Socio-Cultural Features

Day-to-Day Life

The Tamils are mainly rice-eaters. Sambar (caampa: r), Rasam (racam) and curd (tayir) or Buttermilk is taken along with rice. Potato, beans, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, okra, and other vegetables, are the side dishes. Majority of the Tamils are non-vegetarians, though their intake is mainly vegetarian food. On special occasions a kind of sweet dish known as Payasam (paayacam) is served. After taking meals, they occasionally chew betel leaf and areca nut.

In urban areas, people favor the eatables, Iddli (ittili), Dhosai (toocai), Puri (puuri), etc., and the drinks coffee, tea or milk. In rural areas people take rice. Now a day almost all the villages are being urbanized in this respect. Especially youngsters are fond of Tiffin in the morning times. It may also be mentioned that there are people in villages who usually take Kanchi (kanci)-(rice porridge) in the morning times. Idly (ittili), Vada (vatai), Pongal (ponkal), Upma (upumaa), Puri (puuri), Chappathi (cappaatti), Dhosai (toocai), etc., are the tiffin items. Iddli (ittili), Chatni (cattini) and Sambar (caampa: r) are more common items.

As far as the clothing are concerned, Tamil gents wear dhotis (worn in the so-called lungi fashion) and shirts and ladies wear saris and jackets. Gents use pants and shirts too, though not very common. Boy’s wear half-pants and shirts. Young girls wear Dhavani (taavani), Pavadai (paavaatai) and Ravikkai (ravikkai). Some orthodox gents adorn themselves with turbans.

Silk saris namely, Kanchipattu (kaancippattu) saris woven in the town, Kanchipuram in Tami Nadu are famous for occasions to wear by ladies, their durability, etc. Ladies use a variety of ornaments. Few of them are, Modhiram (mootiram)’ ring,’ Valayal (valayal) ‘bangle,’ Mukkuthi (muukkutti) ‘nose ornament,’ Thodu (tootu) ‘ear ornament,’ necklace (neklacu) ‘neck ornament,’ Kolusi (kolucu) ‘leg ornament,’ etc. Married women wear Thali (taali) ‘mangala sutra’ as the symbol for marriage. Generally gents wear wristwatch, rings, etc. In rural areas some people wear earrings, wrist-chains, etc. Almost all the people in the rural areas are agriculturists and agricultural laborers. The office-going people, coolies, business people and other laborers inhabit the urban areas.

When known persons meet, they exchange respect and affection by the Tamil phrase vanga vanakkam (vaanka vankkam). This vanga vanakkam (please do come/welcome/greeting) is similar to namasthe or namaskar, the greetings words used widely in the North India. At the time of departure poy varukiren (poovvarukireen) or varukiren (varukireen) is used. Though this means literally ‘I come’ but implies ‘now I go and will be back to meet you again’ in the Taamil society.


There are a number of festivals observed in Tamil Nadu. Very famous festivals are Pongal (ponkal), Deepavali (tiipaavali) and Karthikai (kaarttikai). Among them Pongal is considered to be the special festival of Tamil Nadu and it is called Tamizhar Thirunal (tamilar tirunaal), the festival of harvest celebrated for four days in mid-January.

The first day of Pongal is known as Bogi (pooki) or Bogipandikai (pookippantikai). On that day people worship the rain, the Rain God, or the Rain Goddess. Also, all the old and unusable articles are burnt in bonfires. The second day of Pongal is the Pongal Proper. On this day people worship the Sun God. The third day is mattu Pongal (maattupponkal). On this day they bathe the cattle and worship them, as they are the mainstay of farm life. The fourth day is known as Karinal (karinaal) or Kanru Pongal (kanrupponkal). On this day villages assemble at a public place and many native games. Pongal festival takes place towards the final stage of harvest. Makara Sankaranthi celebrated elsewhere in India is the Pongal day.

Deepavali (tiipaavali) is enthusiastically celebrated in both urban and rural areas of Tamil Nadu. It is believed that Deepavali is celebrated in memory of demon, Narakasuran who was killed by Lord Vishnu on the day of Deepavali. Symbolically this means god destroys bad.

Karthikai (kaarttikai) is commonly celebrated by all Tamils putting Deebam (tiipam) ‘lights’ every night throughout the Tamil month Karthikal (kaarttikai). During this period people worship Lord Murugan also called Kartikeyan or Subramanyan son of Lord Siva.

Apart from these popular festivals, there are several other festivals such as car festivals in many villages and towns. Tamil Nadu is full of fairs and festivals in particular, car festivals.

There are also a number of folk deities who are worshipped with equal if not more fervor all over Tamil Nadu. Also the rituals and ceremonies that take place at birth, naming, ear boring, puberty, marriage and death differ from region to region, from caste to caste, and from religion to religion.