Total population
c. 76 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 India 60,793,814 (2001)[2]
 Sri Lanka 3,135,770 (2012)[3]
 Malaysia 1,800,000[1]
 Singapore 188,591 (2010)[4]
for others see Tamil diaspora
Tamil Om.svg Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Other Dravidian people
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Tamil distribution.png

The Tamil people (Tamilதமிழர், tamiẓar (singular) ? [t̪ɐmɪɻɐɾ], or Tamilதமிழர்கள், tamiẓarkaḷ (plural) ? [t̪ɐmɪɻɐɾxɐɭ]), also known as Tamilar, Tamilans,[6][7][8] or simply Tamils, are a Dravidian ethnic group who speak Tamil as their mother tongue and trace their ancestry to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union territory of Puducherry, or the Northern, Eastern Province and Puttalam District[9] of Sri Lanka.[10] Tamil people with a population of approximately 76 million living around the world are one of the largest and oldest of the existing ethno-linguistic cultural groups of people in the modern world.[11] Tamils comprise 24.87%[note 1] of the population in Sri Lanka, 10.83% in Mauritius, 5.91% in India, 5% in Singapore and approximately 7% in Malaysia.

From the 5th century BCE onwards, urbanisation and mercantile activity along the western and eastern coasts of what is today Kerala and Tamil Nadu led to the development of four large Tamil political states, Chera dynasty, Chola dynasty, Pandyan Dynasty and Pallava dynasty and a number of smaller states warring amongst themselves for dominance.

Between the 4th century BCE and the 3rd century CE, Tamil people produced native literature that came to be called Sangam literature. Among languages spoken today, the Tamil language is one of the oldest written languages.[18]

Tamils were noted for their martial, religious and mercantile activities beyond their native borders. Pandyas and Cholas were historically active in Sri Lanka. The Chola dynasty successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Indonesia.[19] Medieval Tamil guilds and trading organizations like the "Ayyavole and Manigramam" played an important role in the Southeast Asia trade.[20] Pallava traders and religious leaders travelled to Southeast Asia and played an important role in the cultural Indianisation of the region. Locally developed scripts such as Grantha and Pallava script induced the development of many native scripts such as Khmer, Javanese Kawi script, Baybayin and Thai.

Tamil visual art is dominated by stylised Temple architecture in major centres and the productions of images of deities in stone and bronze. Chola bronzes, especially the Nataraja sculpture of the Chola period, have become notable as a symbol of Hinduism. Tamil performing arts are divided into popular and classical. Classical form is Bharatanatyam, whereas the popular forms are known as Koothu and performed in village temples and on street corners. Tamil cinema, known as Kollywood, is an important part of the Indian cinema industry. Music too is divided into classical Carnatic form and many popular genres.

Although most Tamils are Hindus, many practice what is considered to be folk Hinduism, venerating a plethora of village deities. A sizeable number are Muslims and Christians. A small Jain community survives from the classical period as well. Tamil cuisine is informed by varied vegetarian and non-vegetarian items usually spiced with locally available spices. The music, the temple architecture and the stylised sculptures favoured by the Tamil people as in their ancient nation are still being learnt and practised. English historian and broadcaster Michael Wood called the Tamils the last surviving classical civilisation on Earth, because the Tamil mainstream preserved substantial elements of their past regarding belief, culture, music and literature despite the modern globalised world.[21][22]

  1. ^ a b Tamil at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ "Scheduled Languages in descending order of speaker's strength - 2001". Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Census of Population and Housing of Sri Lanka, 2012 - Table A3: Population by district, ethnic group and sex" (PDF). Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka. 
  4. ^ "Basic Demographic Characteristics: Table 6 Indian Resident Population by Age Group, Dialect Group and Sex". Census of Population 2010 Statistical Release 1: Demographic Characteristics, Education, Language and Religion. Department of Statistics, Singapore. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Kshatriya, G.K. (1995), "Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations", Human Biology, 67 (6): 843–66, PMID 8543296 
  6. ^ All Tamilans were declared enemies like the Kurds in today's Turkey. Sezgin Tanrıkulu"CHP deputy chairman: Gov't employing 'Sri Lanka model' in Southeast with curfews". www.todayszaman.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Tamilans living in Jaipur remained anxious as their homeland witnessed heavy rain causing major floods."Control room will be set up to help kin of TN flood victims". www.indiatimes.com. 
  8. ^ Tamil people (also called Tamils, Tamilans or Tamilians), are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India and the northeastern region of Sri Lanka."World Tamil Economic Conference and Tamil Diaspora Meet in Chennai", www.nritoday.net, archived from the original on 10 March 2016 
  9. ^ Manual of the Puttalam District of the North-Western Province of Ceylon (1908), Frank Modder, p.55.
  10. ^ Minahan, James (2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-659-1. 
  11. ^ N. Subrahmanian (1996). The Tamils: Their History, Culture, and Civilization. 36. Institute of Asian studies. pp. 150–158. 
  12. ^ "A2 : Population by ethnic group according to districts, 2012". Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. 
  13. ^ Mohan, Vasundhara (1987). Identity Crisis of Sri Lankan Muslims. Delhi: Mittal Publications. pp. 9–14,27–30,67–74,113–118. 
  14. ^ "Ross Brann, "The Moors?"" (PDF). Drum.lib.umd.edu. Retrieved 15 December 2017. 
  15. ^ "Analysis: Tamil-Muslim divide". BBC News World Edition. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  16. ^ Zemzem, Akbar (1970). The Life and Times of Marhoom Wappichi Marikar (booklet). Colombo. 
  17. ^ Pieris, P.E. "Ceylon and the Hollanders 1658–1796". American Ceylon Mission Press, Tellippalai Ceylon 1918
  18. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Sasay to Zorgot by Mohan Lal p.4284
  19. ^ Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia by Hermann Kulke, K Kesavapany, Vijay Sakhuja p.79
  20. ^ The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000–1400 by Angela Schottenhammer p.293
  21. ^ "Michael Wood, BBC". Bbc.co.uk. 5 November 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  22. ^ Wood, Michael (2007-08-02). A South Indian Journey: The Smile of Murugan. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0-14-193527-0. 

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