The Tamil people are an ethnic group from South Asia. They have a written history of more than 2,000 years. Traditionally, they have been living in the southern parts of India, and the northeastern parts of Sri Lanka.
The Tamil people number around 74 million in the world. Of that, there are about 63,000,000 in India; about 3,600,000 live in Sri Lanka; about 1,500,000 live in Malaysia; and about 250,000 live in Singapore. The remaining Tamil people live in many other places. Other peoples are related to the Tamil people by language, culture, and ancestry. Some of them are Brahui people, Kannadigas, Malayalis , Telugu people, Tuluvas, and Gonds.
Tamil people identify themselves with their language, Tamil. In recent times, they have broadened the definition of Tamil people. They now also include descendants of Tamil speaking people even when they no longer speak Tamil language.
Most of the Tamil people are Hindus. However, many are Muslims and Christians. At one time, Jainism was one of the major religions of Tamil people. However, presently there are only few thousand Tamil Jains.
In Tamil Hinduism, the most popular deity is god named Murugan. He is a form of Karthikeya, the son of Shiva. The Tamil people also worship mother goddess Amman or Mariamman. Many Tamil people also worship Kannagi, a folk heroine. Through out Tamil lands, there are many temples of Shiva, Vishnu, and Ganesha (Ganpathi). In rural areas of Tamil Nadu, people worship many local gods and goddesses. They call them aiyyanar.
There were many saints known as Alvars and Nayanars. In the 10th century, Ramanuja propagated his philosophy about worship and also accepted lower caste-Hindus as his disciples. There were many other notable Tamil saints. The Ramayana has many parts based in Tamil regions and according to legends, many of Rama's soldiers were Tamil people. The only temple dedicated to Parashurama is in Tamil Nadu.
The most important Tamil festivals are Pongal and the Tamil New Year. Pongal is a harvest festival and people celebrate this in mid-January. Tamil people also celebrate Diwali. Two other important Hindu festivals of Tamil people are Thaipusam, and Adipperukku.
Tamil people (also called Tamils or Tamilians) are a Dravidian language speaking people from the Indian subcontinent with a recorded history going back more than two millennia. The oldest Tamil communities are those of southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka. There are also a number of Tamil emigrant communities scattered around the world, especially in central Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Pakistan and Mauritius with more recent emigrants found in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe. There are an estimated 77 million Tamils around the world.
The art and architecture of the Tamil people encompass some of the greatest contributions of India to the art world. The music, the temple architecture and the stylised sculptures favoured by the Tamil people are still being learnt and practiced. The classical language of Tamil, one of the oldest languages in India, has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages.
Unlike many ethnic groups, Tamils were not governed by a single political entity during most of their history; Tamilakam, the traditional name for the Tamil lands, was politically united for only a brief period, between the 9th and 12th centuries, under the Chola Empire. The Tamil identity is primarily linguistic, although in recent times the definition has been broadened to include emigrants of Tamil descent who maintain Tamil cultural traditions, even if they no longer regularly speak the language. Tamils are ethnically, linguistically and culturally related to the other Dravidian peoples of the Indian subcontinent.
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