For more than a century, Mamburam Maqam Dargah and Masjid and Kaliyattakkavu Devi Temple have stood as symbols of interfaith harmony.

Interfaith banners held at the Kaliyattakavu temple procession in Kerala
news Religion Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - 14:54

It was around noon when Madechalil Raghavan, a 60-year-old man from Kerala’s Areekode, reached the Mamburam Maqam Dargah and Masjid. Around 70 km from his village, Raghavan had been to the Dargah twice before. His ability to offer prayers at the Dargah irrespective of the fact that he identifies as Hindu provides him great relief.

“I believe that there’s oneness in every belief. All faith is for good. I’m happy that a non-Muslim like me can offer prayers at such a renowned Muslim pilgrim centre,” says Raghavan, spending more than 10 minutes praying at the Dargah along with his son, daughter-in-law and wife.

The Dargah of Sayyid Alavi Mouladaveel Al Hussainy Thangal, popularly known as Mamburam Thangal, is situated in a village near Chemmad in Malappuram district. About 10 km from here is the Kaliyattakkavu Devi Temple. For more than a century, both have stood as symbols of interfaith harmony. Hundreds of non-Muslim workshippers regularly visit the Dargah, and the Devi temple, for its part, maintains close ties with the Muslim pilgrim centre as well as with those from various faiths who participate in its famed Kozhikkaliyattam festival.

Stories of communal violence, animosity and hatred aren’t uncommon in today’s world, but in this small village in Malappuram, these two historic places of worship have long fostered Hindu-Muslim camaraderie. And now, with the help of technology, that message is being shared widely through live streams of discourses and debates on the historical relevance and importance of Mamburam and Kaliyattakkavu.


Kaliyattakkavu Temple

Mamburam Dargah is a major Islamic pilgrim centre in the Malabar region, typically witnessing thousands of pilgrims daily. According to historical records, Sayyid Alavi Mouladaveel Al Hussainy Thangal was a Yemeni Islamic scholar who settled in Mamburam in the early 19th century. Considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders of his age, Thangal was recognised as Qutub Zaman by Sunni followers in the state. Konthu Nair, an influential Hindu man in the area, was his clerk and steward for many years.

It is believed that Thangal granted the land to marginalised castes to set up the Kaliyattakkavu temple and it was he who fixed the date for the Moonniyur Kaliyattakkavu temple festival. A week-long Andu Nercha (annual offering) at the Dargah, organised in memory of Thangal, is one of the biggest annual spiritual festivals in the Malabar, and is closely connected to the Hindu annual festival of Kozhikkaliyattam.

The temple is dedicated to Ammancheri Amma or Kaliyattakkavilamma (Mother Goddess). The festival, also known as Thalappoli Ulsavam, is held during the Malayalam month of Edavam. Synonymous with communal harmony and interfaith relations, the festival draws thousands from across Malappuram, irrespective of caste and religion. The temple authorities still follow the tradition of its priests and devotees seeking blessings from the Mamburam Dargah before beginning the procession to mark the commencement of the festival ceremonies every year.

The Kozhikkaliyattam ceremony, the main event of the two-week long festival, is held on the 12th day, beginning on the first Monday of Edavam. Devotees participating in the procession carry effigies and are accompanied by percussion instrument players. The effigies — considered divine forms — are brought from the neighbouring villages.

“One of the famous legends around the festival is that Thangal had suggested the festival be conducted on a Friday. The ceremonies of the temple occur even during the time of namaz. On the eighth day, some of the temple processions visit devotees of the Dargah and Devi, and offer prayers at the Dargah. All this upholds unity in the region,” says Kuttikrishnan Nair, former president of the Kaliyattakkavu Temple management committee.


Mamburam Maqam

According to the book Mamburam Thangal Jeevitham Athmeeyatha Porattom, jointly written by Moin Hudawi and Mahmood Hudawi, Thangal was a champion of the oppressed, and fought for the rights of Dalits and other socially oppressed groups. Thangal also established strong unity among Hindus and Muslims in the region.

Malabarile Rathnangal, written by KK Abdul Kareem, notes that Thangal’s work was mainly aimed at strengthening the bond between Hindus and Muslims in the region. 

“The regular visits of non-Muslim worshippers to the Dargah in Mamburam even today shows the space Thangal has secured in the minds of people,” according to Mappila Malabar, written by noted historian and academician Hussain Randathani. The book also talks about the legends of the Kaliyattakavu temple festival. “A Dalit woman devotee from Angadippuram in Malappuram district approached Thangal for help after she had suffered harassment from upper class Hindus. Thangal arranged a portion of land in Kaliyattamukku for her to meditate,” it says.

Some believe that the Dalit woman was later elevated to the status of goddess at the temple.

Randathani says that the culture of trade that existed in bygone times required cooperation from all communities. “Bringing together people who belong to all strata of society was the way to achieve this harmony. There were no instances of confrontation between different faiths in the region and this hasn’t changed so far. This coexistence has been hailed and spread through online platforms. This is something that makes me feel immensely gratified,” the historian says.


Mamburam Jumamasjid near Tirurangadi in Malappuram

Historian and former vice-chancellor of Calicut University KKN Kurup, who wrote Mappila Parambaryam, says that Mamburam and Kaliyattakkavu are among the best examples of Hindu-Muslim unity. “Thangal was a secular leader. Though he imposed many Islamic rules here, he was not communal in spirit. As a strong leader, he managed to save the lives of many oppressed people from the hands of feudal lords,” he adds. However, Kurup adds that there are now efforts by some to rewrite the entire history of the region in order to sever connections between the mosque and temple. People should be vigilant against such intrusions into cultural spaces, he warns.

“Muslim leaders in Tirurangadi region were never affiliated with communal ideologies and always defended unity among people,” his book notes.

Writer KP Ramnunni explains that the cultural backdrop of the Maqam was made possible because a sect of Sunnis believed parochial rites and rituals could be absorbed and assimilated into the practice of religion. This may have led to the kinship between people of different faiths. “Before the Kaliyattam festival starts, the temple authorities visit the Dargah seeking permission to conduct it,” the writer adds.

The Darul Huda Islamic University in Chemmad, which is the managing administration of the Dargah and Masjid, recently launched a series of media programmes to introduce the Dargah and its cultural relevance to the world. An hour-long talk on interfaith harmony around the Maqam and Thangal’s contributions is posted every Sunday on the YouTube channels and social media handles of the Maqam. The rituals of the Dargah are live-streamed every Thursday.

Sajjad Moideen Hudawi, who is coordinating the new media wing of the Dargah, says that a special series focusing on the role of the Mamburam Maqam and Kaliyatakavu temple in maintaining peace and harmony in the region will be launched in the coming days.

“We’re hopeful that the message of religious harmony and brotherhood can be spread through interactive media programmes. This will be an example that could be emulated around the world,” he says.

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