Indian Tamil diaspora

Part of a series on

The Tamil Nadu diaspora (Tamil: அயலகத் தமிழர்) also known as Madrasi diaspora (after Madras, erstwhile name of Tamil Nadu) comprises of people who have emigrated from South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, (and other adjacent Tamil speaking areas) to other non-Tamil Indian states and other countries, and people of Tamil Nadu descent (and other adjacent Tamil speaking areas) born or residing in other non-Tamil Indian states and other countries.

Early migrations (before 1800s)

Many of Tamil emigrants who left shores of Tamil Nadu before 18th Century and mixed with countless other ethnicities. In medieval period Tamilians emigrated as soldiers, traders and labourers settled in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and intermixed well with local population, while few communities still maintain their language and culture. Many groups still claim descent from this era Tamil emigrants such as Kaikadis of Maharashtra, Chittys of Malaysia, and some section of Sri Lankan Tamils such as Sri Lankan Chetties, Bharatha people, Mukkuvars, Negombo Tamils, Saiva Vellalars of Jaffna, Thigalas, Hebbars of Karnataka, Velamas of Northern Andhra. Most Tamils who have resided in their new homelands for generations have even adopted local languages as their mother tongue, where as others are fluent in local languages and Tamil, except Saiva Vellalars of Jaffna who formed their unique Tamil community and influenced culturally, linguistically on other local communities.

Medieval Migration (1800 - 1950)

During this period British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Danish colony administrators recruited a lot of local Tamilians and took them to their overseas colonies to work as labourers, petty administration officers, clerical and military duties.

In the 19th century, Madras Presidency (of which the Tamil Nadu region was a core part of) faced brutal famines. Great Famine of 1876–78. Tamil Nadu was both politically and economically weak. Britishers thus made use of hungry Tamil workers for their plantations to all over the world - significantly in Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Sri Lanka (distinct from the Tamils who migrated to Sri Lanka before 18th century) and also as far as Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad.

Some of the Tamil groups (especially Chettiyars, Pillais, Muslims) emigrated as commercial migrants. These groups then dominated the trade and finance in Myanmar, Singapore, and other places. The first Indian to own a merchant ship during the British times comes from this group. [1]

There also a group of people from French Tamil colonies of Pondicherry and Karaikal emigrated and settled in other parts of the world, significantly in France, Réunion, Seychelles and the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Suburbs of the Bangalore city have a large Tamil population. They trace their ancestry to the large number of Tamil speaking soldiers, suppliers and workers who were brought into the Bangalore Civil and Military Station, by the British Army, after the fall of Tippu Sultan.

These Tamilians well integrated, assimilated with their adopted countries, and became part and parcel of local populations in Mauritius, South Africa, Guyana, and Fiji. Where as Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka, and Tamil Malaysians of Malaysia were evolved into distinct communities of their own identity but retaining their language and religion in their new homelands.

Modern Migration (1950 - present)

In the second half of the 20th century, around 2 million Tamils from South India migrated as skilled professionals, workers to various parts of India like Bangalore, Mumbai, Andaman Islands and also countries like UAE, USA, Singapore and so on. Some of them got citizenship of respective countries but still having strong family and cultural ties with Tamil Nadu, than those who migrated before 1950, who lost touch with their ancestral links in Tamil Nadu.

Andaman Islands

Main article: Andaman Tamils

Andaman and Nicobar Islands has about 100,000 Tamils. The Tamil speaking people of the Andaman and Nicobar islands are commonly known as the Madrasi (after Madras, erstwhile name of Tamil Nadu). There are three groups of Tamilians. The first being those who migrated from Tamil Nadu in search of livelihood and are found in almost all the islands where human beings are settled. The second are the Tamil speaking repatriates from Myanmar who migrated after military junta came to power in the then Burma. The third group are Tamil speaking repatriates from Sri Lanka who migrated after ethnic clashes in the tiny island country started. The population of first group is largest among them and it is still swelling as the migration continues. They speak Tamil at home and use Tamil script while writing. With non-Tamil they speak in a sort of local Hindi, often referred to as Andaman Hindi. Educated Tamils speak in English too. Most of them enjoy privileges under the category of "Local" residents.


Main article: Indian Singaporeans

Singapore is home to about 500,000 Tamilians. Tamil people of Singapore whose ancestors migrated to Singapore before 1950s from South Asia form a separate sub-group among Singapore Tamils because of their unique culture and lifestyle they adopted from local Malay and Chinese population. They constitute about 200,000 persons. Tamil Language is one of the four official languages in Singapore.[2] An estimation of about 3.2% percent of the total population in Singapore speaks Tamil at home, while about 5% is literate in Tamil language.[3] Almost all official documents printed in Singapore are translated and distributed in Tamil as well as three other national languages. In 1956, the Singapore government decided to adopt a trilingual policy. Students were taught English, a second language, as well as Malay as a third language.[4] Today the emphasis has shifted to bilingualism, while the third language is optional.

Tamil is taught as a second language in all government schools from the primary to junior college levels. Tamil is an examinable subject at all major nationwide exams. There is a daily Tamil newspaper printed in Singapore, the Tamil Murasu. There is a full-time radio station, Oli 96.8, and a full-fledged TV channel, Vasantham.[5]


Main article: Tamil Americans

In United States of America, there are 132,573 - 150,000 Tamilians (2010 US Census)[6] Central New Jersey contains the largest population concentration of Indian Americans of Tamil descent. New Jersey houses Tamil associations including its own Tamil Sangam.[7] Sizeable Tamil populations and various Tamil organisations have also developed in the New York City Metropolitan Area and the Washington Metropolitan Area, as well as on the West Coast in the Silicon Valley, where there are Tamil associations such as the Bay Area Tamil Manram.[8]


The Middle East is home to thousands of migrants from Tamil Nadu and over 75.000 migrants immigrated to the Middle East in 2012 alone.[9] However, statistics on the numbers of migrants are scarce.

There are about 450,000 Tamilians in the United Arab Emirates having come from Tamil Nadu as professionals and workers in many sectors.[10] Pongal and New Year are celebrated on a grand scale in Dubai and in a few other states. Recently a Tamil newspaper Tamilan Kural circulates in Dubai. The first Tamil newspaper from the Middle East region was launched from Dubai on December 10, 2014. Tamil 89.4 FM radio is a tamil radio broadcasting from Dubai UAE.


  1. Raghuram, Parvati; Sahoo, Ajaya Kumar; Maharaj, Brij; Sangha, Dave (16 September 2008). "Tracing an Indian Diaspora: Contexts, Memories, Representations". SAGE Publications India.
  2. Singapore, R. o. (1999). Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. Retrieved 10 1, 2010, from Singapore Statutes Online:
  4. Amy J, M. Singapore: A Multilingual, Multiethnic Country.
  6. US Census 2010 See Row# 125
  7. New Jersey Tamil Sangam
  8. Bay Area Tamil Manram
  9. "Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of Indian workers abroad, not Kerala or Punjab". Retrieved 2015-09-15.
  10. Sivasupramaniam, V. "History of the Tamil Diaspora". International Conferences on Skanda-Murukan.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/5/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.