Tamil Nadu has a distinctive tradition in fine arts and exquisite crafts. Today, the craft traditions of the state have developed into full-fledged industries in themselves.
Kolam refers to decorative artwork drawn on the floor in front of houses and in front of deities in Puja rooms. Kolam is considered as an important form of artistic expression in India. ndoubtedly, Kolam can be called a most essential part of South Indian culture and it serves to embellish the doorstep and make it look more inviting. Moreover, it is a symbol of good fortune. The Tamil month 'Markazhi' (mid December to mid January) is particularly important month for Kolams, when fairly large sized Kolams are put in front of the houses. The original Tamil Kolam merely consists of white dots around which the intertwined lines are drawn, whereas the North Indian "Rangoli" is made up of various colours. In recent times, the use of colours has become popular even in South India. The "Kolam" is the most important kind of female artistic expression in India. It is a time old cultural tradition of South Indian families. Young girls learn this artwork from their mother, grandmother and aunties.
Tamil Nadu is known for its cane weaving and palm leaf products, including trays, flower baskets, shopping bags, folding fans etc. Toys and dolls are also produced from grass, bamboo and cane. This craft is mainly centered at Dharampuri, Salem, Coimbatore, South Arcot And Tiruchirapalli Districts.
Tanjore Paintings and Arts
Tamil Nadu is known for its traditional ornate paintings, known as Tanjore paintings. This unique art form has its origin from Tanjore in South India. The portrayal of figures in these paintings is breathtakingly brilliant. The early paintings were embedded with real diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. Presently, pure gold foils and semi precious stones are used to adorn the paintings. The Tanjore School of Paintings dates back to the 16th century. However, there are only a few paintings that date back that far. The fact remains that most of the paintings that exist today are not even a hundred years old. The creation of this painting involves a lot of dedication and several stages of meticulous work of art. The first step involves creating a base. The base is made of a cloth pasted over a wooden or a plywood base. Then a paste of chalk powder or zinc oxide mixed with some water-soluble adhesive is applied on the board. To create a smoother board a mild abrasive can be used. After this begins the image making process. A preliminary sketch of the God is made on the board. After the drawing is made, decoration of the jewellery and the apparel is done with semi-precious stones. Semi-relief work is done with a paste of chalk powder and gum. Arabic Laces or threads are used to decorate the jewellery. On top of this, the gold foils are pasted. Finally, dyes are used to add vibrant colors to the figures in the paintings. A decorbeautiful frame is then selected to accentuate the beauty of the painting. The paintings are mostly of Gods and Goddesses because this art of painting flourished at a time when fine-looking and striking temples were being constructed by rulers of several dynasties. The figures in these paintings are large and the faces are round and divine. However, with the rebirth of this art in the 20th century, artists in addition to recreating the original Tanjore figures are also experimenting with more proportioned figures, birds, flowers, animals, etc.
Weaving in Tamilnadu
Over the ages, India has conjured up different images at different times, but one constant through the centuries has been its textiles and one region, which has always been in the picture in this regard, has been Tamil Nadu. Uraiyur/Karur and Madurai, situated close to the cotton fields, were major centres of weaving. They still are the most prominent centers for the exquisite weaving products. Tanjavour is well known for its cotton weaving with several centres around the state. Cotton has long been the mainstay of the textiles of Tamil Nadu and one sees a wide range here. Madurai and Salem specialise in fine gold-bordered Dhotis, with Madurai's Dhotis considered a little superior in their weaving and Zari to those of Salem.
Kanchipuram, the "Silk Paradise" is world renowned for its hand-woven silk saris. About 75% of Kanchipuram's population is dependent on the silk sari industry, either directly or indirectly. Yet, the city does not manufacture silk or any other raw material that goes into its silk saris. The silk industry is entirely made up of handloom weavers and merchants. The exquisite silk saris are woven from pure mulberry silk in contrasting colours and have an enviable reputation for luster, durability and finish. They reflect a weaving and dyeing tradition hundreds of years old, whose riches and technique the west came seeking much before the industrial age began. More than 5,000 families are engaged in this industry today and their creations are marketed by a number of co-operative societies located all over the state. The Kanchipuram silk sari, woven from the mulberry silkworm, evolved originally from the Kornad Sari, which is India's most well known sari produced in Tamil Nadu. Research suggests that silk was a new entrant into Kanchipuram, for till a century and a half back, Kanchipuram was primarily a cotton-weaving centre. It was the Thanjavur-Kumbakonam belt and Arni along with Salem that produced the "Pattu Pudavai". But, today the finer, better-woven and more expensive silk saris are from Kanchipuram. The raw materials used in these silk weaving centers are not indigenous to Tamil Nadu for Zari comes all the way from Surat while neighbouring Karnataka supplies the silk. Indeed Karnataka meets the silk needs of not just Kanchipuram but the whole of India. The Kanchipuram silk sari is hand-woven with dyed silk yarn with interleaved designs made with 'Zari' - a silk thread twisted with thin silver wire and then gilded with pure gold. Technically, the silk thread used for weaving Kanchipuram saris is made up of three single threads twisted together. Hence, the Kanchipuram silk sari is usually stronger (and more expensive) than its counterparts from Arni, Dharmavaram, etc. However, the designs on the sari itself are what bring it the fame. Simply, the Kanchipuram sari is a fine piece of art. The main characteristic of the Kanchipuram sari lies in the time consuming method of interlocking its weft colours as well as its end piece and in the process creating solid borders and a solid "Mundhi". If well done one hardly sees where one colour ends and the other begin. Interlocked Zari borders are common down both sides of the sari and the garment is finished with matching gold Zari Pallu (traditionally draped over the women's shoulder as a feature). Traditional motifs such as, mango, elephant, peacock, diamond, lotus, pot, creeper, flower, parrot, hen, and depiction of stories from mythology are very common in Kanchipuram saris (also spelt as sarees). The recent development in the designing field shows the introduction of computerised Jacquard borders in Kanchipuram silk saris. Though the techniques and the materials are changing with the market demand; the motifs are still conventional and traditional in order to hold the custom and tradition of a Kanchipuram sari.
Along with silk saris, Kanchipuram also specializes in cotton and silk-polyester blended saris with the demand of the current market. Thanjavur and Kumbakonam create saris similar to Kanchipuram but the "Mundhi" or end pieces are finished differently. Kanchipuram saris are very heavy and gorgeous saris and are used specially for weddings in South Indian region as their traditional wedding sari.
Performing Arts in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Dance
Dance in South-India, is anchored to age-old tradition. This vast sub-continent has perpetuated to varied forms of dancing, each shaped by the influences of a particular period and environment. These pristine forms have been preserved through the centuries, to become a part of our present culture, a living heritage which is both our pride and delight. Nurtured in temples, princely courts or villages, dance has moved into the auditorium of today, bringing pleasure to many more people, in far-flung regions
Bharatanatyam is an Indian classical dance form from the state of Tamil Nadu, which represents the language of rhythm and melody in different patterns of curves, angles and lateral movements. The basis of the dance is the synchronization of rhythmic movements of the hands, symmetry of movement in footwork, poetic gestures and facial expressions. Bharatanatyam has a devotional basis and owes its origins to Devadasis (temple dancers). The musical instruments used to accompany Bharat Natyam are Mridangam, Manjira (Thalam), Vina, Violin, Kanjira, Surpeti, Venu and Tanpura.
Folk Dances in Tamilnadu
Karagam is a folk dance with musical accompaniment, performed balancing a pot on the head. Traditionally, this dance was performed by the villagers in praise of the rain goddess Mari Amman and river goddess, Gangai Amman, performed with literature with water pots balanced on their heads.
Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women.
This is done by girls dressed as peacocks, resplendent with peacock feathers and a glittering headdress complete with a beak. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress.
Kolaattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as 'Cheivaikiyar Kolaattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic noise.
This is an ancient folk dance form popular in Trichy, Salem, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore and Erode. No other musical instruments are used in this dance except the ankle-bells. This dance is performed by men only, during temple festivals. Stories and episodes centering around Murugan and Valli are depicted in the songs. As one of the rare folk art forms of ancient Tamil Nadu, this is being practiced now by the Telugu speaking people of the northern districts.
The ancient Tamils when they went on pilgrimage, carried the offerings to the gods tied on the either end of the long stick, which was balanced on the shoulders. In order to lessen the boredom of the long travel they used to sing and dance about the gods. Kavadi Aattam has its origin in this practice. Special songs were created to be sung while carrying the Kavadi Sindhu. This dance is performed only by men. It is done by balancing a pole with pots fixed on either end, filled with milk or coconut water.
Poikkal Kudirai Aattam
This is the Dummy Horse Dance where the dancer bears the dummy figure of a horse's body on his/her hips. This is made of light-weighted materials and the cloth at the sides swings to and fro covering the legs of the dancer. The dancer dons wooden legs, which sound like the hooves of the horse. The dancer brandishes either a sword or a whip. This folk dance needs much training and skill. This dance is accompanied by Naiyandi melam or Band music. This is connected to the worship of Iyyanar, prevails manily around Thanjavur.
Theatre in Tamilnadu
Tamil Nadu had developed the art of entertainment to its pristine heights at an early age. The three modes of entertainment classified as "Iyal" (Literature), "Isai" (Music) and "Nadagam" (Drama) had their roots in the rural folk theatre like Therukoothu. Therukoothu (street play) is the vibrant living theatre of Tamil Nadu. Therukoothu is more popular in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu and is normally conducted during village festivals, during the months of Panguni (March-April) and Aadi (July-August). The stories are taken from epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, and also local folklore. Usually the play starts in the late evening and gets over only during the small hours of the nights. The performance is so interesting that the audiences are spellbound unaware of the longs hours. Notwithstanding, there is also the culture of Super Theatre, entertainment evenings offered by corporate houses and NGOs who bring theatre into the banquet halls of city's choicest restaurants either as a service to their valuable customers or in aid of some special and noble cause. This has been on the rise in recent times, spanning at least one every other month. Leading Food and Clothing brands in the state bring about theatre productions domestically, regionally as well as internationally.
Since the 1940s, cinema has become the most popular form of mass entertainment. There are both touring and permanent cinema theatres; and sentimental and spectacular films, often featuring light music and dancing, are produced by the film studios. The Tamil film industry, one of the most prolific in the world has produced more than 5000 films. The first feature film was made in 1916. During the silent era, more than one hundred and twenty feature films were made and the first Sound Tamil film was made in 1931. Tamilnadu has the highest rate of exposure to cinema in India. The Government of Tamilnadu has firmly stood behind the Tamil film industry offering encouragement, help, guidance and support in many ways. Several measures like cash subsidies for films of merit, awards and prizes for individual excellence by artistes and technicians are offered providing stimulus for the creative filmmaker to do better to make more significant and quality oriented motion picture in Tamil. To create a proper friendly atmosphere, to enable film persons to function in a proper and signified manner several associations and bodies have been established over the past many years. The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, the Film Producers Guild, the various associations of Tamil film producer, distributors, exhibitors, unions of technicians and craftsmen like Federation of Film Employees of South India, South Indian Film Directors' Association and Associations of technicians like cameraman, editors, directors and others have been rendering great service in this direction to achieve the aims and objectives.