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Tamil Heritage Month celebrations in full swing in B.C., highlighting an ancient culture

Children dressed in gold South Asian outfits are seated on the floor singing and playing a Villu, or bow strung with bells.

Vancouver’s Norman Rothstein Theatre was a vibrant portrait of colours, sound and thundering applause as B.C.’s Tamil community came together on Jan. 21 to celebrate Tamil Heritage Month. 

Each year, Tamils in B.C., many of whom fled the atrocities of war in their home country a little over a decade ago, take this opportunity to share an ancient and rich culture with their fellow 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 Tamil community’s contributions and the traditional harvest festival, known as Pongal.

“We have to celebrate Tamil heritage and the knowledge of our ancestors to make sure we don’t lose that,” said Arun Vadhavooran, a Victoria resident.

He says one of the highlights in B.C. is the Tamil Heritage Month show hosted by the Thamil Cultural Society of B.C. 

Villu Pattu is a musical storytelling performance, often about an adventurous epic or social message that is sung while hitting a bow strung with bells. (Arrthy Thayaparan/CBC)

Vadhavaroon usually makes the trip to Vancouver for the show with his family to perform Villu Pattu, an ancient form of storytelling where narration is interspersed with music using a bow 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 performances.

Originally from India, Vadhavooran misses the festivities of his home country, which feature traditional art forms like Bharatanatyam, a traditional dance known for statuesque poses and powerful footwork, and poetic Kavi Arangam, a form of spoken word, where poets display their prowess in the ancient language and share messages of gratitude and humour. 

The B.C. show allows the community to share these traditions with a Western audience. 

WATCH | Tamil performers showcase their culture:

Sights and sounds of B.C.’s Tamil Heritage Month celebrations

This January, the Thamil Cultural Society of B.C. hosted its annual Tamil Heritage Month festivities with a colourful, diverse display of traditional performances.

‘Small, but mighty’

B.C. plays an important role in Tamil Canadian history. In 2009 and 2010, Tamil refugees arrived off the coast of Vancouver Island to escape the atrocities of war in Sri Lanka. 

“The [Sri Lankan] government didn’t welcome these folks, but certainly the people of British Columbia did,” said Gary Anandasangaree, the Ontario MP…

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