Kottakkal: This town in the Malappuram district is now famous far and wide for the Ayurvedic therapy at the Arya Vaidya Sala. Close by, there is a mosque where people, especially women, from even distant places arrive and offer prayers. The region has hosted people of different faiths over the centuries and the Kottakkal town exemplifies the enduring communal harmony with recent records as well as legends attesting to such a long tradition. The mosque, locally known as the Palappura Juma Masjid, is also a strong symbol of brotherhood that exists among the people belonging to different religions in the area.
This Kerala town has been witness to cordial inter-communal relations for centuries. For instance the special dais (mimbra) at the mosque was presented to the masjid by PS Varier, the founder of the renowned Arya Vaidya Sala that is synonymous with the Kottakkal town. The masjid officials state the dais, which is used for leading the prayer, has been there for many decades and it is as a token of love and care of the Varier family to the people of another faith.
The dais, presented nearly 75 years ago, is still being preserved and used. “It is very rare that the people belonging to another religion present something that is to be used for an everyday purpose at places of worship. However, in Kottakkal, the Arya Vaidya Sala family, in particular, shares a very close bond with the people around and they always believed in religious harmony. The gate to their family house – Kailasamandiram – is proof to it. The 'mimbra' was gifted by PS Varier and the mosque authorities also preserved it like a treasure,” said Ramakrishnan, public relations officer at the AVS.
There are also references in the old texts kept at Arya Vaidya Sala regarding how Varier kept the gate open for all kinds of discussions and feast for people from all religions. Those upper-caste Brahmins who were unwilling to have food along with the others were asked to have food from the temple, it reads.
Paravakkal Beerankutty, who was a member of the mosque committee, spoke on another edifying story about the construction of the mimbra at the Palappura masjid. “I don't know the exact incidents that led to the construction of the mimbra. I have heard from my seniors, who were also part of the mosque committee, that Varier had a Muslim helper called Sooppikutty. Many decades ago, when both of them were travelling in a horse cart, they rested on the premises of a mosque at Ponmundam (7 km from Kottakkal). There, Soppikkutty noticed a beautiful mimbra inside that mosque and told Varier regarding the same.
“Varier felt that a similar one should adorn the mosque at Palappura too. Earlier also, his family had been generously donating to the mosque and to the Muslims in the area. For nearly eight decades, the dais has been preserved as a token of love and respect for the Varier family of Kottakkal,” said Beerankutty.
As testimony to the tradition of inter-community friendship here, the utensils required to prepare the masjid feast (nercha) are being provided by the Arya Vaidya Sala.
Another popular myth is regarding the close bond of the Muslims of the area with the Brahmin Moosad family, from whom the Zamorins, the Hindu monarch of the Kingdom of Calicut, took over the land. It is said when the region was administered by the Moosads, only a few Muslim families lived in and around Kottakkal. Then it was customary that the body of Muslims should be taken to Mambaram, 15 km away, for burial. When the thangal (community leader) of the Mambaram got irked by the cordial ties the Muslims in Kottakkal had with a leader from another religion, the former had once warned that they would have to face the consequences if someone in their family died. He implied that the bereaved would not get any land for burial at the popular burial place!
The Moosad came to know about the crisis faced by the few number of Muslim families of Kottakkal from his aide, a Muslim. He decided to donate enough land for them at Kottakkal itself so that they do not have to carry the dead to a faraway place. Respecting the decision of the Moosad, more Muslim families stayed back and they developed into a community here and flourished.
The elder members of the Muslim community in Kottakkal also believe that more than 200 acres of land were handed over to their ancestors so that they could settle down there. A mosque (the Palappura Juma masjid) and a burial ground (khabaristhan) came up there and they were no longer at the mercy of the Mambaram cleric to bury the dead. The bonds thus forged with the Moosad family only grew over time.
“Several plots of land from Thottungal to Puthur and Palappura to Villoor was handed over to our ancestors. The land, soon after the 'Palam' (bridge) was then called Palappuram and thus the name Palappura Juma masjid,” recalled Beerankutty.