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Epigraphic evidence of an ethnic group termed as such is found in ancient Sri Lanka where a number of inscriptions have come to light datable from the 6th to the 5th century BCE mentioning Damela or Dameda persons.
The well-known Hathigumpha inscription of the Kalinga ruler Kharavela refers to a T(ra)mira samghata (Confederacy of Tamil rulers) dated to 150 BC.
From the 5th century BCE onwards, urbanisation and mercantile activity along the western and eastern coasts of what is today Kerala and Tamil Nadu led to the development of four large Tamil political states, Chera dynasty, Chola dynasty, Pandyan Dynasty and Pallava dynasty and a number of smaller states warring amongst themselves for dominance.
Tamils were noted for their martial, religious and mercantile activities beyond their native borders.
Pandyas and Cholas were historically active in Sri Lanka.
Chola bronzes, especially the Nataraja sculpture of the Chola period, have become notable as a symbol of Hinduism.
Tamil performing arts are divided into popular and classical.