Tamil people (Tamil: தமிழர், tamiḻar[?]), also called Tamils or Tamilians, are a linguistic and ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. They speak Tamil (தமிழ்), with a recorded history going back two millennia. Emigrant communities are found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, and the UK. The Tamils are mostly Hindus with sizable Christian and Muslim populations.Tamil was the first Indian language to be given classical status. It has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages. The art and architecture of the Tamil people encompass some of the notable contributions of India and South-East Asia to the art world. The famous Nataraja sculpture became a universal symbol of Hinduism. The music, the temple architecture and the stylised sculptures favoured by the Tamil people in their ancient nation are still being learnt and practiced. Thus, Tamils have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilisation on Earth. The Pallava script, a variant of Southern Brahmi used by the Tamil Pallava dynasty, was the basis of several of the writing systems of Southeast Asia, including the Burmese, Khmer, Thai, Lao and Javanese scripts.Contents [hide]1Etymology2History2.1Tamils in Indi2.1.1Pre-historic period2.1.2Classical period2.1.3Imperial and post-imperial periods2.2Tamils in Sri Lanka2.2.1Pre-historic period2.2.2Historic period2.2.3Medieval period2.3Modern period3Geographic distribution3.1Indian Tamils3.2Sri Lankan Tamils3.3Tamil emigrant communities4Culture4.1Language and literature4.2Visual art and architecture4.3Performing arts4.4Religion4.5Cuisine4.6Martial arts5Institutions6See also7Notes8References8.1Population data9External links // Etymology See also: Sources of ancient Tamil history It is unknown as to whether the term Tamilar and its equivalents in Prakrit such as Damela, Dameda, Dhamila and Damila was a self designation or a term denoted by outsiders. Epigraphic evidence of an ethnic group termed as such is found in ancient Sri Lanka where a number of inscriptions have come to light datable from third to first century BCE mentioning Damela or Dameda persons. In the well-known Hathigumpha inscription of the Kalinga ruler Kharavela, refers to a Tramira samghata (Confederacy of Tamil rulers) dated to 150 BCE. It also mentions that the league of Tamil kingdoms had been in existence 113 years before then. In Amaravati in present day Andhra Pradesh there is an inscription referring to a Dhamila-vaniya (Tamil trader) datable to the third century CE. Another inscription of about the same 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 BuddhistJataka story known as Akiti Jataka there is a mention to Damila-rattha (Tamil dynasty). Hence it is clear that by at least the third century BCE, the ethnic identity of Tamils has been formed as a distinct group.Tamilar is etymologically related 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'. Zvelebil suggests an etymology of tam-iz, with tam meaning "self" or "one's self", and "-iz" having the connotation of "unfolding sound". Alternately, he suggests a derivation of tamiz < tam-iz < *tav-iz < *tak-iz, meaning in origin "the proper process (of speaking)."History See also: History of Tamil NaduTamils in IndiaPre-historic period Possible evidence indicating the earliest presence of Tamil people in modern day Tamil Nadu are the megalithic urn burials, dating from around 1500 BC and onwards, which have been discovered at various locations in Tamil Nadu, notably in Adichanallur in Tirunelveli District which conform to the descriptions of funerals in classical Tamil literature. Various legends became prevalent after the tenth century CE regarding the antiquity of the Tamil people. According to Iraiyanar Agapporul, a tenth/eleventh-century annotation on the Sangam literature, the Tamil country extended southwards beyond the natural boundaries of the Indian peninsula comprising 49 ancient nadus (divisions). The land was supposed to have been destroyed by a deluge. The Sangam legends also added to the antiquity of the Tamil people by claiming tens of thousands of years of continuous literary activity during three Sangams.Classical periodGrey pottery with engravings, Arikamedu, 1st century CE. From around the third century BC onwards, three royal dynasties—the Cholas, the Cheras and the Pandyas—rose to dominate the ancient Tamil country. Each of these dynasties had its own realm within the Tamil-speaking region. Classical literature and inscriptions also describe a number of Velirs, or minor chieftains, who collectively ruled over large parts of central Tamil Nadu. Wars between the kings and the chieftains were frequent, as were conflicts with ancient Sri Lanka. These wars appear to have been fought to assert hegemony and demand tribute, rather than to subjugate and annex those territories. The kings and chieftains were patrons of the arts, and a significant volume of literature exists from this period. The literature shows that many of the cultural practices that are considered peculiarly Tamil date back to the classical period.Agriculture was important during this period, and there is evidence that irrigation networks were built as early as 2nd century AD. Internal and external trade flourished, and evidence exists of significant contact with Ancient Rome. Large quantities of Roman coins and signs of the presence of Roman traders have been discovered at Karur and Arikamedu. There is also evidence that at least two embassies were sent to the Roman EmperorAugustus by Pandya kings.Potsherds with Tamil writing have also been found in excavations on the Red Sea, suggesting the presence of Tamil merchants there. 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, malabathrum, pearls, ivory, silk, spikenard, diamonds, sapphires, and tortoiseshell. The classical period ended around the fourth century AD with invasions by the Kalabhra, referred to as the kalappirar in Tamil literature and inscriptions. These invaders are described as evil kings and barbarians coming from lands to the north of the Tamil country. This period, commonly referred to as the Dark Age of the Tamil country, ended with the rise of the Pallava dynasty. According to Clarence Maloney, during the classical period Tamils also settled the Maldive Islands.Imperial and post-imperial periods Although the Pallava records can be traced from the second century AD, they did not rise to prominence as an imperial dynasty until the sixth century. The dynasty does not appear to have been Tamil in origin, although they rapidly adopted the local culture and the Tamil language. The Pallavas sought to model themselves after great northern dynasties such as the Mauryas and Guptas. They therefore transformed the institution of the kingship into an imperial one, and sought to bring vast amounts of territory under their direct rule. The Pallavas were followers of the Hinduism, though for a short while one of their kings embraced Jainism and later converted to Hinduism. The Bhakti movement in Hinduism was founded by Tamil saints at this time, and rose along with the growing influence of Jainism and Buddhism. The Pallavas pioneered the building of large, ornate temples in stone which formed the basis of the Dravidian temple architecture.The Varaha cave bas relief at Mahabalipuram built by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II in 7th century CE The Pallava dynasty was overthrown in the 9th century by the resurgent Cholas. The Cholas become dominant in the 10th century and established an empire covering most of southern India and Sri Lanka. The empire had strong trading links with China and Southeast Asia. The Cholas' navy conquered the South Asian kingdom of Sri Vijaya in Sumatra and continued as far as Thailand and Burma. Chola power declined in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the Pandya dynasty enjoyed a brief period of resurgence thereafter during the rule of Sundara Pandya. However, repeated Muslim invasions from the 15th century onwards placed a huge strain on the empire's resources, and the dynasty came to an end in the 16th century. The western Tamil lands became increasingly politically distinct from the rest of the Tamil lands after the Chola and Pandya empires lost control over them in the 13th century. They developed their own distinct language and literature, which increasingly grew apart from Tamil, evolving into the modern Malayalam language by the 15th century. No major empires arose thereafter, and parts of Tamil Nadu were for a while ruled by a number of different local chiefs, such as the Nayaks of the modern Maharashtra (see Serfoji II) and Andhra Pradesh regions. From the 17th century onwards, European powers began establishing settlements and trading outposts in the region. A number of battles were fought between the British, French and Danish in the 18th century, and by the end of the 18th century most of Tamil Nadu was under British rule.Tamils in Sri Lanka Main article: Sri Lankan Tamils There is little scholarly consensus over the presence of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, also known as Eelam in earlyTamil literature, 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; another theory contends that Tamil people were the original inhabitants of the island.Pre-historic period The indigenousVeddhas are physically related to Dravidian language-speaking tribal people in South India and early populations of Southeast Asia, although they no longer speak their native languages. It is believed that cultural diffusion, rather than migration of people, spread the Sinhalese and Tamil languages from peninsular India into an existing Mesolithic population, centuries before the Christian era. Settlements of people culturally similar to those of present-day Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu in modern India were excavated at megalithic burial sites at Pomparippu on the west coast and in Kathiraveli on the east coast of the island, villages established between the 5th century BC and 2nd century AD. Cultural similarities in burial practices in South India and Sri Lanka were dated by archeologists to 10th century BC. However, Indian history and archaeology have pushed the date back to 15th century BC, and in Sri Lanka, there is radiometric evidence from Anuradhapura that the non-Brahmi symbol-bearing black and red ware occur at least around 9th or 10th century BC.Historic periodInscription dated to 1100 AD left by Tamil soldiers in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka Potsherds with early Tamil writing from the 2nd century BC have been found in excavations in Poonagari, Jaffna, bearing several inscriptions including a clan name - vela, a name related to velir from ancient Tamil country. There is epigraphic evidence of people identifying themselves as Damelas or Damedas (the Prakrit word for Tamil people) in Anuradhapura, the capital city of Rajarata, and other areas of Sri Lanka as early as the 2nd century BC. Historical records establish that Tamil kingdoms in modern India were closely involved in the island's affairs from about the 2nd century BC. In Mahavamsa, a historical poem, ethnic Tamil adventurers such as Elara invaded the island around 145 BC. Tamil soldiers from what is now South India were brought to Anuradhapura between the 7th and 11th centuries AD in such large numbers that local chiefs and kings trying to establish legitimacy came to rely on them. By the 8th century AD there were Tamil villages collectively known as Demel-kaballa (Tamil allotment), Demelat-valademin (Tamil villages), and Demel-gam-bim (Tamil villages and lands).Medieval periodCoylot Wanees Contrey (Coylot Vanni country), Malabar country in the northeast of the island on a 1692 CE Dutch engraving of Robert Knox' 1682 CE map as published in his book. In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, Pandya and Chola incursions into Sri Lanka culminated in the Chola annexation of the island, which lasted until the latter half of the 11th century CE. The decline of Chola power in Sri Lanka was followed by the restoration of the Polonnaruwa monarchy in the late 11th century AD. In 1215, following Pandya invasions, the Tamil-dominant Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty established an independent Jaffna kingdom on the Jaffna peninsula and parts of northern Sri Lanka. The Arya Chakaravarthi expansion into the south was halted by Alagakkonara, a man descended from a family of merchants from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. He was the chief minister of the Sinhalese king Parakramabahu V (1344–59 AD). Vira Alakeshwara, a descendant of Alagakkonara, later became king of the Sinhalese, but he was overthrown by the Ming admiral Cheng Ho in 1409 AD. The Arya Chakaravarthi dynasty ruled over large parts of northeast Sri Lanka until the Portugueseconquest of the Jaffna Kingdom in 1619 AD. The coastal areas of the island were taken over by the Dutch and then became part of the British Empire in 1796 AD. The English sailor Robert Knox described walking into the island’s Tamil country in the publication An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, annotating some kingdoms within it on a map in 1681 CE. Upon arrival of European powers from the 17th century CE, the Tamils' separate nation was described in their areas of habitation in the northeast of the island. The caste structure of the majority Sinhalese has also accommodated Hindu immigrants from South India since the 13th century AD. This led to the emergence of three new Sinhalese caste groups: the Salagama, the Durava and the Karava. The Hindu migration and assimilation continued until the 18th century AD.Modern period British colonists consolidated the Tamil territory in southern India into the Madras Presidency, which was integrated into British India. Similarly, the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka joined with the other regions of the island in 1802 to form the Ceylon colony. They remained 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 Reorganization Act in 1956, Madras State lost its western coastal districts. The Bellary and South Kanara districts were ceded to Mysore state, and Kerala was formed from the Malabar district and the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin. In 1968, Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu. There was some initial demand for an independent Tamil state following the adoption of the federal system. However, the Indian constitution granted significant autonomy to the states, and protests by Tamils in 1963 led to the government adopting a new policy called the "three language formula". This has led to Tamils in India becoming increasingly satisfied with the federal arrangement, and there is very little support for secession or independence today. In Sri Lanka, however, the unitary arrangement led to a growing belief among some Tamils of discrimination by the Sinhalese majority. This resulted in a demand for federalism, which in the 1970s grew into a movement for an autonomous Tamil country. The situation deteriorated into civil war in the early 1980s. A ceasefire in effect since 2002 broke down in August 2006 amid shelling and bombing from both sides. Today Tamils make up 18% of Sri Lanka's population (3.8 Million).