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» Tamil Nadu
Region: Tamil Nadu
Main Religions: Hinduism, Christianity And Islam
Major Caste Groups: Brahmin, Chettiar, Mudaliar, Gounder, Nadar, Bachwar, Vanniar and Dalit.

Home Of Dravidian Cultural Heritage
Tamil Nadu is the home of the Tamils and their Dravidian culture. Human activity in this area may have begun as early as 3,00,000 years ago. Historians are of the opinion that the first Dravidians were a part of the Indus Valley Civilization and came to the south after the invasions in the north, around 1,500 BC. The main language spoken here is Tamil, followed by English. While around 88% of the state's population follows Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are also followed here.

The Caste System
In Tamil Nadu, there is an established caste system and the traditional differentiations here are a lot more pronounced than in many other parts of the country. The major caste groups are: Brahmin, Chettiar, Mudaliar, Gounder, Nadar, Bachwar, Vanniar and Dalit.

The Brahmin community here is very pious and people normally have a white mark on the forehead to signify caste. The Tamil Brahmins claim Aryan origin whereas the non- Brahmins are supposed to be Dravidians. This division also forms the basis of differences in ritualistic practice, customs and festivities.

Within the Brahmins too, there is a further division into Iyengar and Iyer, the former being Vaishnavites or believers of Lord Vishnu and the latter, Shaivaites or believers of Lord Shiva. This intervenes in actual observance of rituals.

Role Of Religion In The Arts And Crafts Of Tamil Nadu
Through all the turbulent political upheavals, religion remained a major motivating force in Tamil Nadu. The temple was the focus of activity, with the shops and houses planned around it. There could be no village without at least one temple. In fact, a village without a temple is likened to man without a soul.

The role of religion was so important that most crafts had been adapted to serve religious needs - from the bronzes depicting the gods to simple basketry, where even the designs and weave may have cosmic connotations. The deep, strong roots of religion provided a binding force and a major role for the arts.

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