Tamil people (Tamil: தமிழர், tamiḻar ?), are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Réunion (France) and the UK. Since the early BCE, urbanization and mercantile activity along the western and eastern coast of what is today Kerala and Tamil Nadu led to the development of four large Tamil political states (Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallavas) and a number of small petty states warring amongst themselves for dominance. Between the 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century CE Tamil people also produced native literature that came to be called Sangam literature. In centuries BCE religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Saivism, Vaishnavism and was spread amongst the populace.
Tamils were noted for their military, religious and mercantile activities beyond their native borders. Pandyas and Cholas were historically active in Sri Lanka. Pallava traders and religious leaders travelled to South East Asia and played an important role in the cultural Indianisation of the region. Locally developed scripts such as Grantha and Pallava script induced the development of many native scripts such as Khmer, Javanese and Thai.
Tamil visual art is dominated by stylized Temple architecture in major centers and the productions of images of deities in stone and bronze. Chola bronzes, especially the Nataraja sculpture of the Chola period, have become notable as a symbol of Hinduism. Tamil performing arts are divided into popular and classical. Classical form is Bharatanatyam whereas the popular forms are known as Kuthus and performed in village temples and on street corners. Tamil cinema known as Kollywood is an important part of the Indian cinema industry. Music too is divided into classical Carnatic form and many popular genres. Although most Tamilians are Hindus, most practice what is considered to be folk Hinduism, venerating a plethora of village deities. A sizeable number are Christians and Muslims. A small Jain community survives from the classical period as well. Tamil cuisine is informed by varied vegetarian and non vegetarian items usually spiced with locally available spices. The music, the temple architecture and the stylized sculptures favored by the Tamil people as in their ancient nation are still being learnt and practiced. Thus, Tamilians have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilization on Earth.
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