The mosque committee in Olemundovu was facing shortage of land for the extension of the dargah and the temple president stepped in.

Lessons on religious unity from a Ktaka village Temple Chief donates land to mosque
news Religion Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 16:27

While Dakshina Kannada is often in the news for violent communal incidents, a temple administration’s president’s gesture to donate his own land to help a nearby mosque in Olemundovu village has brought cheer in the district.

Mohan Rai, president of the board which manages the Eliya Sri Vishnumurthy Temple, donated 12 cents of his land to a masjid located next to his property at Olemundovu. "The mosque is adjacent to our land and we consider them close neighbours. Even my ancestors held them in high regard. When they requested for the land, we considered it and decided to give it to them," said Mohan Rai speaking to TNM.

The benevolent gesture is also in stark contrast with the ongoing Ayodhya dispute, with Hindu and Muslim bodies now battling at the Supreme Court over the land.

For Rai, it was a straightforward decision to give part of his land to help his neighbours, yet it has sparked interest in the local media. "The phone has been ringing non-stop and we have stopped answering it. I don't know why this is considered news," said Rai. In fact, he was bemused that his decision to part with the land is being viewed as a benevolent gesture. "Every little event of coexistence between communities is now celebrated," he added.

Dakshina Kannada has gained notoriety for communal incidents in recent years due to a spate of violent clashes especially between Hindu and Muslim groups in the district. There have been over hundred communal incidents in the three coastal districts in 2017, according to figures compiled by Suresh Bhat of the Komu Souharda Vedike, an organization dedicated to promoting secularism in the district.

Rai, however, recalls a time when such activities promoting harmony were commonplace in the district. "This has been happening for generations in this village. We have always looked out for each other. We take part in Utsav celebrations, donate money to the mosque and I don't think there is anything newsworthy in helping a neighbour," added Rai.

Rai's home in Olemundovu is nestled amidst arecanut and rubber plantations. His property is surrounded on three sides by property belonging to the mosque. The mosque authorities seek blessings from Rai and his family, and vice-versa, during important festivals, a practice known as ‘harake’ in Kannada.

The Mosque

The mosque committee in Olemundovu was facing shortage of land for the extension of the dargah, and with the upcoming Urusu festival in February; they planned to use the land to build a kitchen facility to help manage the swelling crowd. They reached out to Rai asking him if he would be willing to part with his land. 

After deliberating the issue, Rai promised to hand over 12 cents land to the masjid on Friday. The mosque authorities welcomed the decision and thanked Rai for the gesture.

The Al Madrasathul Muhammidiya dargah in Olemundovu is located behind Rai's home. Adjacent to the dargah, there is also an orphanage run by the mosque authorities. A member at the mosque said that the mosque also has long-term plans to use the land for educational purposes. "We plan to build an educational institute to help children," said the source. 

The dargah is visited by both Hindus and Muslims in the village and the mosque administration said that there is no feeling of ill-will among people belonging to different communities in the village.

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