A Cul­tural Legacy

THE TRA­DI­TIONS OF TAMIL NADU

Asian Geographic - - Glob Al Ilit Eracy - Cour­tesy of

Tamil

Nadu, a state in south­ern In­dia, is rich in an­cient her­itage, ruled by dif­fer­ent dy­nas­ties over cen­turies. There are about 74 mil­lion Tamil peo­ple to­day. An eth­nic group with a his­tory dat­ing back to the Sangam era (400 BC to 300 AD), Tamils be­long to ei­ther the Saivites or Vaish­navites group of Hindu pan­the­ists. Tamils all over the world are deeply in­vested in safe­guard­ing their cul­tural tra­di­tions, which in­clude a wide ar­ray of rit­u­als and cer­e­monies.

Tem­ple ar­chi­tec­ture show­cases the Dra­vid­ian style: tow­er­ing gop­u­rams (tem­ple tow­ers) in which stat­ues of gods and god­desses are en­graved, with var­i­ous fil­i­gree de­signs carved into tow­er­ing ed­i­fices. Par­tic­u­larly no­table ar­chi­tec­tural gems in­clude the Meenakshi Amman Tem­ple in Madu­rai and the Bri­hadeeswara­r Tem­ple in Than­javur, but there are count­less oth­ers scat­tered through­out the state, serv­ing the be­liefs of the pre­dom­i­nantly Hindu pop­u­la­tion.

While tem­ples are re­plete with sculp­tural mar­vels, there are sev­eral mon­u­ments and build­ings that also of­fer a glimpse of the ar­chi­tec­tural fi­nesse of the sea­far­ing Pallava rulers (275 BC to 897 AD), who were also known pa­trons of the fine arts.

Tamil is recog­nised as a clas­si­cal lan­guage by the In­dian gov­ern­ment. Like the other lan­guages of South In­dia, Tamil is a Dra­vid­ian lan­guage, un­re­lated to the Indo-euro­pean lan­guages of north­ern In­dia, al­though it has some in­flu­ences from San­skrit. How­ever, un­like San­skrit, the lan­guage has con­tin­ued to ex­pand, adopt­ing new words and phrases from other lan­guages in the re­gion.

Clas­sic Tamil lit­er­a­ture ranges from lyric po­etry to works of phi­los­o­phy, and rep­re­sents the old­est body of sec­u­lar lit­er­a­ture in South Asia. One of the ear­li­est texts is Tolka­apiyam, writ­ten around 500 BC, which es­tab­lished a gram­mat­i­cal sys­tem for Tamil. Other no­table works in­clude Thirukku­ral by the Tamil sa­vant Thiru­val­lu­var, Si­la­p­athikaaram, Manimegala­i and Tami­lan­nai, or “the Tamil mother”, all of which have been cen­tral to the Tamil iden­tity.

Fly to Chen­nai and ex­plore the rich tra­di­tions of Tamil Nadu – In­dia’s cen­tre of lan­guage, dance, po­etry and Hindu re­li­gion in the deep south.

The

Temburong Dis­trict in the eastern part of Brunei is the coun­try’s green­est, hilli­est and least pop­u­lated area, and is con­sid­ered one of Bor­neo’s most pris­tine rain­for­est en­vi­ron­ments, host to a range of eco­log­i­cal re­search and eco­tourism ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ulu Temburong Na­tional Park cov­ers about 500 square kilo­me­tres of largely undis­turbed for­est, boast­ing ex­ten­sive vis­i­tor fa­cil­i­ties and re­sort­style ac­com­mo­da­tion. The park houses sev­eral sus­pen­sion bridges, board­walks, tree­houses, wildlife ob­ser­va­tion points and a canopy walk­way – ris­ing some 50 me­tres above the for­est floor.

From this bird’s view van­tage point, you can ad­mire undis­turbed Na­ture. Snakes of­ten glide through the tree­tops, such as the strik­ing, and venomous, Wagler’s pit viper. Lizards are eas­ier to spot than snakes, and with luck, you may catch glimpses of the five-lined fly­ing lizard ( Draco quin­que­fas­cia­tus) and Peter’s bent-toed gecko ( Gony­dacty­lus con­so­bri­nus). Ulu Temburong is also home to var­i­ous am­phib­ians, such as Wal­lace’s fly­ing frog ( Rha­copho­rus ni­gropal­ma­tus), which glides from tree to tree.

By some es­ti­mates, there may be as many as 400 species of but­ter­fly in the park. How­ever, many of these in­habit ar­eas not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to the ca­sual vis­i­tor. Other in­sects to look out for in­clude for­est cen­tipedes, gi­ant for­est ants ( Cam­pono­tus­gi­gas), lantern bugs and mounds of rav­en­ous ter­mites.

Higher ver­te­brates are harder to spot. The bushy crested hornbill ( An­or­rhi­nus­ga­ler­i­tus) can some­times be seen near the park’s ac­com­mo­da­tion chalets, but rarer species such as the rhi­noc­eros hornbill ( Buceros rhi­noc­eros) are more likely to be heard than seen. The black and yel­low broad­bill ( Eury­laimu­sochro­ma­lus) can of­ten be found for­ag­ing for food, and fast-fly­ing swiftlets can be seen hunt­ing for in­sects along the river.

The pri­mate “king” of Bor­neo, the ma­jes­tic orang­utan, is not found in Ulu Temburong; rather, his lit­tle cousin, the Bornean gib­bon (Hy­lo­bates­muel­leri) rules the tree­tops here, bel­low­ing his loud call across the rain­for­est early each morn­ing. This grey-brown, tail­less species is com­pletely ar­bo­real, only

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