Tamil people refer to an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and northeastern Sri Lanka. They are considered to belong to the last surviving classical civilization on Earth. The classical civilization is traceable to the Greek poetry of Homer in 8 BC. It ended around 500 AD. ‘Tamil’ also refers to the language of the Tamils spoken by 1 percent of the population of the world as being the official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore. The largest population of Tamils resides in India, with Siri Lanka being second. After the independence of Sri Lanka from Britain in 1948, the minority Tamils of Sri Lanka suffered at the hands of the Sinhalese majority. In consequence of the civil war, about one third of the Sri Lankan Tamils were constrained to leave their homeland, and they dispersed mostly into Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Mauritius, Australia, South Africa, and many other countries. Tamil people had their own literature known as Sangam literature. Tamil art is predominantly reflective of temple architecture and Hindu culture. Most of the Tamils are Hindus and have numerous deities to worship. In the absence of press freedom and the judiciary being under political control, things have not improved in Sri Lanka even after the end of the civil war.
1. V. Prabhakaran
Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran was born on November 26, 1954, to Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and Vallipuram Parvathy in Velvettithurai in Sri Lanka. In 1976, he founded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE. The militant organization aimed at achieving Eelam, an independent homeland in the form of an independent Tamil state to get rid of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala-speaking majority. Prabhakaran believed ‘Armed struggle is the only way out for the emancipation of our oppressed people.’ In an interview he elaborated, ‘There are three fundamentals. That is Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality, and a Tamil’s right to self-determination.’ When the Tamil Tigers invaded a Sri Lankan Army convoy killing 13 soldiers, the Sri Lankan Army retaliated by systematic killings of the Tamils. Prabhakaran remarked ‘The ’83 July Holocaust has united all sections of the Tamil masses’¦’ Under the unquestioned leadership of Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers ran a mini-state within a state over an area of more than 15,000 sq. kilometers. Prabhakaran was killed along with 18 LTTE leaders in an early morning ambush on May 18, 2009. According to a Time magazine article dated June 1, 2009 by Jyoti Thottam, ‘The rest of the world might never understand the violence Velupillai Prabhakaran stood for, but its imprint on Sri Lanka is wide and deep.’
2. Hema Malini R. Chakravarty
Hema Malini R. Chakravarty, better known as Hema Malini, and nicknamed Dream Girl, was born to Tamil speaking V.S.R. Chakravarty and Jaya in the village Ammankudi, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India on October 16, 1948. She has starred in 155 movies, performing along with world-famous superheroes like Ameetabh Bachan. Hema is a member of the Bharatya Janta Party and also a member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament. Although she was the highest-paid Indian actress and heartthrob of millions of people in the sub-continent, she said, ‘My interest was dance and, in the beginning, I didn’t enjoy acting at all. It was my mother who brought me into films and who looked after my career. I remember each time a producer came to meet her, my only reaction was, ‘Oh God, another year of my life gone.” She is undoubtedly the most beautiful and graceful Indian actress.
3. Anton Stanislaus Balasingham
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham was a Sri Lankan Tamil and a British citizen. He was born in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka on March 4, 1938 and died on December 14, 2006. He was the chief negotiator of LTTE. In a press conference, he appeared along with Prabhakaran in April, 2002. He was the head of the LTTE delegations during the Thimpu talks, Geneva Talks, and the peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government. He was considered a Prabhakaran confidante and verified his death to the news.
4. Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam
Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam was born in Kankesanthurai, dominion of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, on April 6, 1955. He is the current leader of LTTE which is declared a terrorist organization by 32 countries. He was on Interpol’s wanted list on charges of arms smuggling and criminal conspiracy. He was also wanted by the Indian law enforcement agencies in connection with the assassination of the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. He was arrested on August 5, 2009 and released on October 17, 2012.
5. Navanethem Pillay
Navanethem Pillay was born in Durban, Natal Province, Union of South Africa on September 23, 1941. She was the first, colored woman of Indian origin on the High Court of South Africa. She had also been a judge of the International Criminal Court. She presided over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She is a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She won the right of access to the lawyer for the political prisoners including Nelson Mandela on Robben Island in 1973.
6. Viswanathan Anand
Viswanathan Anand was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India on December 11, 1969. He is the current Indian Chess Grandmaster and the World Chess Champion. He has won the world championship five times. He has been honored with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and the Padma Vibhushan awards, the former being the highest Indian Award for sports while the latter is the second-highest, civilian award in India.
Jayakanthan was born in 1934 in Cuddalore, South Arcot, Tamil Nadu. Although he had good relations with his mother and grandfather, yet his father seemed to be a martinet, as it was due to him that he was school dropout in the third grade. He ran away from his home to live with his uncle who was a Communist, and it was there that Jayakanthan met some great leaders like Mr. Jeeva Jeevandam and Mr. Baladandayutham. He learned Tamil from a pandit. He is considered one of the most prolific Tamil writers of the century. He was invited by the Russian government as a state guest and was honored with the Nehru Literary Award.
8. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan was born in Chidambaram, Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India. He revealed that he was denied admission to a technical institute in Tamil Nadu but later received his Ph.D. from Ohio University in 1976. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in physics from Ohio University in 1976. He is a Nobel Laureate and shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Thomas A. Seitz and Ada E. Yonath. He was awarded the Nobel Prize ‘for studies of the structure and function of ribosome.’
9. V. S. Kumar Anandan
V. S. Kumar Anandan, son of Vivekanandan, was born in Valvettiturai, Jaffna, Sri Lanka and died on August 6, 1984. He held 9 Guinness World Records, and 1 of them was swimming to the Palk Strait from Sri Lanka to India and back in 51 hours in 1971. He graduated from the University of London and also received his degree in law from Sri Lanka. He died on August 6, 1984 when he collapsed attempting to swim across the English Channel. In his time he held the maximum number of Guinness Records at one time.
10. Balamurali Ambati
Balamurali Ambati, son of Dr. Rao, was a Tamil-American researcher, educator, and ophthalmologist. He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995 as the world’s youngest doctor. He graduated from high school at the age of 11 and graduated from New York University at the age of 13 years. He graduated from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine when he was 17 years old, and was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest doctor in the world. In the year 1995, he was honored with the Raja Lakshmi Award.
Ethnic diversity is a type of bio-diversity, and there is always beauty in diversity. Han Chinese, with more than 1.2 billion people, are the largest, ethnic group in the world while the Korowai people of Papua New Guinea, comprising less than 3,000 people, are the smallest, ethnic group first contacted as late as 1970. Tamils fall between these extremities and are great people from diverse fields.