Tamil culture has a hoary, glorious antiquity.
If you look at the landscape of Tamilnadu, there is a profusion of temples. Infact, the Tamilnadu tourism department issued an advertisement stating that " Only Heaven has more Gods." What does this profusion of huge, marvelous temples tell us?
Building of temples is a time consuming, architecturally exacting and also monetarily a costly exercise.
The scale and number of temples built clearly goes to show that the culture of Tamilnadu had reached great heights in art, science and in creation of wealth.
How did the people of Tamilnadu achieve this high state of prosperity?
This prosperity was not from colonial exploitation of other's land but was due to the inherent hard working nature of the Tamils.
Most importantly they learnt to utilise their resources of land, water, and mines in a diligent and sustainable manner.
For a community to prosper, the following are required:-
- Vast tracts of land for agriculture
- Sufficient water for irrigation
- Good farming techniques for high yield
- Land rich in natural resources
- Know how to convert the natural resources into commodities
- Transportation for trade
- Education and Knowledge
- Administrative skills
- Bravery and resources to safe guard their cities
The Tamils knew the importance of the above and developed lifestyle and techniques which were aligned with the above to ensure that their land prospered in a sustainable manner.
The Tamil of Dravida land have been fortunate to be blessed with vast plains of fertile agriculture land cradled between 2 ranges of mountains on either sided of the Indian coast giving rise to a number of monsoon rivers flowing through the land.
This land is not only been suitable for agriculture but is also rich in various mineral deposits and flora and fauna that it has always provided for various means to feed and sustain high quality of life.
If our ancients had not known the geography of their land well enough, these waters would have drained to the sea without being put to any proper use and agriculture as a science would not have flourished.
It is because our ancients knew how to harness water as appropriate to the geographical topography of the land, they could ensure that every drop was conserved and utilized properly such that they had enough water all the year through as well as to safe guard against failed monsoons too.
This inherent understanding and harnessing of water by the people of Tamilnadu over 1000 - 2000 years back itself, gave the land and its people its prosperity.
A detailed analysis of the historical records will show how the Tamils were experts in agriculture and the extent of their produce. The agricultural produce of land in those early days even 1000 years back was as per British records, where many folds more than the yields, what it is today. This indicates that the Tamil people knew how to procure higher yields from their lands.
Industries of the Tamils
The Tamils were not dependent only on agriculture for their other daily living essentials. They had a good mix of metallurgical, chemical and textile engineering skills and these industries flourished to the extent of becoming globally exported commodities.
We explore the following industries in detail based on archeological and historical records.
Some of the industries of the industrious people of Tamilnadu were:-
- Iron making
- Zinc making
- Indigo extraction
- International trade of these commodities
The English word "Navigation" has its root from the Tamil word "Navai" – this goes to indicate that navigation in the high seas was a regular activity of tamils.
The detailed accounts to show how for the Tamils, the seas were as good as lakes and how they had crossed seas for trade with both western lands such as Greece, Italy and far eastern lands.
The Tamils were indeed giants in open seas Navigation.
- Education and Knowledge building
Knowledge for the Tamils was a very vital aspect to self development. They were pioneers in the concept of Chathuvedi Mangalam -Knowledge commune, which encouraged and supported learned scholars to camp in the villages and share their knowledge with the community.
The records show that the Tamils established and maintained good governance practice many centuries before the arrival of the British to India. In fact, the Chola system of good governance especially by women has been observed and praised by the Greek Chronicler - Megasthenese, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, over 2300 years back itself.
- Valour and Bravery
To protect all the above, the Tamils had developed good military and defense skills. There exist many historical records which talk about the bravery and strength of the Tamil kings. Not only was their bravery and valour, Tamil history and literature is full of the nobility and charity of the Tamil Kings.
Along with all these art, architecture and civil engineering were patronized highly by the community and flourished and grew to dot the landscape of the Tamils with artistic architecture marvels in stone.
All of these could not have been possible if it were not for their prudent way of coexisting with nature to ensure sustainability.
If the Tamil culture is to regain its lost glory, we should once again go back and understand atleast the starting point, namely basic methods of water harnessing that the cultured Tamil people practiced in their bygone era.
This subject capsule using multimedia techniques presents each of the following aspects of the Tamils and their civilization in a detailed but lucid and graphical style for easy understanding.