Tamil Nadu – Culture and Tradition

Tamil Nadu – Culture and Tradition

Tamil Nadu literally means land of the Tamils and was formerly called Madras State and is the southernmost state of India. Chennai is the capital of the state which was earlier known as Madras. Tamil Nadu comes in South India and on its border, there is Puducherry Union Territory.

The state is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Indian Ocean in the south and the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the west, northwest, and north respectively. The southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu is Cape Comorin or Kanyakumari and the long eastern coast is encircled by the Bay of Bengal.

Tamil Nadu is the sixth most populous state in India, it is known for classical music and Bharat Natyam which marks the culture of India.  Tamil Nadu is said to be the land of temples because it has the most prestigious temple in India.

Kumbeswarar temple
Kumbeswarar Temple, Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu


The ancient history of Tamil Nadu dates back to some 6000 years. The four ancient Tamil empires were Chera, Chola, Pandya, and Pallavas ruled the area.

The early Cholas reigned between 1st and 4th century AD. The first and most famous king of this period was Karikalan. They occupied the present Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli Districts and excelled in military exploits. During the later half of 4th century AD, Pallavas the great temple builders emerged into prominence dominated the south for another 400 years. They ruled a large portion of Tamil Nadu with Kanchipuram as their base. In the 6th century, they defeated the Cholas and reigned as far as Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Among the greatest Pallava rulers were Mahendravarman-l and his son Narasimhavarman. Dravidian architecture reached its epitome during Pallava rule. The last Pallava King was Aparajitha. He was defeated by Aditya Chola towards the end of the 9th century AD.

The Cholas again rose to power by 9th century AD. The Chola empire stretched as far as central India, Orissa, and parts of West Bengal. Rajaraja Chola conquered the eastern Chalukya kingdom, defeated the Cheras, annexed parts of Ceylon by defeating the Pandyas. Rajendra Chola went beyond and occupied the islands of Andaman Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Sumatra, Java, Malaya and the islands of Pegu with his fleet of ships. He defeated Mahipala the king of Bihar and Bengal and to commemorate his victory he built a new capital called ‘Gangaikonda Cholapuram’. The power of the Cholas declined around the 13th century.

With the decline of the Cholas, the Pandyas rose to prominence once again in the early 14th century. The last Pallava ruler was Aparajita, in whose reign the later Cholas under Vijayalaya and Aditya asserted themselves by about the 10th century. At the end of the 11th century, Tamil Nadu was ruled by several dynasties like the Chalukyas, Cholas, and Pandyas. In the two centuries that followed, the imperial Cholas gained paramountcy over South India.

But it was short-lived when they were subdued by the Khilji invaders from the North in 1316. The city of Madurai completely destroyed and ransacked. The Muslim invasion weakened both the Cholas and Pandyas and led to the establishment of the Bahmani Kingdom. The Muslim invasion of the South in the 14th century caused a retaliatory reaction from the Hindus, who rallied to build a strong new kingdom, called the Vijayanagara empire. It absorbed all strongholds of Cholas and other local Hindu rulers to check the Muslims.

But by 1564 the Vijayanagara empire came to an end at the hands of Deccan Sultans in the battle of Talikota. After the Battle of Talikota, Europe’s people also started showing interest in the rule of southern India, due to which they also became enemies of Maharaja of the local state. Shortly after this, Portuguese, French, and English came here and opened their own trade centers in the name of the factory.

In 1611, East India Company established the first factory in Masulipatnam of Andhra Pradesh and gradually incited the local rulers here against each other and made them an enemy who fought among themselves. The name of Tamil Nadu is included in the first place where the British started its business in India.

This state was first called by the Madras Presidency in the year 1901. But later the entire Madras province was made Tamil Nadu. When India became independent in 1947, Madras Presidency became Madras State, comprising Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, northern Kerala, and the southwest coast of Karnataka.

In 1953 Madras State was bifurcated into two states: Andhra Pradesh, comprising the northern Telugu speaking areas, and Madras State, comprising the southern Tamil-speaking areas. In 1968, Madras State adopted a new name – Tamil Nadu. The capital city Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996.


Tamil Nadu

The people of Tamil Nadu live a great, comfortable lifestyle and their art and culture are deeply embedded into it. People of Tamil Nadu understand the ethnicity of their culture and abide by the rituals and traditions of their community.

Carnatic Music
Carnatic Music

Tamil people are very interested in music, dance, and literature. For centuries here Bharatnatyam and many types of music, including Carnatic music, have flourished. Tamil Nadu has a long history of its literature, art, music, and dance and is an emerging hub of technology and modern lifestyle in India and is one of the top-performing states with the Literacy rate in India.

Hinduism is the most dominant religion with over 88% of the total population being Hindus. Christians and Muslims together form the rest proportion of the population of the state. Tamil Nadu is most famous for the ancient Hindu temples of here and the Bharatnatyam dance. Bharatnatyam, Thanjor painting and Tamil architecture have developed very much and today even the people here work to keep this culture alive.

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Tamil is the official language of the state. Not only in Tamil Nadu the language is also spoken by many in Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. English and Hindi are also widely spoken in Tamil Nadu. Tamil has been declared as the first Classical language of India in the year 2004.


Tamil nadu cuisines
Tamil Nadu cuisines Source: Twitter

Tamil Nadu cuisines are a perfect blend of sweet, spicy, sour and tangy flavors. Its iconic cuisine is South Indian staples like idli sambar, masala dosa with perfectly poured coffee.

Rice is the staple food of Tamil Nadu and food made from rice and lentils like Idli, Dosa, and Uthappam with sambhar are popularly served on a banana leaf and are eaten by the right hand. Special spices are blended and are used in cooking, tamarind is also used commonly as a souring agent. Use of curry leaves, mustard seeds, coconut with various spices add a distinct aroma to the food.

Idly, vadai, dosai, pongal, aappam, paniyaram are consumed on daily basis, while a mega meal has Poriyal, Curry, Varuval, Pachadi, Payasam, Rasam, Sambar, Thokku, Vadai, Appam, Rice, Kuzambu along with a few sweets, buttermilk, and fruit. Payasam is usually eaten as a dessert to finish the meal. Coffee is their popular beverage served in a unique coffee cup.

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Tamil naidu
Source: Pinterest

Women of Tamil Nadu wear saree and their design and pattern vary with the community. Kanchipuram Saree is very popular and is usually worn during festivals. Young girls usually wear half saree with a blouse or a long skirt with dupatta and blouse. Nowadays girls prefer to wear salwar kameez and western wear too.

Men of Tamil Nadu usually wear Shirts with Lungi and Angavastra. Lungi is a cotton cloth tied across the waist and Angavastra is a cloth carried around the shoulder.

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Tamil Nadu Wedding Tradition

Tamil Wedding Traditions

Tamil weddings are simple yet beautiful, they give a lot of importance to traditions and Vedas. Tamil Wedding like another weddings in India starts a few days earlier with many rituals like Tamil pre-wedding functions like the Naandi or the Jaanavaasam and sangeet a day before the wedding.

The main elements of the wedding are the Vedic wedding ceremony which lasts for one hour, Tamil folk customs include Kasi Yatra, Maalai Maattral, and Oonjal. After the main Vedic ceremony Maangalyam they have Nalangu which are newlywed games.


Pongal in Tamil Nadu

Pongal also is known as Tamizar Thirunal or Makar Sankranti is the harvest festival celebrated in the state in January and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. This is a four-day festival celebrated after harvesting from the fields. The first day of this festival is called Bhogi Pongal. On this day, old clothes and objects are thrown and burned in the fire. This indicates that old times were spent and the new year’s arrival.

The second day is the first day of the tenth month of the Tamil people called Sun Pongal. Mattoo Pongal is celebrated on the third day and this day is celebrated to give thanks to animals who give us milk and help us in farming. On this day Jallikattu-Bullfight is also organized.

Aadiperukku is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Aadi and marks the beginning of monsoon in Tamil Nadu. This festival is celebrated to show our gratitude to nature as the water level of the Cauvery river increases due to monsoon.


There are other festivals too that are celebrated from time to time like Puthandu, the Tamil New year that falls in mid-April, Natyanjali Dance Festival, Thaipusam is celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar.

Mahamaham Festival is celebrated once in 12 years, Thiruvaiyaru Festival is a music festival held in the month of January. Karthigai Deepam is the festival of lights that falls in the month of Karthigai ( November to mid-December). Thiruvalluvar Day is also celebrated in Tamil Nadu, in memory of Saint Thiruvalluvar

Saraswati Puja, Deepavali, Navratri, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Good Friday, and Janmashtami are too celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Dance and Music

Bharatnatyam dress

Dance and Dramas of Tamil Nadu are religious in character. Ananda Tandavam was believed to be of Lord Shiva and can be seen in the Nataraja image.

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance that originated in Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam is considered a dance by Bharata Muni in ancient times. It may be the oldest classical dance tradition in India and serves the expression of Hindu religious themes and devotion. It is depicted by bent legs while the feet keep the rhythm, while mudras and symbolic hand movement tell a story. Music too was prominent in Sangam Era and was part of people living in Tamil Nadu. Carnatic Music is the classical music of Tamils.

Art and Crafts

Tamil Nadu has a rich tradition of folk arts and crafts that have been handed down from generations. The state produces soft muslin, fine silk, elaborate ivory work, and precious gems like tortoise shells, diamonds, pearls, and rubies.

Many items typically found in Hindu Temples such as wooden, silver and golden chariots, wooden ornamental doors, kavachams, vahanams, bells, idols, Dwajasthambams, silver sheeting work, gold cladding work on copper sheeting work, gold/silver kavasams for deities can be found here. You can find Tanjore paintings, stone carvings, wood crafts and sculptures, stone-encrusted jewelry and traditional pottery.


Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal at Madurai
Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal at Madurai

Tamil Nadu is a unique state in several aspects and more especially from the tourism point of view. Tamil Nadu has to offer something for all types of tourists viz. literate, illiterate, haves and havenots.

Home to several ancient monuments and temples, a destination in Tamil Nadu are very popular among tourists from all over the world. Due to the abundance of natural beauty, Tamil Nadu is the favorite place for tourists. Beautiful beaches, majestic temples, many historical monuments, breathtaking waterfalls, and panoramic views and they all make Tamil Nadu the ideal place for tourism. Tamil Nadu contains various hill stations called Ooty, Kodaikanal, kothagiri and Yercaud. Marina Beach is a natural urban beach in Chennai, which is the longest beach in India and the second longest beach in the world.

Sri varadaraja perumal
Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Tamilnadu

Temples are a marked feature of the landscape of Tamil Nadu. The style of temple buildings is known as the Dravidian style. Few prominent places of pilgrim interest can be identified as – Madurai, Chidambaram, Kancheepuram, Kanyakumari, Nagore, Palani, Rameshwaram, Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, Thanjavur, and Velankanni.

Chennai, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Gingee, Dindigul, Madurai, Mamallapuram, Poompuhar, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapally, and Vellore are some of the heritage sites which even today reflect the cultural, social and ethnic background of this region.

Shri rangnath swami
Shri Rangnath Swami Temple, Srirangam, Tamilnadu

Among the places of scenic beauty (beaches, hill stations, forests/ sanctuaries) are Ooty, Kodaikanal, Yercaud, Rameshwaram, Coonoor, Sathanur Dam, Kanyakumari, Chennai, Pichavaram, Point Calimere, Coramandel Coast, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary National Park, Mukkurthi National Park, Kalakkadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Mundanthurai Wildlife Sanctuary, Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary, Guindy National Park, Vallanadu Black Buck Sanctuary, Vedanthangal and Karikili Bird Sanctuaries, Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.