1 One of the major Dravidian languages of South India. There are approximately 60 million Tamil speakers at the beginning of the 21st century, mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, but including over 3–4 million in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the Southeast Asian Hindu diaspora. It has an extremely rich and varied literature, including, for example, the poetry included in the Caṅkam anthologies, and the influential bhakti poetry of the Āḻvārs and Nāyaṉmār. See also Dravidian.
2 The term is also applied to those who speak Tamil, and, by extension, to the cultural complex of southern India, sometimes in pointed contradistinction to the Āryan Sanskritic culture which originated in the North, but more commonly to the de facto mixture of indigenous Tamil and Brahmanical (or Sanskritized) cultures which has characterized Tamil religion (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain) since around the 3rd or 4th centuries ce.