Milestones in Tamil History

UNESCO Courier, March 1984 | Go to article overview

Milestones in Tamil History


THE TAMIL LANGUAGE is the official language of the State of TAMIL NADU (population over 48 million) in southeast India and is also spoken by some 4 million people living in Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, as well as parts of east and south Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific and the Caribbean. There is a scholarly literature in Tamil dating back to the early centuries of the Christian era. The language is of DRAVIDIAN origin. The DRAVIDIANS were the founders of one of the world's most ancient civilizations, which already existed in India sometime before 1000 BC when the ARYANS invaded the sub-continent from the north. The Aryans, who spoke the SANSKRIT language, pushed the Dravidians down into south India. Today 8 of the languages of northern and western India (including Hindi) are of Sanskrit origin, but Sanskrit itself is only spoken by Hindu Brahman priests in temple worship and by scholars. In southern India, 4 languages of Dravidian origin are spoken today. Tamil is the oldest of these.

THE HISTORY OF TAMIL NADU begins with the 3 kingdoms, CHERA, CHOLA and PANDYA, which are referred to in documents of the 3rd century BC. Some of the kings of these dynasties are mentioned in SANGAM LITERATURE (see article page 32), and the age between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD is called the SANGAM AGE. …

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