Tamil History


Tamil Nadu (타밀 나두) literally The Land of Tamils (தமிழர்) or (Tamil Country) is one of the 29 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai (formerly known as Madras). Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry and the South Indian states of KeralaKarnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. It is bounded by the Eastern Ghats on the north, by the Nilgiri, the Anamalai Hills, and Kerala on the west, by the Bay of Bengal in the east, by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait on the southeast, and by the Indian Ocean on the south. The state shares a maritime border with the nation of Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu is the eleventh-largest state in India by area and the sixth-most populous. The state has the highest number (10.56 per cent) of business enterprises and stands second in total employment (9.97 per cent) in India, compared with the population share of about 6 per cent. Its official language is Tamil (타밀), which is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. Tamil Nadu is home to many natural resources. In addition, its people have developed and continue classical arts, classical music, and classical literature. Historic buildings and religious sites include multi-religious temples of Tamil architecturehill stations, beach resorts, multi-religious pilgrimage sites, and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Tamil (타밀),  is a  language  spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. Tamil is an official language of two countries, Singapore and Sri Lanka.  In India, outside of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Tamil is also spoken in the states of Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a secondary language, and by minorities in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India. It was declared as a classical language by the Government of India in 2004.

Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. It has been described as “the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past. “The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to it being described as “one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world”.

A recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 3000 years. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from 300 BC – AD 300. It has the oldest extant literature among other Dravidian languages. The earliest epigraphic records found on rock edicts and hero stones date from around the 3rd century BC. More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (about 55,000) found by the Archaeological Survey of India are in the Tamil language. Tamil language inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered in Sri Lanka, and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt. The two earliest manuscripts from India, acknowledged and registered by UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005, were written in Tamil. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution. The early Sangam literature, starting from the period of 2nd century BCE, contain anthologies of various poets dealing with many aspects of life, including love, war, social values and religion. This was followed by the early epics and moral literature, authored by HinduJain and Buddhist authors, lasting up to the 5th century CE. From the 6th to 12th century CE, the Tamil devotional poems written by Nayanmars (sages of Shaivism) and Azhvars (sages of Vaishnavism), heralded the great Bhakti movement which later engulfed the entire Indian subcontinent. It is during this era that some of the grandest of Tamil literary classics like Kambaramayanam and Periya Puranam were authored and many poets were patronized by the imperial Chola and Pandya empires. The later medieval period saw many assorted minor literary works and also contributions by a few Muslim and European authors. By having the most ancient non-Sanskritized Indian literature, Tamil literature is unique and thus has become the subject of study by scholars who wish to delineate the non-Aryan and pre-Aryan strands in Indian culture. The Tolkappiyam (Tamil: தொல்காப்பியம்) is a work on the grammar of the Tamil language and the earliest extant work of Tamil literature and linguistics. It is written in the form of noorpaa or short formulaic compositions and comprises three books – the Ezhuttadikaram, the Solladikaram and the Poruladikaram. Each of these books is further divided into nine chapters each. While the exact date of the work is not known, based on linguistic and other evidence, it has been dated variously between the third century BCE and the 10th century CE. Some modern scholars prefer to date it not as a single entity but in parts or layers. There is also no firm evidence to assign the authorship of this treatise to any one author. Tolkappiyam deals with orthographyphonologymorphologysemanticsprosody and the subject matter of literature. The Tolkappiyam classifies the Tamil language into sentamil and koduntamil. The former refers to the classical Tamil used almost exclusively in literary works and the latter refers to the dialectal Tamil, spoken by the people in the various regions of ancient Tamilagam. Tolkappiyam categorises alphabet into consonants and vowels by analysing the syllables. It grammatises the use of words and syntaxes and moves into higher modes of language analysis. The Tolkappiyam formulated thirty phonemes and three dependent sounds for Tamil. The Tirukkural or Thirukkural (Tamil Name: திருக்குறள்), or shortly the Kural, is a classic Tamil sangam literature consisting of 1330 couplets or kurals, dealing with the everyday virtues of an individual. Considered one of the greatest works ever written on ethics and morality, it is known for its universality and non-denominational nature. It was authored by Thiruvalluvar.


Considered as chef d’oeuvre of both Indian and world literature, the Tirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by, such as Tamiḻ maṟai (Tamil veda), Poyyamoḻi (words that never fail), and Deiva nūl (divine text).Translated to about 80 global languages, Tirukkural is the most widely translated non-religious work in the world. The work is dated to sometime between the third and first centuries BCE and is considered to precede Manimekalai and Silappatikaram, since they both acknowledge the Kural text. Tirukkural was originally known as ‘Muppaal’, meaning three-sectioned book, since it contained three sections, viz., ‘Aram’, ‘Porul’ and ‘Inbam’. Thiru is a term denoting divine respect, literally meaning holy or sacred. Kural is a very short Tamil poetic form consisting of two lines, the first line consisting of four words (known as cirs) and the second line consisting of three, which should also conform to the grammar of Venpa, and is one of the most important forms of classical Tamil language poetry. Since the work was written in this poetic form, it came to be known as ‘Tirukkural’, meaning ‘sacred couplets’. The Tirukkural is structured into 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets (or kurals), for a total of 1330 couplets. The 133 chapters are grouped into three sections:

  • Aram(Tamil: அறத்துப்பால், Arattuppal ) (Dharma) dealing with virtue (Chapters 1-38)
  • Poruḷ(Tamil: பொருட்பால், Poruṭpal ) (Artha) dealing with wealth or polity (Chapters 39-108)
  • Inbam(Tamil: காமத்துப்பால், Kamattuppal ) (Kama) dealing with love (Chapters 109-133)

Each kural or couplet contains exactly seven words, known as cirs, with four cirs on the first line and three on the second. A cir is a single or a combination of more than one Tamil word. For example, Thirukkural is a cir formed by combining the two words thiru and kuṛaḷ. The section Aram contains 380 verses, Porul has 700 and Inbam has 250.

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