Here are a few words about Tamil Culture spoken by Chinapa Virasawmi, Tamil Singer and Historian:
Mythical traditions dictate that Lord Shiva himself taught Sage Agastya the Tamil Language and Tamil Literature. In addition, Sage Agastya compiled the first book of grammar called the “Agatiam.” Neolithic people of the Tamil country spoke Tamil – a Dravidian language.
South Indian religion is an offspring of South Indian culture. I use the word culture to mean ‘how the natives of the South Eastern part of the Indian Peninsula (Tamil Nadu) live.’
Today, South Indian religion is a soup of religions that presents itself on a tapestry with the indigenous practices as the background. This conglomeration comprises of: The native worship (mainly village type ceremonies) – the worship of Mariamman (Presiding Deity of Tamil people) and the Kaval Daivams (Family Guardians/Protectors), other forms of Brahaminical Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and the Arya Samaj.
When we talk about the Tamil culture, we do not identify with any of the afore-mentioned religions. We talk about how we greet one another, our language, our music preference, the food we appreciate, issues affecting the Tamil community, stereotypes and prejudices, achievements and humanitarian activities. We learn about people and organizational resources that can offer help to us. We try to establish uprightness and dignity in whatever we do and be informed so as not to be exploited by charlatans.
Our common bond is ‘we carry a speck of Tamil in us or we are related to Tamils through our interest which is embedded in Tamil culture.’
It is very true that most Tamils today are identified by (1) the way they worship (Invocation, Possession, Shamanism, and loud drumming) or (2) because of their funeral procedures which demonstrate continuous loud drumming.
In Guyana, many non-practicing Tamils do patronize Tamil singing during their wakes and along their funeral processions – all for the respect of the dead and for the relatives to have some sort of closure in Tamil traditions.
Tamil descendants of Guyana and the West Indies do inherit this dynamic culture from a civilization that dates to 3000 B.C. – further known as the Sangam Period.
When Tamil immigrants went to the New World in 1838, they did not bring books, but they brought with them what they saw and learned in the Motherland (Tamil Nadu) – the Mariamman Pusai (worship) and they introduced their Mother Goddess to their new homeland, Guyana and the West Indies. Inclusive in the worship of Mariamman and the veneration of the Kaval Daivams, is the Periya Pusai (Big Puja). The fun devotional aspect of the Pusai Festival – the invitation, the procession, the walk of the Karagam. It is a grand display of Parai (Thappu) drumming, singing with the Uddukai, ecstatic Marlo Aadi dancing, Shamanistic predictions, nodding of heads, and clapping of hands in sync with the Thappu aadi and total acquiescence on glee faces of devotees and onlookers.
This culture has never faded despite (1) pressures and enticement to convert to the various Christian Organizations and (2) the incessant elbowing in the ribs of Tamils from Brahamanical (North Indian) Hinduism – Signaling to them that they belong to a sub-standard religion. Our culture is packed with dynamism and it has been an integral part of the lives of the Tamil people. It is my conviction that it will not resign into oblivion but, like the hues of the rainbow, will appear now and again to remind us that we are part of an ancient civilization that abounds with treasures which decorate life. (Our Tamil Muttugal)
We were handed a rich untainted culture which survived for thousands of years. It is my keenest desire that we cherish it and most importantly pass it unadulterated (unchanged) to our children. We receive it from our forefathers, and we cherish it ourselves. Now, we must pass it on to the ones we love. – Our Children – Our Descendants.
Wannakam. Nalla Wartukkal.
Lord Shiva and Sage Agastya (Agatyar) (9.21.19) Chinapa Virasawmi