You will probably hear the word “Tamil” used to describe people, architecture, culture, and other things when you’re travelling around Singapore. You may already know that it relates to certain parts of the Indian community in Singapore, but what else do you know about Tamil?
Tamil is an ethnic group of people that traditionally come from the south of India and the north east of Sri Lanka. The main feature of the ethnic group is a shared language – the Tamil Language. The Tamil population in Singapore is around 250,000. Large numbers of Indians, many of them belonging to the Tamil community, migrated to the then-British colony of Singapore between the early 1800s and early 1900s. There was a sizeable population of Tamils in the area prior to this, however, largely stemming from movement of people and the expansion of trade during the once-powerful Chola Dynasty.
Many Tamils in Singapore today still live in the Little India area, although members of the Tamil community also have homes all around the country. Visit Little India and you will find a terrific array of restaurants that serve tasty dishes that originated in the southern areas of India; many of these meals are prepared by Tamils.
Tamil language is one of the oldest languages in the world. It is one of the official languages of Singapore. Tamil is a Dravidian language, a family of language mostly spoken in the southern parts of India. The language group also includes Toda, Kodava, Badaga, Kurumba, and others.
Most Tamil people are Hindu, although there are smaller numbers that practice other religions, such as Islam and Christianity. Tamil does not have a set religion.
Almost all Tamils, regardless of their religion, celebrate Thai Pongal. This festival falls in the middle of January and it traditionally celebrates the harvest, in particular giving thanks to the Sun God for giving enough energy for a successful harvest. Traditional activities include getting rid of old and unwanted items and having a good clear out of the home, decorating homes with flour and leaves, cooking rice with milk, and spending time with family. The Tamil New Year, called Varudapirappu is also widely celebrated within the Tamil community. It falls on the 14th of April each year and is a joyous occasion.
Major Tamil Sites in Singapore
Sri Mariamman Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman. It is a major temple for Tamil Hindus in Singapore. Built by Tamil immigrants, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is another important place of worship, as is the historic Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. All are interesting for visitors, although please remember that they are all still revered religious sites and active place of worship. Visitors should dress respectfully and remove their shoes to enter the main shrines.
The Screens of Bombay Talkies, Jade Movie Theatre, Rex Cinemas Golden Mile, and Rex Cinemas Mackenzie are the best places to watch Tamil films.
The third major ethnic group in Singapore, now you know a bit more about Tamil people in the country.