The Tamil Cultural Society of British Columbia celebrates Tamil Heritage Month

With approximately 10 per cent of Tamil Canadians living in B.C., this month (Jan. 27) recognizes the presence of Tamil culture – with a celebration at Genesis Theatre, Delta – and its contribution to the multicultural fabric of B.C. and Canada.

“We need to keep the tradition going because it is important. We shouldn’t forget about our ancestry and where we come from,” says Devanesan Loganathan, president of The Tamil Cultural Society of British Columbia (TCSBC).

TCSBC will showcase traditional Tamil dance, music and food.

Fostering a sense of community

TCSBC has been hosting cultural events and showcasing traditional Tamil music and dance since its formation in 1994.

The society set out to foster a sense of community between Tamil Canadians as their population continued to grow in Canada.

“Vancouver and Surrey have a lot of Tamil people, whereas Richmond and Delta don’t,” says Loganathan.

The early 2000s saw a large increase in the presence of Tamil-speaking individuals in Canada, many of whom arrived as refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Throughout the year, TCSBC preserves Tamil culture through the running of two Tamil schools, one in Vancouver and the other in Surrey. Every Saturday, children (between the ages of five to 18) can learn to read and write Tamil, the second most-spoken South-Asian language in Canada as of 2016.

Dancers from Tamil Cultural Society of BC’s 2020 Pongal harvest festival celebration. | Photo courtesy of Tamil Cultural Society of BC.

“Although we are in a foreign country – we have to adapt to Canadian values and all those things – we shouldn’t give up on our own tradition,” says

Loganathan believes recognition from individual cities is vital in acknowledging the presence of Tamil people in these areas.

“When those cities recognize us, they will know there are people called Tamils among them,” points out Loganathan. “That’s the main reason for the other municipalities to recognize us as well.”

The TCSBC currently runs between six-to-seven events a year. And, according to Loganathan, has been “instrumental” in asking the provincial government to recognize January as Tamil Heritage Month.

In 2022, following B.C.’s decision in 2020, The City of Vancouver officially proclaimed January to be recognized as Tamil Heritage Month. In 2023, the cities of Burnaby, Surrey and Delta followed suit.

Keeping traditions alive

Tamil heritage, including language and history, has existed for more than 2000 years, making it a culture rich in traditions.

The month of January holds significance in Tamil culture already. Thai Pongal, the festival of harvest, occurs on Jan. 14 and is celebrated by all Tamils, regardless of religion. The festival celebrates a bountiful harvest and gives thanks to the people and the animals that helped produce it.

“Everyone celebrates Thai Pongal, regardless of whether you are a Hindu or Catholic or Muslim, because it’s a harvest festival,” says Loganathan.

TCSBC’s Jan. 27 celebration showcases aspects of keeping culture alive. Villu Paatu, a traditional Tamil instrument used to tell a story musically, will be played. Bharatanatyam, a solo dance typically performed by a woman, will be performed. Varieties of traditional singing will also take place.

“There are two varieties,” says Loganathan, “it’s kind of like opera singing and rock and roll, there are two different things.”

There will be an opportunity to learn about Tamil heritage, says Loganathan, with a few events “teaching Tamil history and how Tamil society evolved in foreign countries.”

The event will end with a serving of traditional food, and welcomes all B.C. residents to join in celebrating Tamil culture.

For those curious about Tamil culture, other events held in B.C. offer the Tamil cinema experience. Tamil has a large cinematic industry, producing a substantial number of films annually. On Jan. 10, The Rio Theatre in Metro Vancouver – in conjunction with the 2024 Pongal festival – will screen the premiere of a Tamil language film, Captain Miller.

TCSBC aims to celebrate, to remember and to educate the future generations about Tamil Culture and Heritage.

The Jan. 27 event is held in celebration of Tamil Heritage Month, a month recognized federally in 2016, and provincially in 2020.

To find out more about TSCBC, visit their website at: