The Tamil Brahmin Culture

Tamil Brahmin is not just a language or a group of people, it is a culture on its own. The name "Tamil" derives from "Damila" which refers to an ancient non-Aryan people, as documented in early Buddhist records. Their roots come from Pakistan, western India, and other western areas. The culture itself started to form in the early centuries before Christ, out of a particular form of speech and set of cultural traits.

Where They Can Be Found

A lot of the Tamil people were settlers of North Sri Lanka because of the British. When they took control of Ceylon and India, they moved a lot of these people to become workers in Ceylon, for the plantations. Ceylon, it must be noted, is the old name for Sri Lanka. A minority of them, about 18 percent, still take up residence there.

Some of them live in parts of Asia, Africa, Fiji, Europe, the USA and the West Indies. But the majority of them, about 67 million in total, live in India today.


The Tamil Brahmin language comes from the Dravidian family and can be subdivided into several dialects. Some of these are Kangu, Chola, and Pandya. In written form, there is the traditional script called Grantha, and the roundish Vattelluttu for daily use.

Religion and Beliefs

The Hindu religion is dominant among the people. They worship Shiva, Vishnu, Vinayaka and a number of other major gods. They have minor deities too. They also worship the Mother Goddess traditionally and through honoring local or minor goddesses called ammans. They do this through daily prayer known as puja. They believe largely in superstitious practices. Only a minority are Christian or Muslim.

Sages are highly thought of among the people. Ancient folklore speaks of Agastya, the heaviest sage, who had to move south in order to balance the weight of the earth. It had been sinking due to the weight of wisdom of the gathered sages. During his travels, it is said that he brought water taken from the Ganges River, which is considered sacred. But a crow tipped over the pot of water that he was bringing and it formed the Kaveri River, which is now also considered sacred in India.

These Brahmin people also have a lot of superstitions that affect their daily lives and rites of passage. For example, pregnant women are not allowed to cross rivers or climb hills. They receive gifts of bangles from the family of their husband when they reach their seventh month of pregnancy. There are also elaborate ceremonies for shaving the head of and naming the baby, once he is born. Women at the point of puberty are celebrated through a fest.

When it comes to death, they also have a unique set of beliefs. They are not allowed to refer to dead people as dead. Instead, they are believed to have moved into Shiva's realm, or to wherever it is that they go when they die. Burial is not practiced among those of higher social standing. Instead, they prefer cremation. Before the funeral, a corpse is washed, perfumed and dressed in smart or brand-new clothes. Every anniversary of the death of a family member, the relatives are required to gather, feed the poor, and give gifts to priests.

Community Life

Matrilineal ties are given importance. Marriage between cousins is permitted and often practiced. They marry within their caste, and the bride's family pays for a dowry and all the wedding expenses. Wedding rites usually included a sacred fire, throwing rice, blowing conch shells, and colored water.

Their hello and goodbye greetings are patterned after the Hindu namaskar. This involves joining palms. They are hospitable people who entertain guests with food and coffee and tell them to return once they say goodbye.

The Tamil Brahmin people today are typically behind-the-scenes folk, who have a sangfroid and non-descript manner. They are commonly characterized by a cynical sense of wit and have been said to be the "best second-rate men in the world".

James Gunaseelan is an expert on tamil brahmin marriages. To find out more about the topic, check out his articles online.

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