Tamil Nadu Culture: Exploring the Rich Tradition, Art, Music, Food and Festivals

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Tamil-Nadu-Culture
Image – Nithi Anand via Flickr

Situated in the southern most state of India, Tamil Nadu shares its borders with the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. A land of exhilarating and breathtaking beauty, Tamil Nadu has a distinct place in India. The state is home to a rich and vibrant culture, and is frequently visited by history enthusiasts from all parts of the world. The people of the state give immense importance to their culture and traditions, and this is evident from their daily life.

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Photo by Abhishek Koli on Unsplash

Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India, is a marvel in itself, the fascinating and mesmerizing beauty of the place is beyond description, and is also one of the places frequented by tourists. Tamil Nadu is heir to an ancient history spanning two thousand years. Throughout its history, the state has been under the rule of different dynasties, such as the Pallava Dynasty, The Pandya Dynasty, the Chola Dynasty, and the Chera Dynasty. The state’s vast and rich heritage can be observed in the historically relevant and culturally rich monuments that adorn the state.

Language in Tamil Nadu

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Ancient Tamil Script – Symphoney Symphoney via Flickr

Majority of people in Tamil Nadu speak Tamil, and hence it is also the official language of the state. A part of the Dravidian language family, Tamil has speakers around the world. It is also the official language of Srilanka and Singapore and is also spoken in considerable numbers in the countries of South Africa, Mauritius, Malaysia, and Fiji. Recognized as a classical language of India due to its independent tradition, significant ancient literature, and ancient origins, the language is also recognized as one among the 22 languages which are included in the Indian Constitution. As the oldest and the longest surviving classical languages prevalent in the world today, the language is also heir to a fascinating collection of ancient literature. 

Tamil Nadu Food Culture

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Tamilian Food – KrishpriyaK via Wikimedia

South Indian food is quite popular for its remarkable delicacy and the unique blend of spices. The Tamil Nadu cuisine too is no exception and offers a wide range of dishes to choose from. Rice is the staple food of the Tamilians and includes a variety of the same. From the ordinary plain rice to the different rice varieties such as lemon rice, Thakkali Soru (Tomato rice), Thengai Soru (Coconut rice), Paruppu Soru (Lentil rice) is prepared in the state. Sambar, Rasam, Coconut Chutney are among the most popular side dishes in the state. Breakfast usually includes Dosa, which too has several varieties or idli along with coconut chutney or sambar. Uttapam, a dish identical to the Dosa but with tomatoes and other spices, is also a common breakfast dish in the state.

On special occasions, the people of Tamil Nadu prefer to have food in a banana leaf. Other dishes include Poriyal, Puliyodharai, Medhu Vadai, paniyaram among others. For those with a sweet tooth, Tamil Nadu is also home to some a variety of sweet dishes and desserts such as the Arisi thengai payasam, Pasiparuppu Payasam, among others. The state also has some awesome snacks such as the Murukku and Seedai, among others.

Traditional Dress of Tamil Nadu

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Tamilian Wedding – FrogStarB via Flickr

For the people of Tamil Nadu, their attire is an integral part of their culture and represents their rich tradition. Women usually dress in sarees, which are known for their elaborate but elegant designs and vibrant colours. The Kanjeevaram saree is the most popular kind of saree in the state and is widely worn by the women of the state, mostly during special occasions. Young girls usually wear the half_saree which comprises a blouse, a full-length skirt and a shawl known as Davani, Tamil Men wear lungi and a shirt along with an Angavastra. Angavastra is an important part of the costume of men. The traditional dresses are usually worn along with traditional accessories, such as Chains, Oddiyanam, and payals made of gold. They also adore their hair with flowers in a particular fashion called gajras.

Cultural Festivals of Tamil Nadu

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JallikattuAshit Desai via Flickr

The cultural festivals of any state are instrumental in highlighting and celebrating the culture of the state. As a land with a rich culture, Tamil Nadu is also home to several cultural festivals, which portray the state’s rich and diverse culture.

Pongal is perhaps the most significant and popular cultural festival of the state. The festival takes place in January and is celebrated as an expression of gratitude for the Harvest, and hence is also the Harvest festival of the state. The festival takes place in a span of 4 days, and each day has its own significance. The first day is called Bhoji Pongal, and is seen as a new beginning; all the houses in the state are decorated on this day. The second day is known as Surya Pongal; on this day people wear traditional clothes. The third day of the festival is known as Mattu Pongal during this time the famous Jallikattu event happens, and the last day is Kannum Pongal, which marks the end of the celebrations.

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Natyanjali festival in Chidambaram – Arunan kapilan via Wikimedia

The Tamil New year, also known as Puthandu, is another immensely popular festival of the state. This day marks a new beginning filled with hope and joy for the people of the state. On this day, beautiful kolams are drawn with the use of vibrant colours. People adorn themselves with new clothes and prepare special dishes for the day. 

The Natyanjali Dance Festival held in Tamil Nadu has admirers from around the country. The festival gathers around close to four hundred dancers from around the country to bring together the unique and varied forms of art, such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, among others. Other popular cultural festivals include Karthigai Deepam, Thiruvaiyaru Festival, among others. 

Music and dance of Tamil Nadu

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Carnatic SingerPrabhu B Doss via Flickr

Carnatic Music is the most significant part of the Music of Tamil Nadu. It is considered the Classical Music of Southern India and is said to be one of the oldest systems of Music prevalent in the world. Carnatic Music is not unknown and is beloved to music lovers from all around the world. Apart from Carnatic Music, the state also abounds in folk music and is home to some of the renowned singers of all time.  

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BharatanatyamC Fotografia via Flickr

Apart from the Music, the state is also home to some of the elegant and mesmerizing dance forms prevalent in the world today. Bharatanatyam is perhaps the most popular dance form in Tamil Nadu and has gained admirers from around the world. Considered to be one of India’s Oldest dance forms, Bharatanatyam is said to be the precursor of all other styles of classical dances. The costume worn by the performers is both exhilarating and vibrant, this along with the ornaments, makes the dance more beautiful. Other dances in the state include Karagattam, Devarayattam among others.

Arts And Crafts of Tamil Nadu

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Image – McKay Savage via Flickr

Art is an inevitable part of Tamil Nadu’s culture. From the Kolam that is drawn at the entrance of each home at sunrise to the exhilarating Tanjore paintings, the state is indeed a great spot for art enthusiasts from every corner of the world. For the women of the household, their day begins with the making of a Kolam at the entrance of their homes; with an intricate but beautiful design. The Tanjore paintings and Tanjore Dolls are quite famous as they are embellished by the use of gold. 

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Tanjore doll – Srikaanth Sekar via Flickr

Apart from the paintings, the state is also known for its pottery, musical instruments, and amazing crafted jewellery. Pottery is an ancient practice that is well preserved in the state. The state is also known for its production of enchanting silk sarees, created through the traditional methods, and is in massive demand throughout the country.  

Literature of Tamil Nadu

Literature of Tamil Nadu
Poet Thiruvalluvar – Themozhi via Flickr

Tamil is one of the oldest languages prevalent in the world today and is hence a proud heir to a rich ancient literature. In fact, Tamil has the oldest literature prevalent in India today. The literature spans from the 4th century with the Chilappatikaran and the Thirukkural, to modern literature. Tamil literature has a soul of its own and is quite different from that of others. The cultural richness and the varied heritage of the state are well represented in Tamil Literature. Tamil literature also has to its credit many literary gems, who continue to be loved and acclaimed by many.

Heritage and Architecture of Tamil Nadu

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Brihadishwara Temple – Jean-Pierre via Wikimedia

The state’s heritage can be witnessed in the architectural brilliance and the historical significance by observing the temples built here. Almost all the dynasties that ruled the state valued and promoted art and architecture, which led to the building of countless temples in the state, representing the distinct features of the period when it was built. These temples were built here by the rulers of various dynasties and accurately represent the Dravidian culture and art. In the Chola dynasty, the architecture of the state underwent a significant evolution. The rulers of the dynasty built several temples, such as the Brihadisvara Temple, Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, among others.

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Chettinad Palace – Natesh Ramasamy via Flickr

The Brihadesvara temple, situated in Thanjavur, is one of the largest temples in Southern India. UNESCO has termed the group of temples, built during the Chola dynasty in Tamil Nadu under the title of “Great Living Chola Temples, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram together comprise the “Great Living Chola Temples”. Apart from them, the other monuments that portray the rich heritage and architecture of the state include the Valluvar Kottam, dedicated to the poet Valluvar, and Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, among others. Chettinad Palace is a great example for the tasteful architucture that Chettiars incorporated in their lifestyles.

Occupation of Tamil Nadu

Occupation of Tamil Nadu
Image – Nithi Anand via Flickr

The majority of the people of Tamil Nadu engage in agriculture, and it is, in fact, the backbone of the state. A variety of crops are cultivated, including millets, pulses, paddy, and even commercial crops such as sugarcane, sunflower, cotton, and coconut, among others. Apart from agriculture, the people of Tamil Nadu also engage in a variety of other professions too. 

Tamil Nadu is a land of enchanting beauty, a vibrant culture and a grand tradition. Through its fascinating heritage and historical significance, the state has managed to capture the attention of the world.

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