Vancouver’s Norman Rothstein Theater was a vibrant portrait of color, sound and thunderous applause as BC’s Tamil community came together on January 21 to celebrate Tamil Heritage Month.
Each year, British Columbia Tamils, many of whom fled the atrocities of war in their homeland just over a decade ago, take this opportunity to share an ancient and rich culture with their fellow citizens. Canadians and each other.
Tamil Heritage Month, first recognized federally in 2016 and provincially in 2020, is celebrated across the country in January to commemorate the contributions of the Tamil community and the traditional harvest festival, known as from Pongal.
“We need to celebrate the Tamil heritage and the knowledge of our ancestors to make sure we don’t lose that,” said Arun Vadhavooran, a resident of Victoria.
He says one of the highlights of British Columbia is the Tamil Heritage Month show put on by the Thamil Cultural Society of BC.
Vadhavaroon usually travels to Vancouver for the show with his family to perform Villu Pattu, an ancient form of storytelling where the narration is interspersed with music using an arch adorned with bells.
“I want my son to have the opportunity to mingle with everyone and learn from them,” he said of the celebration and the performances.
Originally from India, Vadhavooran misses the festivities of his home country, which feature traditional art forms like Bharatanatyam, a traditional dance known for its sculptural poses and powerful footwork, and the poetic Kavi Arangam, a form of speech, where poets display their prowess in the ancient language and share messages of gratitude and humor.
The BC show allows the community to share these traditions with Western audiences.
WATCH | Tamil artists present their culture:
“Small, but mighty”
British Columbia plays an important role in the history of Tamil Canada. In 2009 and 2010, Tamil refugees arrived off Vancouver Island to escape the atrocities of war in Sri Lanka.
“The [Sri Lankan] government didn’t take those people in, but certainly the people of British Columbia did,” said Gary Anandasangaree, the Ontario MP who sponsored the federal Recognition Month bill.
Anandasangaree said the Tamil community has come together to provide shelter, food and support.
“It’s a small but mighty community.”
Anandasangaree was invited to the BC celebrations as a token of appreciation for his contributions.
“Tamil Heritage Month is a secular…multi-faith celebration, and we celebrate it [in Canada] recognize the language. »
This year, hundreds of people, from infants to elders, came together to celebrate for the first time since the pandemic began.
“We are a very vibrant community…committed to restoring and conserving [our] identity,” Anandasangaree said.
At over 5,000 years old, he says, Tamil is considered the world’s oldest living language in use today. Its community includes people from Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia and Fiji.
For Anandasangaree, it is important to share Tamil culture with a wider audience.
“Community is an important aspect of Canadian society, we contribute in so many different ways, and we should be proud of that.”
Pass the torch
January marks the start of the Tamil solar calendar and the harvest festival, according to Darshana Yogarajah, spokesperson for Arul Migu Thurkadevi Temple in Burnaby.
“We celebrate Thai Pongal (the harvest festival) by offering to the Sun God and Mother Nature,” she said, adding that the festivities are held by boiling milk and cooking sweet rice with the family.
Yogarajah grew up in British Columbia, celebrating Pongal with her parents and sisters. She now shares these traditions with her son.
“It is important for me to pass on these joys to the next generation as well.”
Burnaby Grade 11 student Avai Ramesh has been learning Tamil since he was 10 years old. She says attending cultural events is essential to her Canadian Tamil identity.
“Being born in Canada, I sometimes feel out of place and not really connected to my culture,” she said.
“Gathering among my fellow Tamils here, especially in Pongal [and Tamil Heritage Month]It really gives me that sense of community.”