Definitions

Tamil

Tamil

[tam-uhl, tuhm-, tah-muhl]
Tamil, Dravidian language of India. See Dravidian languages.
formerly Madras

State (pop., 2001: 62,645,679), southeastern India. Lying on the Bay of Bengal, its coastline includes the enclaves of Pondicherry and Karaikal (both parts of Pondicherry union territory); it is also bordered by Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh states. Tamil Nadu covers an area of 50,216 sq mi (130,058 sq km), and its capital is Chennai (Madras). Its interior includes the fertile Kaveri (Cauvery) River delta. By the 2nd century AD the region was occupied by Tamil kingdoms. The Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar ruled the southern regions from 1336 to 1565. The Portuguese entered the area at the end of the 15th century, only to be displaced by the Dutch in the 16th–17th centuries. The British established a settlement in 1611, which expanded to become the separate presidency of Madras, which lasted from 1653 to 1946. The state of Tamil Nadu was formed in 1956. It is one of India's most industrialized states, manufacturing vehicles, electrical equipment, and chemicals.

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Any member of a people originally of southern India who speak the Tamil language. The Tamil have a long history of achievement; sea travel, city life, and commerce seem to have developed early among them. They traded with the ancient Greeks and Romans. They have the oldest cultivated Dravidian language and a rich literary tradition. They are mostly Hindus (the Tamil area in India is a centre of traditional Hinduism). Sri Lanka has two distinct Tamil populations, the so-called Ceylon Tamil and the Indian Tamil. Tensions between the Ceylon Tamil and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority prompted a Tamil guerrilla insurgency in the 1980s that continued into the 21st century. The Tamil number about 57 million, with 3.2 million living in Sri Lanka.

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