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Vanakkam / Nal Varavu - www.tamilar.org - The Portal for more than Seventy Million Tamil People
Introduction

The Tamilars can be defined as people, having Tamil as their mother tongue. Tamil language is a member of the Dravidian/ South Indian family of languages. The four southernmost states of India- tamiz Nadu, kERaLa, karNAdaka, and Andra Pradesh- are predominantly linguistically Dravidian, each state carved out on the basis of predominance of the four major Dravidian languages. The Dravidian languages are mother tongues of about a quarter of the Indian population. Though about 80% of the speakers are found within the borders of these four South Indian states, a number of Dravidian languages have been identified in other parts of South Asia. Among the tribal languages of Central India, almost extending to the borders of Bengal, distinct from the Austro-Asiatic family of languages, many Dravidian languages have been identified. The northern reaches of this family have been located in isolated settlements in Nepal and Pakistan. The Brahui speakers are found in the hills of Baluchistan, almost on the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. So, the Dravidian family of languages is a South Asian family of languages in one sense. About 22 languages are classified as belonging to the Dravidian family and on linguisic criteria, sub-division as North, Central and South Dravidian are made. Tamilars alone number about 70 million people. South India and Sri Lanka have been homelands of the Tamilars, from the beginning of recorded history. The region, roughly covered by the modern states of tamiz NAdu and Kerala are identified as ancient tamizakam up to about 10th century AD. Even though some evidence exists for Tamil influence , and Tamil presence in Sri Lanka is noticeable from very early times, strong Tamil presence and influence in Sri Lanka, from about the 10th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Tamilars migrated to some British colonies in search of employment and thus there are substantial Tamil populations in Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Fiji and South Africa. After the World War II, a movement of Tamil professionals to UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand is proceeding continuously. Due to the recent civil war type situation in Sri Lanka, many thousands of Tamilars in about 20 countries, with large numbers in Canada, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Within the Nordic countries, Norway and Denmark have more Tamilars than weden.

The history of the Tamil (Language) and Tamilar (People who speaks Tamil) start well before 2000 Years. There are epigraphical evidences to these assertions. The history has also been documented in the works and poems of Tamil writers, not necessarily in any structured continuity. In the same time era when the North was dominated by the Mauryan and Gupta empires, and other medieval dynasties, the deep souths history was being carved by the Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava dynasties. The Pandyas and the Cheras dominating from pre christian era to about the 3rd century CE, the Pallavas from the 5th to the 8th and the Cholas between 9th and 12th century. The grandest of them all was the Chola kingdom, reaching their zenith in the 10th Century, with perhaps the first Naval fleet of any Indian king.

The Tamil kingdoms were a product of their times and was warring in nature. Yet they were great patrons of fine art and culture. Music and Dance flourished even during early Tamil Kings of the Sangam period. 'silapadikAram', written by the prince poet Ilango, in a narrower perspective, can potentially serve as an encyclopedia of then existing system of music built on 'pann' (loosely equivalent to Ragas ??), various dance forms and plethora of musical instruments. The roots of todays 'Carnatic music' and 'bharatha Natyam' can be traced to these beginnings as expounded in this great Tamil epic 'silapadikAram'. The Temple gopurams all over Tamil Nadu and the stone edifices that challenge the shores at Mamallapuram, are standing testimony to the Tamils mastery of fine artistic sculptures. The bronze works that were produced by the Cholas are national treasures now and coveted with intensity by international art community. Yet the biggest contribution of Tamil Culture, to the colorful diverse Indian heritage, is the rich linguistic traditions of the Tamil language.

Tamil is the language spoken by the people of Tamil Nadu. It is a member of the Dravidian family of languages. According to legends, Tamil is about ten thousand years old, and is connected with prehistoric ancient civilizations.

If culture is the distilled essence of the way of life of a people, then, in the case of the Tamil people, the distillation process has covered a time span of more than ten thousand years. And, today, the Tamil people, living in many lands and across distant seas acquire strength from the richness of their own cultural heritage - not only because that that culture has something to do with their own roots and their way of life but also because they believe that that culture has a significant contribution to make to the world.

The external manifestations of Tamil culture may be found in the songs and dances, in the cuisine and dress forms, in the customs and rituals of the Tamil people. But, as always, the external and the internal go together.

Tamil literature is classified by its form. It consists of Urainadai - text, and Cheaiyul - poem. The earliest literature that we have in Tamil, was itself classified into two main groups: 'internal' (agham) and 'external' (puram). Aghananoru and Purananoru are poetical verses, that explain the lifestyle of people. Tamil literature is vast, and there exits numerous literary works. Agathiyar, Tholkapiyar are renowned for formulating the Tamil grammar.

The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world's cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece:

Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar has 1331 couplets, under 133 sections, that explain the code of ethics. Each and every couplet is of Seven Words only. It is knows for its short and sweet form of literature. This literary work has been translated in many foreign languages.

Silapathigaram, the story of Kannagi who burnt Madurai; Manimegalai, a saint who worked for the cause of society, are some of the famous literary works.

Bharathiar, a renowned freedom fighter is a Tamil poet, who has written numerous poems.

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