Iyer men and women are comparatively fairer in complexion than the average Tamilian. They, like other Brahmins draw their roots to one of the eight rishis or sages. Accordingly they classify themselves into eight gotras.The Iyers have migrated to various places in India which includes West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerela. A significant proportion of the population also migrated to Mumbai, Kolkata, Orissa and Delhi during the colonial period. Tamil is the mother tongue of the Iyer community. However, the Iyers speak a distinct dialect of Tamil. This dialect of Tamil is known as Braahmik or Brahmin Tamil. Apart from Tamil, Iyers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerela are also fluent in the local languages of the state which is Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam respectively.
Iyers are strictly vegetarian. Like most other South Indian communities, rice is the staple food of the Iyers. Ghee is a crucial part of the diet which is eaten with rice. Vegetarian side dishes like sambhar, rasam are frequently prepared in the Iyer households. They are also fond of curd which is an indispensable part of the Iyer menu. Coffee is their favourite beverage.
The traditional dress of the Iyer men are veshtis which cover from waist to foot. They are made of cotton and sometimes of silk. During festivals, veshtis are worn in a typical brahminical style popularly known as panchakacham. The Iyer woman wears a nine yard saree also known as madisar in Tamil.
Iyer have their distinct rituals and customs. At the time of birth, the Iyer child is named after the horoscope is made. This is an important ceremony where that individual has to be mentioned by name. The first birthday of an Iyer child is very important an it is on this day that the child officially becomes a part of the Hindu religion. It is called Ayushya Homam. The Upanayana ceremony is another important event in the life of an Iyer male where a three piece cotton thread is worn around the body. The other rituals include the marriage and the death ceremonies. The community celebrates almost all Hindu festivals like Diwali, Navratri, Pongal,Vinayaka Chaturthi, Janmasthami, Tamil New Year, Shivratri and Karthika Deepam. The Iyers fast on Amavasya, Ekadasi and Sivaratri.
Some of the distinguished Iyers are Hariharan ( singer) Usha Uthup ( singer) Kavita Krishnamurthy (singer)and directors like K. Balachander and Mani Ratnam. Famous classical dancer Rukmini Dev Arundale was also an Iyer. She revived the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam.