Tamil Heritage Month 2023 - Message From Councillor Cumar Sahathevan

Thu 11/Jan/24

Tamil Heritage Month 2023 - Message from Councillor Cumar Sahathevan


Let’s throw some light on Tamil Heritage in terms of the Tamil Language, Tamil Literature, Tamil Traditions and the Tamil Culture. 


According to the Tamil historians and archaeological studies it is believed that there were three distinct ages in the history of Tamil civilisation: The First Sangam (9600 BCE to 5200 BCE), The Middle Sangam (5201 BCE - 599 BCE) and The Last Sangam (600 BCE – c. 300 CE). 


Sangam means a well organised association or gathering of elite scholars to develop and share information about Tamil Language, Tamil Literature, Tamil Traditions and Tamil culture. 


However, there is no concrete evidence or collection of archaeological findings to establish the existence of such phases of First Sangam or Second Sangam.


Nevertheless, recent archaeological findings reveal that the last Sangam existed nearly 300 BC and 200 AD with some traces of documentation to the second Sangam. In this context, evidence that traces a Tamil academic tradition to The Middle Sangam has a very weak link. 


It is thought that all these Sangams were sponsored and supported by the royal families of that time. Sri Lanki and the Tamil people were governed by generations of Chera, Chola Pandia kings. These dynasties commanded access to large amounts of resources that helped to develop a distinct civilisation with its own style of buildings, temples, academies, as well as a rich cultural heritage of scholarship, epics, literature, music and performing arts. The Tamil language, civilization and culture is ancient, and is considered a Classical Language, along with Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, and Sanskrit.



This rich history is the main reason why Tamil language was considered as a Classical Language in the world arena along with Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit Chinese, Arabic etc.


It is often said that people change their lifestyles according to the environment of the land in which they live. In Tamil culture, people’s relation with the land determined their occupation. Kurinji, Mullai, Marutham, and Neithal, kinds of land life that can be found in Sangam literature. This is a typical example of how people developed their professions according to the type of land they lived:


The Kurinji land people depended on hunting and gathering, honey picking, millet sowing, and preserving them. They lived in Sri Lanka’s in the hilly areas. 


The Mullai land people were shepherds who raised goats and cows. They would trade milk, curd, butter and lived on pastures and lands fit for raising cattle. 


The Marutham land peasants were engaged in the cultivation of agriculture and fishing. 


Tamil civilization's evolved new technologies through the discoveries of metals, wooded tools, and the use of domesticated animals in farming. Tamils also began to recognise the cycles of the agricultural seasons, and understand how this impacted the success of farming or other agricultural endeavours. 


Tamil astronomical understanding and perception als contributed knowledge and experience about seasons. People started applying formulas and calculations based on the movements of the heavens to devise ways of measuring time, structuring the year into months, weeks and days and hours, minutes and seconds. 


As a result of that knowledge and experience over the centuries, Tamil people started celebrating the harvest festival of Pongal in the month of January. Pognal occurs over the 14 - 17 of January in 2024. 



In India there are very many regions where agriculture was the prime livelihood of people and celebrations normally continue for two, three or even four days. Pognal occurs over the 14 - 17 of January in 2024. 


Thai Pongal is the first day of the Tamil harvest festival that also occurs for a similar period of time. The astronomical connotation of this day is that the Sun enters the Capricorn or Makaram; in Tamil it is called “Thai Thirunal”. Thai means ‘’a possibility to succeed and grow’’ or possibility ‘’to make great opportunities a reality’’. 


For that reason people say “Thai Piranthal vazhi pirakkum” meaning great things happen when the month of January arrives. That’s the reason thanksgiving to the Sun is the celebration of the first day of Pongal with great reverence from many thousand years ago. 


To keep it short, “Pongal” is not the name of a food! (Though ‘’Pongal’’ is also a well known delicious rice based dish).  Tamil Pongal means ‘’ever-flowing’’ and is also known as “Pongum Mangala Thirunal”. Above all the very need of human existence is Food, so on this second day we also show all our gratitude and celebrate with Nature, Sun, Seed & Farmer. This day is designed in a way to give the highest respect to the cattle we have, not just the cow but every cattle we own and treat them as our family members, in fact with equal importance as our loved ones & family members. 


The London Borough of Sutton is home to thousands of British Tamils. Tamil heritage month started in 2021 to recognise the contribution of 300,000 British Tamils that live in the United Kingdom. 


Please join us on 21 January at Sutton Library from 1- 3pm for a celebration of traditional music, dance, food and discussion.