Nation profile

Tamil Eelam
Tamil Eelam

General information
3,379,221 (2012 census)
21.952 km²
Eastern province, Northern province, district of Puttalam (subdivisions of Sri Lanka); Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (Tamil diaspora)
Major cities
Trincomalee, Kilinochchi, Jaffna
State administration
Sri Lanka
Territorial languages
Tamil, Indo-Portuguese, Sinhalese
Official languages
Tamil, Sinhalese
Major religion
Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam
National day
Maaveerar or Heroes' Day (27 November)


Tamil Eelam is the name referring to the territory of Sri Lanka that the Tamil sovereignty movement regards as the national land of the Tamil people. The name literally means “Tamil Sri Lanka”, taking an ancient Tamil name (Eelam) to refer to the whole island (the present Tamil name for it is Ilankai).

The borders of Tamil Eelam referred to in the general information above correspond to those that the Tamil national movement devised in the 1980s and which, even today, continue to propose numerous Tamil organizations in the diaspora. Even so, main Tamil party in Sri Lanka Tamil National Alliance (TNA) often refers only to Northern and Eastern provinces as being Tamil, leaving aside the Puttalam district.

Political-military organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a war of independence against the Sri Lankan army in 1983 and came to control large swathes of Tamil Eelam land over the next two decades, establishing a de facto independent quasi-state there. The Tamil Tigers were defeated by the Sri Lankan army in a final offensive in 2009, which caused the displacement of 300,000 Tamils.

Since the end of the war, the Tamil political movement has tried to achieve an agreement for an extended autonomy for the Northern and Eastern provinces within the Sri Lankan framework, without success.

National identity

Tamil Eelam is a nationally diverse country. According to the 2012 Sri Lankan population census, Tamils make up 39.8% of the population in the Eastern province, while Sri Lankan Moors comprise 36.7% of the population. Sinhala make up 23.1% of the population. The Northern province is much more homogeneous, with Tamils at 93.9% and Moors and Sinhalese at 3.1 percent each. A small minority of Burghers (a people formed by the intermingling of Europeans and local islanders) can be found in both provinces.

In the Puttalam district, claimed by some conceptions as a part of Tamil Eelam, Tamils only make up 6.3% of the population.

Most Tamils are of Hindu faith, albeit a Christian Tamil minority also exists. The Sinhala are mostly Buddhists, while Sri Lankan Moors adhere to the Sunni Muslim faith. Burghers belong to several Christian denominations.

(Last updated March 2018.)