The Tamil language is evocative, replete with poetry, classical allusions about natural phenomena. This poetry is reflected in the arts - music and dance, sculpture and painting - and in the great temples built by succeeding dynasties. There is song and dance, poetry, story and legend woven around every occasion, reflecting the hopes, aspirations and beliefs of the people. Every art is rich with historical, poetic and cultural allusions, linked through centuries of celebration
Folk arts and crafts, the songs and dances, myths and legends, beliefs and practices, fairs and festivals - all these continue to be inspired by rural ideals. Life styles, culture and value systems are inspired and sustained by the basic urges of society, and the folk culture of the Tamils is no exception.
Any dance, ritual or festival of the people originally starts as a fertility rite and sympathetic magic. Most festivals were celebrated to augur the prosperity of the agricultural community, the fertility of the fields, the health and fecundity of the cattle and the birth and survival of children. The folk arts of Tamilnadu reflect the socio-religious customs and practices of rural people. Their aim is to prevent disease, drive away evil forces and increase vitality and strength.
Music and dance are the emotional offsprings of the happy moments of rural people and reflect the aesthetic scholarship of an unlettered genius. They emanate as spontaneous outbursts, from the impact of religious beliefs and ritualistic customs, and are an essential part of rural ceremonies and festivals. Tamilnadu being the repository of various arts and crafts, every village and its corresponding temple was a nursery for the arts, which were passed on through generations. These arts are devoid of rules and are highly flexible in character.
Unfortunately, our villages are now paying the price for progress and development by allowing themselves to be transformed into satellites of towns under the impact of that global phenomenon, the technological explosion. In the process, folk culture is gradually being replaced by "cinema culture," a culture created through plagiarising the west. It is imperative that Tamilnadu not only retains but revitalises the ethos of folk culture, a priceless heritage containing an enormous wealth of folk forms and traditions to be preserved.
This book was originally brought out in Tamil for the Foundation's project "Revival of Folk Art Forms in Schools", sponsored by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. The importance of the subject persuaded us to publish it in English, to reach a wider readership.
Several people have contributed in various ways to this publication: M. Amirthalingam to the research, while P. Ramaswami, Y. Venkatesh and Prema have done the drawings. Several others have contributed to the typing, data entry and printing. I am grateful to all of them for their help and whole-hearted involvement in this project.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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