Culture of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of venerable culture. The state abounds in monuments and temples that are ancient and each has its own story of religious, artistic and cultural accomplishment and specialty waiting to be heard. Tamil Nadu is well known for its rich tradition of literature, music and dance which continue to flourish today. Unique cultural features like Bharatanatyam (dance), Tanjore painting, and Tamil architecture were developed and continue to be practised in Tamil Nadu.
Languages and Literature
Tamil is the only official language of Tamil Nadu. English is also in common usage as an official language of India. When India adopted national standards Tamil was the very first language to be recognized as a classical language of India. The Tamil people regard their language a very important part of their cultural identity. Most early Tamil literary works are in verse form, with prose not becoming more common until later periods. Throughout its history, Tamil literature has sought to inform and inspire, educate and entertain.
Tamil poetry has universal appeal as evidenced by many examples. Tirukkural, which was written nearly two millennia ago portrays a universal outlook. This is evident as the author, Tiruvalluvar, does not mention his religion, land, or the audience for his work. He is often portrayed as a holy saint of Tamil Nadu today. Ancient Tamil literature is predominantly secular and deals with everyday life in the Tamil Context. The first Tamil printing press was established at Tarangambadi by the Danish missionaries. During the Indian freedom struggle, many Tamil poets and writers sought to provoke national spirit, social equity and secularist thoughts among the common man, notably Subramanya Bharathy and Bharathidasan. Even today, Tamil Nadu is home to creative writers like Vairamuthu, Jayakanthan,and Indira Parthasarathy.
About 88% of the population identifies as Hindu and Tamil Nadu is the home of the core schools of medieval and modern Hinduism as well as several non-mainstream Hindu movements. These include Advaita Vedanta, Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita, Alvars’ Sri Vaishnavism, and Nayanmars Shaivism. Several important Hindu Tamil figures became important figures for Hinduism as a whole (e.g.Ramanuja.) In modern times, well known figures for Hinduism in the state include Ramana Maharishi and the Kanchi Paramacharya. Murugan, Thirumal (Vishnu), Sivan, Sakthi in various forms and a large number of village deities are also worshiped by Hindus in Tamil Nadu. The emblem of Government of Tamil Nadu depicts the Gopuram (Entrance Arch) of the temple at Srivilliputhur. Christians and Muslims together form over 11% of the population
Tamil cuisine is basically South Indian cuisine, where Rice and rice-derived dishes form the major portion of a diet. There are regional sub-varieties namely Chettinadu, Kongunadu, Madurai, Tirunelveli varieties etc. Traditionally, food is served on a banana leaf instead of a plate and eaten with the right hand. Rice is the staple food of Tamils and is typically eaten mixed with Sambhar (with or without Ghee), vegetarian or non-vegetarian Kulambu, Rasam, Curd and Buttermilk. This is accompanied with various vegetarian and/or non-vegetarian dishes like Kootu, Aviyal, Poriyal, Appalam, Varuval, Peratal, Kothsu, varieties of Pickles and Chicken / Mutton / Fish fry. Breakfast and snack items include Dosai, Adai, Idly, Vadai, Pongal, Appam(Aappam), Paniyaram, Puttu(Pittu), Uppumavu(Uppuma), Santhakai(Noodles), Idiyappam and Uthappam. These items are eaten along with Sambar, varieties of Chatni and Podi . Traditionally prepared Filter Coffee is unique in taste and popular all over the state.
The Kings of ancient Thamizhagam created sangams for Iyal Isai Nadagam (Literature, Music and Drama). Music played a major role in sangams. Music in Tamil Nadu had different forms. In villages where farming was the primary occupation, 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. Carnatic music is the classical music form of Southern India. This is one of the world’s oldest and richest musical traditions. The Trinity of Carnatic music Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri were from Tamil Nadu.
In terms of modern cine-music, 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 the double Oscar Winner A.R. Rahman who has composed film music in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi films, English and Chinese films, was once referred to by Time magazine as “The Mozart of Madras”.
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.
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 in Hindu temples by 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 dance style at present times and is practised by male and female dancers all over India. Terukkuttu or Kattaikkuttu is a traditional form of Tamil street theatre folk dance/drama.