Culture of Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu state in India has a long tradition of venerable culture. Unique cultural features like Bharatanatyam (dance), Tanjore painting, and Tamil architecture were developed and continue to be practised in Tamil Nadu.

Language and Literature

Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu and is one of the two classical languages of India, the other being Sanskrit. Tamil is also one of the official languages of India. [ [ India at a Glance] - National Portal of India] Tamil Nadu is known for its rich tradition of literature, music and dance which continue to flourish today.

Tamil is one of the Classical Languages of India. It is a vibrant language with a long and rich literary tradition. Most of the older works are in verse form, and prose gained popularity later. All through history, Tamil literature has sought to inform and inspire, educate and entertain. Tamil poetry has universal appeal as evinced by many examples.
Tirukkural which was written nearly two millennia ago portrays a universal outlook. This is evident as the author, Thiruvalluvar, does not mention his religion, land, or the audience for his work. He is portrayed as a holy saint of Tamil Nadu today. There is an evidential history that the kings of olden days rolled out Tamil Sangam (Tamil organisation) to develop literature works in Tamil.Fact|date=November 2007 The Sangam headquartered in Madurai generated a large amount of notable literary works. The first Tamil printing press was established at Tarangambadi by the Danish missionaries.

During the Indian freedom struggle, many Tamil poets and writers provoked national spirit, social equity and secularist thoughts among the common man, notably Subramanya Bharathy. Even today, Tamil Nadu is home to creative writers like Jayakanthan, Jayamohan, Sujatha, Indira Parthasarathy.


Hindu saints of Tamil Nadu come from all castes. For example, Thiruvalluvar and Atipattar and were Harijans, Sant Tirumangai and Sant Kannappa were Adivasi, Nammalvar and Nandanar were Shudras, Viralminda and Satti were Vaish, Ramananda and Ramana Maharishi were Brahmins. Tiru Panazhwar was a member of the Panan caste that was considered an avatar from Vishnu's chest. The Alwar and Nayanar movements greatly united members of all castes to worship God together.

Tamil Nadu was the home of several Hindu movements not in the usual mainstream. These include Shankara's Advaita, Ramanuja's Vishistadvaita, Alwar Vaishnavism, Nayanar Shaivism, Several important Hindu Tamil figures became important figures for Hinduism as a whole (e.g., Shankara and Ramanuja.)

In modern times, worldwide important figures for Hinduism were Ramana Maharishi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Other saints known more locally to Hindus within India are Raghavendra Swami the Dvaita Vaishnava, Paramahamsa Sri Nithyananda or the Nithyananda Foundation, Sivananda the expert of yoga and Vedanta.

Popular forms of God include Vishnu, Shiva and Murugan (son of Shiva), although many other forms are also worshiped These other forms of God include, Rama, Krishna, Ganesh, Paravati, Surya, and others. There is even a temple dedicated to the form of Hanuman and Ganesh in one form - Adianta Prabhu [] . The government emblem of Tamil Nadu contained the popular Hindu temple of Virudhunagar.


The Kings of the olden days created sangams for Iyal Isai Nadagam (Literature, Music and Drama). Music plays a major role in sangams. Music in Tamil Nadu had different forms. In villages where farming was the primary work, the ladies who work in the fields used to sing kulavai songs. Odhuvars, Sthanikars or Kattalaiyars offer short musical programmes in the temples by singing the devotional Thevaram songs. In sharp contrast with the restrained and intellectual nature of carnatic music, Tamil folk music tends to be much more exuberant. Popular forms of Tamil folk music include the Villuppāṭṭu, a form of music performed with a bow, and the Nāṭṭuppur̲appāṭṭu, ballads that convey folklore and folk history. Some of the leading Tamil folk artists in the early 21st century are Pushpuvanam Kuppuswamy, Dr Navaneethakrishnan, Chinnaponnu, Paravai muniammal etc.

Carnatic music is the classical music of Southern India. The basic form is a monophonic song with improvised variations. There are 72 basic scales on the octave, and a rich variety of melodic motion. Both melodic and rhythmic structures are varied and compelling. This is one of the world's oldest & richest musical traditions.Fact|date=November 2007 Carnatic music abounds in structured compositions in the different ragas. These are songs composed by great artists and handed down through generations of disciples. Three saint composers of the nineteenth century, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, have composed thousands of songs that remain favourites among musicians and audiences. The composers belonging to the Tamil Trinity of Muthu Thandavar (?1560 - ?1640 CE), Arunachala Kavi (1712-1779) and Marimutthu Pillai (1717-1787) composed hundreds of devotional songs in Tamil and helped in the evolution of Carnatic music. Today, Tamil Nadu has hundreds of notable carnatic singers who spread this music all over the world. M. S. Subbulakshmi, a renowned carnatic singer, had the honour of singing a song in the UN Security Council.

In terms of modern music (light, film, pop, etc.), the music of Tamil Nadu is praised very highly. Ilaiyaraaja was the most prominent composer of film music in Tamil cinema during the late 1970s and 1980s. His work highlighted Tamil folk lyricism and introduced broader Western musical sensibilities to the South Indian musical mainstream. Tamil Nadu is also the home of A.R. Rahman who is recognised worldwide and has composed film music in both Tamil and Hindi films.

Arts and dance

Tamils have a large number of folk dances. These are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, weddings and festivals. Tamil dance is closely intertwined with the Tamil theatrical tradition. The most celebrated of these is karakattam. In its religious form, the dance is performed in front of an image of the goddess Mariamman. The dancer bears on his or her head a brass pot filled with uncooked rice, decorated with flowers and surrounded by a bamboo frame, and tumbles and leaps to the rhythm of a song without spilling a grain. Karakattam is usually performed to a special type of song known as temmanguppāṭṭu or thevar pāṭṭu, a folk song in the mode of a lover speaking to his beloved, to the accompaniment of a nadaswaram and melam. Other Tamil folk dances include mayilāṭṭam, where the dancers tie a string of peacock feathers around their waist; ōyilāttam, danced in a circle while waving small pieces of cloth of various colours; poykkāl kuthiraiyaaṭṭam, where the dancers use dummy horses; mān̲āṭṭam, where the dancers imitate the graceful leaping of deer; par̲aiyāṭṭam, a dance to the sound of rhythmical drumbeats, and thīppandāṭṭam, a dance involving playing with burning wooden torches.

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating from Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam is thought to have been created by Bharata Muni, a Hindu sage, who wrote the Natya Shastra, the most important ancient treatise on classical Indian dance. In ancient times it was performed as dasiattam by Hindu temple Devadasis. In this form, it as also been called "sadir" or "chinna melam". Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures. Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. It continues to be a popular and widely performed dance style at present times and is practised by male and female dancers all over India.
Therukoothhu (street dance) is a folk tradition of dance-drama.

Film industry

Tamil Nadu is also home to the Tamil film industry, the second largest film industry in India alongside Bollywood (Hindi films) and Tollywood (Telugu films). Chennai has often been referred to as Kollywood, a conflation of Hollywood and Kodambakkam, the section of Chennai that houses cinema-related facilities.


Tamil cuisine has one of the oldest culinary heritages in the world. Traditionally, food is served on banana leaf. Rice is the staple food of Tamils. Traditional Tamil cuisine includes Dosai, Idly, Vadai, Pongal and Uthappam. These dishes are served along with Sambar, Rasam, Kootu, Aviyal, Chatni and Poriyal. The Chettinad region is famous for its spicy non-vegetarian cuisine. The Tirunelveli region is also famous for its unique wheat halwa. The fast food culture is witnessing a steady growth in Tamil Nadu in recent years.


Pongal, also called as "Tamizhar Thirunaal" (festival of Tamils) is a four-day harvest festival is the most celebrated festival of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil language saying "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" — literally meaning, the birth of the month of Thai will pave way for new opportunities — is often quoted with reference to this festival. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials by setting them on fire to mark the end of the old and emergence of the new. The second day, Surya Pongal, is the main day which falls on the first day of the Tamil month Thai (January 14 or January 15 in western calendar). The third day, Maattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cattle, as they provide milk and are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the wild bull contest, marks the main event of this day. During this final day, Kaanum Pongal — the word "kanum", means'to view' in Tamil — youths used to gather at river banks to view and select their future life partners, but that practice has declined.

The first month in the Tamil calendar is "Thai " and the first day of this month is celebrated as "Tamil New Year", which generally falls on January 14 or 15th of the Gregorian calendar. "Aadi Perukku" is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month "Aadi", which celebrates the rising of the water level in the river Cauvery. Deepavali( Death of Narakasura) was celeberated with fire crackers.

Additional major Hindu festivals including Saraswathi Poojai (Dasara) and Vinayaka Chathurthi are celebrated widely. The Ayyavazhi Festival, Ayya Vaikunda Avataram is celebrated grandly in the southern districts, [ [ Information on declaration of holiday on the event of birth anniversary of Vaikundar in "The Hindu"] ] especially in Swamithope pathi, [ [ The Ayya Vaikunda Avatar procession from Nagercoil to Swamithoppe] ] the religious head quarters. [LMS Report of "Nagercoil Mission District" for the year 1872, page 107. ] In addition Christmas, Eid ul-Fitr, Easter and Bakrid are celebrated by Christians and Muslims in the state.

Apart from these major festivals, in every village and town of Tamil Nadu, the inhabitants celebrate festivals for the local gods once a year and the time varies from place to place. Most of these festivals are related to the goddess Maariyamman, the mother goddess of rain.


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