The Tamil language is a true cultural treasure. It is more than just a way of communicating – it is a way of life. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times, and its rich cultural history and ease of use have made it a popular language around the world. Yet despite its popularity and importance, there are still many unknown facts about Tamil that deserve to be highlighted.
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1. Oldest living language in the world
One of the most surprising facts about Tamil is that it is still spoken widely today, unlike other ancient languages like Sanskrit and Aramaic. It is thought to have been born before 500 BC, as Tamil-Brahmin inscriptions from 500 BC have been found on Adichanallur, an archaeological site in Tamil Nadu. It’s not the oldest language in the world, but it is among the oldest living languages that are still being used today. This is a testament to the enduring power and influence of the Tamil language and its people.
2. Tamil designated as a classical language by UNESCO
In 2004, the Union Cabinet of India created a new category of languages known as classical languages, which would be based on certain criteria. Tamil was the first language to be included in this category, and it is not hard to see why. The criteria requirement was based on antiquity, a rich and varied ancient text, and an original literary tradition.
3. Origin of many Language from Tamil
Tamil gave not only words but also grammar to almost 400 languages. Root words of many languages are from Tamil, including Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and Korean. In Egypt, more than 4,000 town names are in Tamil. This attests to the immense influence that Tamil has had on the world and its many languages.
4. Tamil as Mother and God
Apart from being the name of the language, ‘Tamil’ also means things like beauty, sweetness, and nature. This is a fitting description of a language that is known for its lyrical quality and poetic expression. According to Hindu legend, Tamil, or in personification form Tamil Thāi (Mother Tamil) was created by Lord Shiva. Murugan, revered as the Tamil God, along with sage Agastya, brought it to the people. Located at Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu is a temple for ‘Tamil Thai’ (‘Thai’ means mother), which is a god that is considered the deified personification of the Tamil language as a mother.
Tamil is not just limited to Tamil Nadu – it is spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, as well as the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India. Yet despite its official status in multiple countries, many people still do not know much about Tamil beyond its name. It is a language with a rich history and cultural significance that deserves to be explored and celebrated.
5. The Unique way of Writing Tamil
One of the most unique aspects of Tamil is its script, which is one of the oldest and most sophisticated in the world. It consists of 12 vowels, 18 consonants, and one special character called ‘Aaytha ezutthu’. The script is so unique that it cannot be compared to any other script in the world, and it has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
Another little-known fact about Tamil is its contribution to the world of music. Tamil music, or Carnatic music, is a classical form of Indian music that has its roots in ancient Tamil culture. It is one of the oldest and most respected forms of Indian music, and it has had a significant impact on the development of music in other parts of the world. Many famous musicians, including A.R. Rahman and S.P. Balasubramaniam, have roots in Tamil Nadu and have helped to spread Tamil music to audiences around the world.