Ming admiral Cheng Ho in 1409 CE. The halese majority. This resulted in a demand
Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty ruled over large for federalism, which in the 1970s grew into
parts of northeast Sri Lanka until the Por- a movement for an autonomous Tamil coun-
tuguese conquest of the Jaffna Kingdom in try. The situation deteriorated into civil war
1619 AD. The coastal areas of the island in the early 1980s. A ceasefire in effect since
were taken over by the Dutch and then be- 2002 broke down in August 2006 amid
came part of the British Empire in 1796 CE. shelling and bombing from both sides. Today
The caste structure of the majority Sin- Tamils make up 18% of Sri Lanka’s popula-
halese has also accommodated Hindu immig- tion (3.8 Million).[64], 6.2% of Malaysia’s Pop-
rants from South India since the 13th century ulation (1.06 Million).
AD. This led to the emergence of three new
Sinhalese caste groups: the Salagama, the
Durava and the Karava.[60][61][62] The Hindu
Geographic distribution
migration and assimilation continued until
the 18th century AD.[60] Indian Tamils

Modern period
British colonists consolidated the Tamil ter-
ritory in southern India into the Madras Pres-
idency, which was integrated into British In-
dia. Similarly, the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka
joined with the other regions of the island in
1802 to form the Ceylon colony. They re-
mained in political union with India and Sri
Lanka after their independence, in 1947 and
1948 respectively.
When India became independent in 1947,
Madras Presidency became the Madras
State, comprising present-day Tamil Nadu,
coastal Andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala,
and the southwest coast of Karnataka. The
state was subsequently split along linguistic
lines. In 1953, the northern districts formed
Andhra Pradesh. Under the States Reorganiz-
ation Act in 1956, Madras State lost its west-
ern coastal districts. The Bellary and South
Kanara districts were ceded to Mysore state,
and Kerala was formed from the Malabar dis-
trict and the former princely states of
A young Tamil girl wearing rich gold orna-
Travancore and Cochin. In 1968, Madras
ments. Source:The National Geographic
State was renamed Tamil Nadu. Magazine, April 1907
There was some initial demand for an in-
dependent Tamil state following the adoption Most Indian Tamils live in the state of Tamil
of the federal system.[63] However, the Indi- Nadu. Tamils are the majority in the union
an constitution granted significant autonomy territory of Pondicherry, a former French
to the states, and protests by Tamils in 1963 colony. Pondicherry is a subnational enclave

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

situated within Tamil Nadu. Tamils account

for at least one-sixth of the population in An-
daman and Nicobar Islands.
There are also Tamil communities in other
parts of India. Most of these have emerged
fairly recently, dating to the colonial and
post-colonial periods, but some—particularly
the Hebbar and Mandyam Tamils of southern
Karnataka (2.9 million), Pune, Maharashtra
(1.4 million), Andhra Pradesh (1.2 million),
Palakkad in Kerala (0.6 million), and Delhi
(0.1 million) — date back to at least the medi-
eval period.[65] Kavadi dancers in Hamm, Germany in 2007

Sri Lankan Tamils Significant Tamil emigration began in the

There are two groups of Tamils in Sri Lanka: 18th century, when the British colonial gov-
the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils. ernment sent many poor Tamils as inden-
The Sri Lankan Tamils (or Ceylon Tamils) are tured labourers to far-off parts of the Empire,
descendants of the Tamils of the old Jaffna especially Malaya, South Africa, Fiji, Mauriti-
Kingdom and east coast chieftaincies called us and the Caribbean. At about the same
Vannimais. The Indian Tamils (or Hill Coun- time, many Tamil businessmen also immig-
try Tamils) are descendants of bonded rated to other parts of the British Empire,
laborers sent from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka particularly to Burma and East Africa.[72]
in the 19th century to work on tea planta-
tions.[66] Furthermore, there is a significant
Tamil-speaking Muslim population in Sri
Lanka; however, unlike Tamil Muslims from
India, they do not identify as ethnic Tamils
and are therefore listed as a separate ethnic
group in official statistics.[67][68]
Most Sri Lankan Tamils live in the North-
ern and Eastern provinces and in the capital
Colombo, whereas most Indian Tamils live in
the central highlands.[68] Historically both
groups have seen themselves as separate
communities, although there is a greater
sense of unity since 1980s.[69] In 1949, the
United National Party government, which in-
cluded G. G. Ponnambalam, leader of the
Tamil Congress, stripped the Indian Tamils of
their citizenship. This was opposed by S. J. V.
Chelvanayakam, the leader of Tamil national-
ist Federal Party, and most Tamil people.[70]
Under the terms of an agreement reached
between the Sri Lankan and Indian govern-
ments in the 1960s, about 40 percent of the
Indian Tamils were granted Sri Lankan cit-
izenship, and many of the remainder were re-
Batu Caves temple built by Tamil Malaysians
patriated to India.[71]By the 1990s, most Indi-
in circa 1880s
an Tamils had received Sri Lankan citizen-
Many Tamils still live in these countries,
and the Tamil communities in Singapore,
Tamil emigrant communities Reunion Island, Malaysia and South Africa
See also: Tamil Malaysians, Tamil South have retained much of their culture and lan-
Africans, Tamil Canadians, and Tamil British guage. Many Malaysian children attend

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Tamil schools, and a significant portion of literature as "Tamil̲an̲n̲ai", "the Tamil moth-
Tamil children in Mauritius and Reunion are er".[76] It has historically been, and to large
brought up with Tamil as their first language. extent still is, central to the Tamil iden-
In Singapore, Tamil students learn Tamil as tity.[77] Like the other languages of South In-
their second language in school, with English dia, it is a Dravidian language, unrelated to
as the first. To preserve the Tamil language, the Indo-European languages of northern In-
the Singapore government has made it an of- dia. The language has been far less influ-
ficial language despite Tamils comprising enced by Sanskrit than the other Dravidian
only about 5% of the population, and has also languages, and preserves many features of
introduced compulsory instruction of the lan- Proto-Dravidian, though modern-day spoken
guage for Tamils. Other Tamil communities, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, freely uses loanwords
such as those in South Africa and Fiji, no from Sanskrit and English.[78] Tamil literat-
longer speak Tamil as a first language, but ure is of considerable antiquity, and was re-
still retain a strong Tamil identity, and are cognised as a classical language by the gov-
able to understand the language, while most ernment of India.
elders speak it as a first language.[73] Classical Tamil literature, which ranges
A large emigration also began in the from lyric poetry to works on poetics and eth-
1980s, as Sri Lankan Tamils sought to escape ical philosophy, is remarkably different from
the ethnic conflict there. These recent emig- contemporary and later literature in other In-
rants have most often fled to Australia, dian languages, and represents the oldest
Europe, North America and Southeast body of secular literature in South Asia.[79]
Asia.[74] Today, the largest concentration of Notable works in classical Tamil literature in-
Tamils outside southern Asia is in Toronto, clude the Tirukkural, by Tiruvalluvar, the five
Canada.[75] great Tamil epics, and the works of Auvaiyar.
Many young Tamil professionals from In- Modern Tamil literature is diverse. It in-
dia have also immigrated to Europe and the cludes Indian Nationalism, in the works of
United States in recent times in search of Subramanya Bharathi; historical romanti-
better opportunities. These new immigrant cism, by Kalki Krishnamurthy; radical and
communities have established cultural associ- moderate social realism, by Pudhumaipithan
ations to protect and promote Tamil culture and Jayakanthan; and feminism, by Malathi
and language in their adopted homes. Maithri and Kutti Revathi. Sujatha Rangara-
jan, an author whose works range from ro-
Culture mance novels to science fiction, is one of the
most popular modern writers in Tamil. Sri
Lankan Tamil literature has produced several
Language and literature works reflecting the civilian tragedy caused
by decades of war. There is also an emerging
diaspora literature in Tamil.
There are a number of regional dialects in
use by the Tamil people. These dialects vary
among regions and communities. Tamil dia-
lects are mainly differentiated by the dispar-
ate phonological changes and sound shifts
that have evolved from Old Tamil. Although
most Tamil dialects do not differ significantly
in their vocabulary, there are a few excep-
tions. The dialects spoken in Sri Lanka retain
many words that are not in everyday use in
India, and use many other words slightly dif-
ferently. The dialect of the Iyers of Palakkad
An idol in Madurai representing the Tamil
has a large number of Malayalam loanwords,
language as a goddess; The caption on the
has been influenced by Malayalam syntax,
pedestal reads Tamil Annai ("Mother Tamil").
and has a distinct Malayalam accent. The
Sankethi, Hebbar, and Mandyam dialects, the
Tamils have strong feelings towards the
former spoken by groups of Tamil Iyers, and
Tamil language, which is often venerated in
the latter two by Vaishnavites who migrated

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

to Karnataka in the 11th century, retains Tamil sculpture does not influence the form
many Vaishnavite religious and spiritual val- taken by the sculpture; instead, the artist im-
ues. The Tamil spoken in Chennai infuses poses his/her vision of the form on the mater-
English words, and is called Madras Bashai ial.[87] As a result, one often sees in stone
(Madras language).[80] sculptures flowing forms that are usually re-
served for metal.[88]
Visual art and architecture
See also: Chola Art
Most traditional Tamil art is religious in some
form and usually centres on Hinduism, al-
though the religious element is often only a
means to represent universal—and, occasion-
ally, humanist—themes.[81]

Dancing Siva or Nataraja is a typical example

of Chola bronze

The most important form of Tamil painting The Brihadeshswara Temple at Thanjavur,
is Tanjore painting, which originated in Than- also known as the Great Temple, built by Ra-
javur in the ninth century. The painting’s jaraja Chola I. Tamil dynasties were patrons
base is made of cloth and coated with zinc of Hinduism and the arts.
oxide, over which the image is painted using
dyes; it is then decorated with semi-precious As with painting, these sculptures show a
stones, as well as silver or gold thread.[82] A fine eye for detail; great care is taken in
style which is related in origin, but which ex- sculpting the minute details of jewellery,
hibits significant differences in execution, is worn by the subjects of the sculpture. The
used for painting murals on temple walls; the lines tend to be smooth and flowing, and
most notable example are the murals on the many pieces skillfully capture movement. The
Kutal Azhakar and Meenakshi temples of cave sculptures at Mamallapuram are a par-
Madurai, the Brihadeeswarar temple of Tan- ticularly fine example of the technique, as
jore.[83] Tamil art, in general, is known for its are the bronzes of the Chola period. A partic-
stylistic elegance, rich colours, and attention ularly popular motif in the bronzes was the
to small details. depiction of Shiva as Nataraja, in a dance
Tamil sculpture ranges from elegant stone posture with one leg upraised, and a fiery cir-
sculptures in temples, to bronze icons with cular halo surrounding his body.
exquisite details.[84] The medieval Chola Tamil temples were often simply treated
bronzes are considered to be one of India’s as sculptures on a grand scale. The temples
greatest contributions to the world art.[85][86] are most notable for their high spires, known
Unlike most Western art, the material in as Gopura, consisting of a number of stepped

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

levels, and the vimanam, which rises above

the sanctum sanctorum. During the Chola
period, the vimanams had more prominence,
as seen in the Brihadīsvara temple of Than-
javur. During the Nayak period, the spires
became progressively more elaborate and or-
nate, as exemplified by the Meenakshi
Temple in Madurai, while the vimanam be-
came much smaller. From the 13th century
onwards, the entrance gates to the temples,
called gopurams in Tamil, also began to grow
bigger, and more elaborate. The temples at
Chidambaram and Srirangam have particu-
larly impressive gopurams, covered with
sculptures and reliefs of various scenes and
characters from Hindu mythology.
As with Indian art in general, Tamil art
does not traditionally aspire to portraiture or
realism. Much more emphasis is placed on
the representation of ideal prototypes, and
on depicting the symbols with which the
theme of the artistic work is associated. This
means that small details, such as the direc-
Play video
tion which a hand faces, the animals or trees
portrayed, or the time of day depicted, are of- Folk artists performing at a funeral
ten of critical importance to understanding
the meaning of a work of art.[89] surviving examples of Indian music in nota-
tion.[92] Modern Carnatic music is organized
Performing arts around the twin notions of melody types
See also: Music of Tamil Nadu and Ancient (rāgam), and cyclical rhythm types (thāḷam).
Tamil music Unlike the northern Hindustani music tradi-
The traditional Tamil performing arts have tion, carnatic music is almost exclusively reli-
ancient roots.[90] The royal courts and gious. In sharp contrast with the restrained
temples have been centres for the perform- and intellectual nature of carnatic music,
ing arts since the classical period, and pos- Tamil folk music tends to be much more ex-
sibly earlier. Descriptions of performances in uberant. Popular forms of Tamil folk music
classical Tamil literature and the Natya Shas- include the Villuppattu, a form of music per-
tra, a Sanskrit treatise on the performing formed with a bow, and the Naat-
arts, indicate a close relationship between tupurapaattu, ballads that convey folklore
the ancient and modern artforms. The aim of and folk history.
a performance in Tamil tradition, is to bring The dominant classical dance amongst
out the rasa, the flavor, mood, or feeling, in- Tamils is Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is
herent in the text, and its quality is measured performative, rather than participative. The
by the extent to which it induces the mood in dance is an exposition of the story contained
the audience.[90] in a song, and is usually performed by one
Tamil shares a classical musical tradition, performer on stage, with an orchestra of
called carnatic music, with the rest of South drums, a drone, and one or more singers
India. It is primarily oriented towards vocal backstage. The story is told through a com-
music, with instruments functioning either as plicated combination of mudras (hand ges-
accompaniments, or as imitations of the sing- tures), facial expressions, and body postures.
er’s role. Ancient Tamil works, such as the Dancers used to be exclusively female, but
Cilappatikaram, describe a system of music the dance now also has several well-known
that includes old Carnatic modes,[91] and a male practitioners.[90]
seventh-century Pallava inscription at Kudim- The most notable of Tamil folk dances is
iyamalai contains one of the earliest karakattam. In its religious form, the dance is
performed in front of an image of the

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

secular.[94] The performances are not formal,

and performers often interact with the audi-
ence, mocking them, or involving them in the
dialogue. Therukkūthu has, in recent times,
been very successfully adapted to convey so-
cial messages, such as abstinence and anti-
caste criticism, as well as information about
legal rights, and has spread to other parts of
The village of Melattur, in Tamil Nadu,
has a special type of performance, called the
bhagavata-mela, in honour of the local deity,
which is performed once a year, and lasts all
night. Tamil Nadu also has a well developed
stage theater tradition, which has been heav-
ily influenced by western theatre. A number
of theatrical companies exist, with reper-
toires including absurdist, realist, and hu-
morous plays.[96]
Both classical and folk performing arts
survive in modern Tamil society. Tamil
Young Bharatanatyam dancer people in Tamil Nadu are also passionate
about films. The Tamil film industry, com-
goddess Mariamma. The dancer bears, on his monly dubbed Kollywood, is the second-
or her head, a brass pot filled with uncooked largest film industry in India.[97] Tamil
rice, decorated with flowers and surrounded cinema is appreciated both for its technical
by a bamboo frame, and tumbles and leaps to accomplishments, and for its artistic and en-
the rhythm of a song without spilling a grain. tertainment value. The overwhelming major-
Karakāṭṭam is usually performed to a special ity of Tamil films contain song and dance se-
type of song, known as temmanguppattu, a quences, and Tamil film music is a popular
folk song in the mode of a lover speaking to genre in its own right, often liberally fusing
his beloved, to the accompaniment of a elements of carnatic, Tamil folk, North Indian
nadaswaram and melam. Other Tamil folk styles, hip-hop, and heavy metal. Famous mu-
dances include mayilattam, where the dan- sic directors of the late 20th century included
cers tie a string of peacock feathers around M. S. Viswanathan, Ilayaraaja, and A. R.
their waists; oyilattam, danced in a circle Rahman.
while waving small pieces of cloth of various
colors; poykkal kuthiraiyaattam, in which the Religion
dancers use dummy horses; manaattam, in
which the dancers imitate the graceful leap-
ing of deer; paraiyattam, a dance to the
sound of rhythmical drumbeats; and thip-
panthattam, a dance involving playing with
burning torches.[93] The kuravanci is a type
of dance-drama, performed by four to eight
women. The drama is opened by a woman
playing the part of a female soothsayer of a
wandering kurava tribe, who tells the story of
a lady pining for her lover.
The therukoothu, literally meaning "street
play", is a form of village theater or folk op-
A village shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyanar,
era. It is traditionally performed in village c.a. 1911
squares, with no sets and very simple props.
The performances involve songs and dances, About 88%[98] of the population of Tamil
and the stories can be either religious or Nadu are Hindus. Muslims and Christians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Nadu, mainly in the southern districts.[106] In

addition, there are many temples and de-
votees of Vishnu, Siva, Ganapathi, and the
other Hindu deities.
The most important Tamil festivals are
Pongal, a harvest festival that occurs in mid-
January, and Varudapirappu, the Tamil New
Year, which occurs around mid-April. Both
are celebrated by almost all Tamils, regard-
less of religion. The Hindu festival Deepavali
is celebrated with fanfare; other local Hindu
festivals include Thaipusam, Panguni Ut-
Grave of Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed in tiram, and Adiperukku. While Adiperukku is
Erwadi durgah, Ramanathapuram, who first celebrated with more pomp in the Cauvery
brought Islam to Tamilnadu region than in others, the Ayyavazhi Festival,
Ayya Vaikunda Avataram, is predominantly
celebrated in the southern districts of Kan-
yakumari, Tirunelveli, and Thoothukudi.[107]
In rural Tamil Nadu, many local deities,
called aiyyan̲ārs, are thought to be the spirits
of local heroes who protect the village from
harm. Their worship often centers around
nadukkal, stones erected in memory of her-
oes who died in battle. This form of worship
is mentioned frequently in classical literature
and appears to be the surviving remnants of
an ancient Tamil tradition.[108]
The Saivist sect of Hinduism is signific-
antly represented amongst Tamils, more so
among Sri Lankan Tamils, although most of
the Saivist places of religious significance are
in northern India. The Alvars and Nayanars,
Velankani Our Lady of Good Health Church, who were predominantly Tamils, played a key
a Marian church popular with adherents
role in the renaissance of Bhakti tradition in
across all religions
India. In the 10th century, the philosopher
Ramanuja, who propagated the theory of Vis-
account for 6% and 5.5% respectively. Most ishtadvaitam, brought many changes to wor-
of the Christians are Roman Catholics. The shiping practices, creating new regulations
majority of Muslims in Tamil Nadu speak on temple worship, and accepted lower-caste
Tamil,[99] with less than 40% reporting Urdu Hindus as his prime disciples.[109]
as their mother tongue.[100] Tamil Jains num- Christianity is believed to have come to
ber only a few thousand now.[101] Atheist, ra- Tamil Nadu with the arrival of St. Thomas
tionalist, and humanist philosophies are also the apostle, and the number of Tamil Christi-
adhered by sizable minorities, as a result of ans grew during the colonial period. Most
Tamil cultural revivalism in the twentieth Tamil Christians are Catholic and Protestant.
century, and its antipathy to what it saw as Islam started flourishing in Tamilnadu after
Brahminical Hinduism.[102] the arrival of Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed,
The most popular deity is Murugan, also descendant of Prophet Muhammmad who
known as Karthikeya, the son of Siva.[103] came from Madinah, Saudi Arabia during
The worship of Amman, also called Mariam- 12th century. His grave is found in Erwadi
man, is thought to have been derived from an dargah in Ramanathapuram district. Tamil
ancient mother goddess, is also very com- Muslims are mostly either mainstream Sunni
mon.[104] Kan̲n̲agi, the heroine of the Cilap- or Sufi.
patikār̲am, is worshipped as Pattin̲i by many
Tamils, particularly in Sri Lanka.[105] There
are also many followers of Ayyavazhi in Tamil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

Each geographical area where Tamils live
has developed its own distinct variant of the
common dishes plus a few dishes distinctly
native to itself. The Chettinad region, com-
prising of Karaikudi and adjoining areas, is
known for both traditional vegetarian dishes,
like appam, uthappam, paal paniyaram, and
non-vegetarian dishes, made primarily using
Rice, the major staple food in most of
Tamil, is usually steamed and served with
The Tamil flag adopted by the World Tamil
about two to six accompanying items, which Confederation to represent Tamil people
typically include sambar, dry curry, rasam, everywhere.
kootu, and thayir (curd) or moru (whey or
terminology in Tamil and promoting its use
Tiffin or Light meals usually include one
since the 1950s.
or more of Pongal, Dosai, idli, Vadai along
Politics in Tamil Nadu is dominated by the
with sambar and Chutney is often served as
Self-respect movement (also called the
either breakfast or as an evening snack. Ghee
Dravidian movement), founded by E.V.
Clarified butter called neyyi in Tamil, is used
Ramasami, popularly known as Periyar, to
to flavor the rice when eaten with dhal or
promote self-respect and rationalism, and to
sambar, but not with curds or buttermilk.
fight casteism and the oppression of the low-
Morkulambu, a dish which can be spiced with
est castes. Every major political party in
moru, is also popular with steamed rice.
Tamil Nadu bases its ideology on the Self-re-
spect Movement, and the national political
Martial arts parties play a very small role in Tamil polit-
Various martial arts including Kuttu Varisai, ics. (see Dravidian parties)
Varma Kalai, Silambam Nillaikalakki, In Sri Lanka, Tamil politics was dominated
Maankombukkalai (Madhu) and Kalarippay- by the federalist movements, led by the
attu, are practised in Tamil Nadu and Ker- Federal Party (later the Tamil United Libera-
ala[110]. The weapons used include Silam- tion Front), until the early 1980s. In the
bam, Maankombukkalai, Yeratthai Mulangkol 1980s, the political movement was largely
(double stick), Surul Pattai (spring sword), succeeded by a violent military campaign
Val Vitchi (single sword), and Yeretthai Val conducted by several militant groups. The
(double sword)[111]. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which
The ancient Tamil art of unarmed bull- emerged as the most important force
fighting, popular amongst warriors in the amongst these groups in the 1990s, controled
classical period[112][113], has also survived in a third of Sri Lanka, and had attempted to es-
parts of Tamil Nadu, notably Alanganallur tablish its own government there, which it
near Madurai, where it is known as Jallikaṭṭu called the government of Tamil Eelam.
or mañcuviraṭṭu and is held once a year In the 1960s, the government of Tamil
around the time of the Pongal festival. Nadu held a World Tamil Conference, which
has continued to meet periodically since
Institutions then. In 1999, a World Tamil Confederation
was established to protect and foster Tamil
The global spread of the Tamil diaspora has culture and further a sense of togetherness
hindered the formation of formal pan-Tamil amongst Tamils in different countries. The
institutions. The most important national in- Confederation has since adopted a Tamil flag
stitutions for Tamils have been the govern- and Tamil song[114] to act as trans-national
ments of the states where they live, particu- symbols for the Tamil people; the words on
larly the government of Tamil Nadu and the the flag quote the opening line of a poem by
government of Sri Lanka, which have collab- the classical poet Kanian Poongundranaar,
orated in developing technical and scientific and means "Everyone is our kin; Everyplace
is our home".

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Tamil people

See also [8] M. B. Emeneau (Jan-March 1956). "India

as a lingustic Area". Language 32 (1): 5.
• List of Indian languages by number of doi:10.2307/410649.
native speakers
• Tamil Language sici?sici=0097-8507%28195601%2F03%2932%3A1%
• Tamil script Retrieved on 2007-05-03. "Of the four
• List of Tamil people literary Dravidian languages, Tamil has
• Tamil diaspora voluminous records dating back at least
• Ancient Tamil country two millennia".
• Dravidian martial arts [9] Burton Stein (November 1977).
• List of languages by first written accounts "Circulation and the Historical
• Tamil Classical Dance Geography of Tamil Country". The
• Chronology of Tamil history Journal of Asian Studies 37 (1): 7–26.
• Tamil Cinema (Kollywood) doi:10.2307/2053325.
Notes sici?sici=0021-9118%28197711%2937%3A1%3C7%3
Retrieved on 2007-05-03. "Tamil is one of
[1] "Top 30 Languages by Number of Native the two longest-surviving classical
Speakers: sourced from Ethnologue: languages in India.".
Languages of the World, 15th ed. [10] Martin Wood, BBC
(2005)". Vistawide - World Languages & [11] Daniels, Peter T. (2008). "Writing
Cultures. systems of major and minor languages".
languages/top_30_languages.htm. in Kachru, Braj B.; Kachru, Yamuna;
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[2] "Indian Census - Abstract of Strength of Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mother Tongues". Indian Census, 2001. ISBN 0521781418. at p. 291 [12] ^ Indrapala, K The Evolution of an ethnic
Census_Data_2001/Census_Data_Online/ identity: The Tamils of Sri Lanka,
Language/Statement1.htm. Retrieved on p.155-156
2008-01-07. [13] Southworth, Franklin C. (1998). "On the
[3] "Brief Analysis of Population and Origin of the word tamiz". International
Housing Characteristics" (PDF). Sri Journal of Dravidial Linguistics 27 (1):
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PopHouSat/PDF/ Studies to the history of Tamil literature.
Leiden: E.J. Brill. at pp. x-xvi.
Retrieved on 2008-01-07. [15] John, Vino (2006-01-27). "Reading the
[4] ^ "Ethnologue report for language code past in a more inclusive way:Interview
tam". Ethnologue: Languages of the with Dr. Sudharshan Seneviratne".
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[6] ^ Maloney, Clarence. "Maldives People". symbol-bearing black and red ware occur at least around 900 B.C. or 1000 B.C."
maloney.html. Retrieved on 2008-06-22. [16] K. De B. Codrington (October 1930).
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