Culture of Tamil Nadu
A trip to the southern state of Tamil Nadu
, one among the important states of the Republic of India, is simply a thrilling experience. Tamil Nadu is a land of cultural potpourri. The state boasts a wide range of things to fancy that often comes with a unique signature of Tamil culture and tradition. From age-old temples to rich wildlife, beautiful beaches
to world class amusement parks, behemoth shopping malls to classy discotheques, Tamil Nadu has it all! Clichéd to be excessively conservative, the society of Tamil Nadu is recognized to be in a prospering phase.
From Christian Dior to Marikozhundhu (Artemisia pallens) vaasanai thiraviyam, Ralph Lauren range to Nandu lungies, Kiton suitings (most expensive suit in the world) to Kanchipuram silk sarees, Tamil Nadu never ceases to amaze the visitors with its ethnical traces. The word 'Tamil Nadu
' reminds of unique cultural potpourri to many as the state generally differs from the northern parts of the country. Beyond any doubt, Tamil Nadu is nothing short of a place that is worth remembering for years to come as the state will deluge the heart of the visitors with superior culture and traditions.
Tamil culture is deeply rooted and firmly fixed in the art forms and ways of life of Tamilians living all over the globe. To be precise, the illustrious Tamil culture is well exhibited through sculpture, traditions, philosophy, rituals, folk arts, literature, painting, establishments, festivities, architecture, language, religions, martial arts, sports, cuisine, dance forms, costumes, media, music, science, theatre, comedy, technology and so on. Furthermore, the southern state assumes an important berth in the cultural map of our country.
People of Tamil Nadu are warm and friendly in nature which is well reflected in their smiling faces and their tendency to help those who are new to the scenes of local life. What is more, Tamilians are exceedingly hospitable and as a matter of fact, Tamils take pride in receiving people to their houses, however humble they might be. Dhoti, which is popularly called as Veshti is the traditional men's clothing for Tamils while women wear saris in Tamil Nadu. Tout ensemble, Tamil Nadu is an abode of vibrant and lively culture that perpetually adopts urban characteristics and proceeds to flourish amongst the Tamilians living all over the world. Did you know?
Tamilians comprise 15.36% of the population in Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 5.91% in Republic of India, 5.83% in Republic of Mauritius, 5% of the population in Republic of Singapore and 5.7% of the population in MalaysiaAlso Read: Culture of Chennai | Culture of Coimbatore | Culture of Madurai | Culture of Tiruchirappalli | Culture of Salem | Culture of Ooty | Culture of Chidambaram | Culture of Thanjavur | Culture of Erode | Culture of Dindigul
Language and Literature of Tamil Nadu
Tamizh, often written as Tamil has been fundamentally a Dravidian language. Dravidic language is nothing but a large family of languages spoken in south and central India and Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore and a few other Asian countries. Tamil language is regarded as one of the longest existing classical languages in the world. As a matter of fact, 2,200 years old Tamil-Brahmi letterings have been discovered at Samanamalai (Madurai district in Tamil Nadu).
The classical language has been distinguished as the exclusive language of modern-day India, which is continuing in time with a classical history. Also, the oldest Tamil letters inscribed in the Tamil-Brahmi script has been discovered at Pahani (Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu), dated to 540 BCE - the oldest recognized Brahmi letterings on the Indian sub-continent. During the year 2004, the Government of India declared Tamil as a classical language, thus becoming the first legally distinguished Classical language of India.
Some of the notable dialects of Tamil language include Kongu Tamil, Central Tamil dialect, Nellai Tamil, Madras Bashai and Batticaloa Tamil dialect, Madurai Tamil, Jaffna Tamil dialect, Negombo Tamil dialect (Sri Lanka). Sankethi dialect in the neighboring state of Karnataka has been influenced by Kannada to a great extent. Apart from the diverse dialects, the classical language of Tamil demonstrates different forms
- Sangathamizh - Classical literary style patterned on the ancient language
- Senthamizh - Modern literary and formal style
- Kodunthamizh - Modern conversational form
At present, Senthamizh is commonly used in formal publishing like text books and speechmaking and public debate across the state. It has to be agreed that Kodunthamizh is gaining popularity across several areas which were once considered as the centers of Senthamizh. Tamil cinemas, television, radio and other media use Kodunthamizh for their day to day presentation. The present script of Tamil language comprises of one special character, 12 vowels (speech sound made with the vocal tract open) and 18 consonants. Together, the vowels and consonants make 216 compound Tamil characters, generating a total number of 247 characters.
Tamil literature has a history and rich tradition that goes back over two thousand years. The early Sangam literature, commencing from the period of 2nd century BCE, comprise a large collection of literary or musical works, such as poems or short stories of a lot of poets dealing with numerous aspects of life like social values, love, religion and war. The same trend was adopted by the early epics and ethical literature, composed by Hindu, Jainist, and Buddhistic writers, long-lived up to the 5th century CE.
Starting from the 6th to 12th century CE, the Tamil devotional verse forms scripted by the Nayanmars also known as Nayanars (a group of 63 saint poets) and azhwars (12 poet saints of Vaishnavism) commenced the Bhakti movement which subsequently spread all over the Indian subcontinent. At the same exact time period, the world has witnessed some of the most magnificent literary classics like Kambaramayanam (written by the Tamil poet Kamban) and Periya Puranam aka Tiruttontarpuranam written by Sekkizhar.
The late 19th century witnessed the Tamil literature, especially religious and philosophical works gaining prominence. The modern Tamil literary trend commenced with Mahakavi Bharatiyar - the far-famed author, journalist, poet, independence activist and social crusader and it was rapidly followed through by a lot of authors who started to use the mightiness of literature in charming the people. With a considerable growth in the rate of literacy, prose in Tamil language started to flourish. Many novel writers and short story published started to become popular among the masses. The fame of Tamil celluloid has also interacted with Tamil literature in a few reciprocally enriching manners.
- Tamil is the first language in India to be officially declared as a classical language by the Government of India
- Tamil is the 15th most widely spoken language in the world
- A study of ancient inscriptions conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India discovered more than 55% (55,000) inscriptions are written in Tamil language
- The two earliest manuscripts of India, recognized and recorded by the UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme, were in Tamil language
- During the year 1578, Tamil became the first Indian language to be published
- Tamil is used as a holy language in traditions of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Ayyavazhi
- The closest major relative of Tamil language is Malayalam
- Tamil is one of the official languages of Puducherry UT, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Singapore and Sri Lanka
- In Malaysia, 543 primary education government schools are teaching Tamil
- Tamil language is adopted as a subject in Republic of South Africa and Canada for the benefit of the Tamil minority populations
- In Ontario, Canada, the month of January has been officially announced as 'Tamil Heritage Month'
Also Read: Slangy Chennai Tamils Vs Twangy Kongu Tamil
Music and Dance Forms of Tamil Nadu
Being the cultural hot seat of South India, Tamil Nadu is the place of origin of a lot of art forms that prospers perpetually and gets admiration from all over the world. Evolved to be one of the most exquisite sorts of entertainment in the state, music and dance forms of Tamil Nadu continue to be singular. The three most significant modes of entertainment (Muthamil Vadivankal) of Tamil Nadu which include
- Iyal (Literature)
- Isai (Music)
- Nadagam (Drama)
Of the three modes of entertainment (Muthamil Vadivankal) of Tamil Nadu, Iyal conveys thoughts; Isai expresses the language that renders delight and Nadagam is substantiated through body language. Let's find out more about some of the most popular music and dance forms of Tamil Nadu.
One of the most renowned dance forms of Tamil Nadu, Bharata Natyam is acknowledged for its elegance, beauty, honor, fondness and sculptured postures. Lord Shiva is regarded the God of this dance form of Bharata Natyam. The classical dance form is considered as the expression of the age-old thought of the jubilation of the eternal cosmos through the festivity of the beauty of the human body.
Probably, the most popular rural art form, Theru Koothu is all about performing street drama or street play or street dance. Theru Koothu is a form of dance that is not so formal and typically performed portraying scenes from Tamil classical epics, Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Some of the notable types of Theru Koothu include Kuravai koothu, valli koothu, Nattu koothu, Samaya koothu, Pei koothu, Chakyar koothu and so on. The critically acclaimed Tamil movie Avatharam directed by the popular actor Nassar portrays the folk art of Theru Koothu to a great extent.
One of the most popular ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu, Karakattam, often called as 'Karagam
' is performed in paying respect and giving thanks to the Hindu goddess Mariamman. The performing artists balance the water pot kept their head and carry out the simple but joyful dance movements. The most common types of Karakattam include Sakthi karagam and Aatta karagam.
Popularly called as 'Kummi
', Kummiyaattam is one of the notable village dances of Tamil Nadu. Commonly performed by Tamil women, Kummiyaattam is unique in its own way that it does not require the support of any musical instruments. It is performed only with the sounds of clapping. Some of the popular forms of Kummiyaattam include Kulavai kummi, Mulaipari kummi, Poonthatti kummi and so on.
Yet another famous village dance of Tamil Nadu, Mayilaatam is mainly performed by girls appareled as peacocks, splendid with typical peacock featherings and a sparkling headgear finished with a projecting mouth, just like the peacock beak. Some of the other similar dance forms include Karadi aattam, Kaalai aattam, Vedhala aattam and so on.
A typical folk dance, Oyilaattam was originated from Madurai district in Tamil Nadu. Oyilaattam can literally be translated as 'Dance of Beauty
' where a a group of men usually filling in a row and execute rhythmical movements to the music. Oyilaattam is one among the folk arts, distinguished for mainstreaming by the Tamil University.
Poikkal Kuthirai Aattam
A unique dance that can literally be translated as 'Dummy horse Dance
' is one of the popular village dances of Tamil Nadu. The performers put on a light-weighing dummy horse figure and wear a pair of wooden legs and execute interesting movements during village and temple festivals.
A rural folk art performed to the loud beats of Thappu - a rhythmic beat musical instrument. Usually, Thappattam is performed among the Dalits classes of the masses of the southern state.
Some of the other important dance forms of Tamil Nadu include Bagavatha Nadanam, Bommalattam, Devaraattam, Oyil Kummi, Chakkai Aattam, Kai Silambu Aattam, Kavadi Aattam, Ottan Koothu, Puliyattam, Paampu Aatam, Kol Kal Aattam, Urummi Aattam, Kazhai Kothu and so on.
Ancient Tamil Music
Being the musical forerunner of the classical music form of Carnatic music, the ancient Tamil music was in prominence during the Sangam period. A lot of verse forms of the classical Sangam literature were fixed conclusively to euphony. There are assorted acknowledgments to this age-old musical custom discovered in the classical Sangam compositions which include Ettuthokai (The Eight Anthologies) and Pattupattu (The Ten Idylls) and Silappatikaram (The Tale of an Anklet) names several music forms celebrated by the Tamil people.
Furthermore, music was extensively used as an accompaniment by the Tamil saint poets like Manikkavasagar, Appar, Thirugnana Sambanthar and Siva Prakasar between the 6th and the 10th century. Some of the important musical instruments used during the period of ancient Tamil music include Seerkazhi, Murasu, Yazh, Flute, Udukkai, Siruparai, Muzhavu, Tattai, Mridangam, Mathalam, Veenai, Kuzhal, Sangu and so on.
The most popular classical music form of Tamil Nadu, Carnatic music is usually regarded as a music form that is closely related to the classical dance form of Bharata Natyam.
As a matter of fact, Tamil Nadu has produced the world-renowned Trinity of Carnatic music (the prominent trio of composer-musicians of the Carnatic music form) and several other popular carnatic musicians which include Kakarla Tyagabrahmam, Syama Sastri, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Lalgudi Gopala Iyer Jayaraman, M. S. Subbulakshmi and Tamil Moovar (Muthu Thandavar, Arunachala Kavi and Marimutthu Pillai) and so on.
A most popular form of music across the rural parts of Tamil Nadu, Folk music typically portrays the components of the traditional fashions of the state. It is important to note that the Folk music of Tamil Nadu is often adopted in the Tamil movies and well received by the movie buffs. Some of the most popular folk musicians of Tamil Nadu include Dr. Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan, Dr. Navaneethakrishnan, Dr. Pushpavanam Kuppuswamy, Anitha Kuupuswamy and so on. Usually, Tamil folk songs are accompanied by Urumee and Nadawaram as primary musical instruments.
Kollywood, the Tamil film industry is long familiar for its long list of celebrated music composers who include M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy, K. V. Mahadevan, Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja, Mozart of Madras A. R. Rahman, Then Isai Thendral Deva, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Vidyasagar, Harris Jayaraj, Anirudh Ravichander, Thaman, Dharan, James Vasanthan, Vijay Antony, G.V. Prakash Kumar and so on.
The film music of Tamil Nadu has come a long way and is popularly known for its conception of eclectic methods. The recent music trend of Tamil film industry evidences the domination of electronic musical instruments (in a good way).
Musical Instruments of Tamil Nadu
The musical instruments widely used across the southern state of Tamil Nadu can be classified into three types. They are
- Percussion Instruments
- String Instruments
- Wind Instruments
Some of the popular musical instruments of Tamil Nadu include Mayura yazh, Mayura rudhra veenai, Panniru narambu yazh, Kovai yazh, Thandhir yazh, Thambura, Pidil, Vil yazh, Jalatharangam, Paari naayinam, Ekaalam, Magudi, Sangu, Thaarai, Othu, Flute, Pancha muga vaathiyam, Thavil, Veera murasu, Thambattam, Udukkai, Pambai, Urumi, Thappu, Kuzhi thalam, Kaal sadhangai, Chandira valaivu and so on. Also Read: Dance Classes in Coimbatore | Dance Classes in Madurai | Dance Classes in Tiruchirappalli | Dance Classes in Salem
Arts and Crafts in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu, roosting at the peak of ancient civilization was the former realm of Tamil empires, Pandyas, Pallavas and Vijayanagar kings, and features rich souvenirs that evidence the architectural magnificence and the ethnical extremum of the time period. Several references to the exquisite arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu are ambundantly found across the Tamil works by great Tamil scholars. Some of the popular arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu include
Tanjore paintings often called as Thanjai oviyam, is a world renowned classical painting style that was originated from the 'Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu
' Thanjavur. Thanjavur paintings are characterized by deep, bland and bright colors, elementary iconic theme, sparkling gold enhancers covered on elegant and voluminous gesso figure and inlay of glass pearls and parts or long cherished gemstones.
Furthermore, the influence of Vijayanagar, Deccani, European and Maratha painting styles can be evidenced in Tanjore paintings. Basically regarded as spiritual pictures, the conceptions of most of the Tanjore paintings are Hindu gods and goddesses. Also Read: Tanjore Paintings | Make Your Own Thanjavur Painting
Tamil Nadu, the living proof of South India’s ethnical character had presented a distinguishing grandness in its stone carvings during the early days of ancient Indian history. This aboriginal workmanship attained prominence because of the generousness of the culturally elegant ancient rulers who supported the gifted local crafters and preserved the art form active.
One of the souvenirs of the state's stone carvings that have been unearthed from archeological sites, the granite statuettes and figurines are worthy for special credits. Ancient and modern-day granite sculptures are found primarily around Mamallapuram, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Trichy and most of the historic temples in the state present the magnificence of antique Dravidian style of architecture.
Woodcraft is a leading money generating business across many parts of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The recent trend of contemporary craftsmen teaming up with skilled rural artisans is a great benefit for the progress of this art form. The distinctiveness is evidenced in the assortment of native woodworks made by them. Furthermore, many places in the state are renowned for wood carvings.
Virudhunagar district in TamilNadu is far-famed for the traditional woodworks. The crafters from the district nowadays commenced creating woodcrafts for household use. Karaikkudi and Devakottai in Sivaganga district produce wide range of traditional wood panels. Suchindram and Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district have traditional woodcarvers who specialize in making wooden figures of all size. Athens of the East Madurai is notable for its rosewood tree sculptures. Tables with flowered themes or endearing parrots are the most spectacular illustrations of this type of craftsmanship.
It is impossible to deny or disapprove the fact that Tamilians are fond of jewelleries. Golden jewelleries in the state have a long history that dates back to Sangam period. Much classical Sangam literature cites several varieties of jewellery used by kings and queens those days. As a matter of fact, a lot of sculptures in the state demonstrate the overgenerous use of jewelleries from the history. Apart from gold jewelleries wore those days, many other adornments made of precious gems and metals like Silver, Brass, Copper, and Diamonds and so on.
Besides, the age-old custom of beautifying deities of god and goddess is even followed today across most of the Hindu temples in the state. Furthermore, the festival deities (Urchava moorthi) of Tamil Nadu are known for their grand decorations using gold jewelleries with a lot of precious gemstones. It is important to note that Tamilians wear gold jewelleries above the waist and silver jewelleries below the waist. Tamil jewelleries are interestingly designed with intricate detailings added with precious gemstones like navarathinangal.
Some of the popular and common jewelleries of Tamil Nadu include Netti chutti, Rakkadi, Jadanagam, Pattam, Kandasaam, Thirugupoo, Thodu, Kadukkan, Pampadam, Lolakku, Kundalam, Jimmiki, Thandatti, Mookuthu, Thaali, Kaasi malai, Sangili, Aaram, Valayal, Kanganam, Mothiram, Kaapu, Oddiyanam, Kolusu, Metti, Salangai and so on.
According to the Tholkappiyam (earliest extant work of Sangam literature scripted in the form of short formulaic writings), the two eyes of the Tamil people are love and bravery. Moreover, several heroic themed poems in Tamil discourses love and bravery being the two most significant attributes of Tamilians.
The archeological site taken in charge by archeologists in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu (Athichanallur) exposed that the Dravidian culture dates back 8000 BC and it states the Silambam (a weapon based Tamil martial art form) is earlier than 10,000 BC in this location. The same report further discovered a lot of different types of arms in small settlements and has assorted them as Eri vel, Eetti, Kuthu vaal, Ambu vel, Irattai koorvaal, Trisool, Ampu thalai, Kao kodari, Vaal, Valaintha kathu, Iru valai kooki thadi, Pali vaal, Velayutham, sulayutham, kedayam, Ariya ayutham, siriya eetti, Sengona vaai eetti, Kuli eetti, Kathi and so on. Some of the most popular martial art forms of Tamil Nadu include
A weapon based Tamil martial art form; Silambam is closely associated to Angampora of Sri Lanka and Kalaripayattu of Kerala. The main weapon used in Silambam is bamboo staff. Masters and grand masters of Silambam are addressed as Aasaan and Periya Aasaan. Some of the important styles of Silambam include kallapathu, kalyanavarisai, nagam-16, kidamuttu, nillaikalakki and so on.
The ancient martial art is popularly practiced for two primary purposes - combat or demonstration. Other than the bamboo staff, some of the other popular weapons used in Silambam include maru, aruval, panthukol, savuku, kattari, katthi, vaal, surrul pattai, muchan and so on. Silambam art primarily revolves around hard strikes and it also has a lot of lock techniques (poottu).
A Tamil version of western wrestling! Malyutham is one of the most popular martial art forms of Tamil Nadu that is regarded as one of the 64 traditional arts that are listed in the classical literature. The art form is elementary in nature as no weapons are involved and the fighters wrestle each other using bare hands.
Yet another bare hands martial art form of Tamil Nadu, Gusthi is all about raining blows to the opponent and try to push the fighter down on the floor.
Some of the other popular martial arts of Tamil Nadu include Adi thada, Jallikattu, Urimaram yeruthal, Rekla race, Vaal sandai, Deer horn fight, Archery and so on.Also Read: Martial Arts in Chennai | Martial Arts in Coimbatore
Fairs and Festivals of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu, the land of Tamils is notable for its variety of fairs and festivals celebrated all over the state, throughout the year. In a way, Tamil Nadu can emphatically be called as the land of festivals. Usually, the wide range of Tamil festivals are often observed and celebrated in the name of religious beliefs, nevertheless; Tamilians observe every festival with sheer joyfulness and felicity. Some of the widely celebrated festivals of Tamil Nadu include
Undoubtedly, the most important festival of Tamilians that is celebrated with pomp and glory by all classes of people in the state. Thai Pongal is fondly called as Tamizhar Thirunaal by the Tamil speaking population living all over the globe. Thai Pongal is basically a harvest festival that is primarily celebrated to express admiration and gratefulness to the Sun god as the most common energy source of agribusiness.
The festival is a four-day festival that is usually celebrated from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai (January 13th to January 16th). The first day is observed as Bhogi pandigai where people throw away old stuffs and focus on new things. The second day of the Pongal festival is the main festival day where people prepare a sweet dish called Chakarai pongal in traditional clay pots and offer it to Sun god as a symbol of gratitude. The third day of the Pongal festival is called as Maatu pongal where people decorate their cattle and thank them for their role in agriculture. The fourth and the last day of Pongal festivites is observed as Kaanum pongal where people gather with their friends and family and share a good time.
The festival of lights, Deepavali in Tamil Nadu marks the destruction of Narakasura at the hands of Lord Krishna. Deepavali is celebrated on the 14th day coming before the amavasya (new phase of the moon) in the Tamil month of Aippasi. Deepavali in Tamil Nadu is all about oil baths, new dresses, poojas, sweets, crackers, mouth-watering food and so on.
Popularly called as Kathikai Deepam in Tamil Nadu is celebrated in the month of Tamil month Karthikai. A Hindu festival, Karthikai is celebrated by lighting traditional agal vilaku. The illuminated agal villaku is regarded as an prosperous symbol. It is considered to forestall evil forces and bring prosperity.
Fondly called as Tamil Puthandu, Chithirai Thirunaal, the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai is celebrated as the Tamil New Year or Varusha Pirappu.
Chithirai Thirunaal is celebrated by the Tamil speaking population all over the world as cultural extravaganza. People prepare sweets and some special recipes for this prosperous function. In some parts of Tamil Nadu, a ten-day festival is observed as Chithirai Thiruvizha. Generally, the Chithirai Thiruvizha festival falls in the month of April-May and concludes on the tenth day.
Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu is regarded as one of the most sacred spots for Hindus living in the state. The holy town host an illustrious yearly dance festival called as 'Natyanjali
' where classical dancers from all over the world come down to Chidambaram and show their devotion towards Lord Shiva through dance. The medium of dance has been followed as a significant reflection of veneration and adoration.
With a prospect to recreate and follow this custom of a combined attempt was commenced in 1981. The five day cultural event feature about 300 to 400 dancers and also involving 300 support artists every year.
One of the most popular musical gathering, Tyagaraja Aradhanai is a yearly Carnatic music event usually take place during January and February at Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur district. A lot of experts of Carnatic music gather to perform and are followed by thousands of buffs of Indian classical music.
It is related with Tyagabrahmam (one of the most distinguished composers of Carnatic music and the composer of the masterpiece of Pancharatna Kriti) and is one of the most significant music festivals in the country.
Qadir Wali Ke Fande festival, popularly called as Kandhuri festival is one of the most important festivals for muslims in Tamil Nadu. A 14 day yearly event observed during the urs of the saint Hazrath Shahul Hamid Badusha Kaadiri (1490–1579 CE).
Some of the important Muslim rites performed during the Kandhuri Festival include the recital of Quaranic verses and observance of Fatiha. The festival usually receives over a lakh pilgrims from all over the country. Special buses are usually operated from Tiruchirappalli, Tanjore, Mannargudi, Chennai and Chidambaram to ease arrival of pilgrims.
A historic nine day festial celebrated in the holy town of Velankanni (Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu) at the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is one of the most popular festivals in the state. The festival usually receives close to two million pilgrims each year. The sacred chapel is also popularly called as 'Lourdes of the East
' is long-familiar for Virgin Mary's heavenly healing ability.
Also Read: Festivals in Chennai | Film Festivals in Chennai | Festivals in Madurai | Festivals of Ooty | Festivals in Chidambaram | Festivals in Tiruchirappalli | Festivals in Cuddalore