By Muhammad Razi T Hudawi
When, after the Great Deluge, Noah’s Ark rested on the mountains, God made a covenant of peace with Noah and all generations to come. And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come; I have set my rainbows in the cloud, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.” (Genesis 9:13)
Thalangara in Kerala was always a picturesque rainbow land of God: a land in peace with itself and the world, an earthly heaven where the warp of harmony and the weft of peace are woven intimately in its soul and soil as the multihued embossing and debossing of its own Thalangaratthoppi.
Dive deeper and delve into the wide corpora of history, seldom will you find anything about Thalangara. Rather, akin to a literary synecdoche, almost all the stories that you read about Kasaragod are themselves the story of Thalangara. For being the heartland of the region, Thalangara’s history was transposed to that of Kasaragod, thereby interchangeably representing each other. That is why when we read ‘Malik Deenar came to Kasaragod’ we mean that he actually came to Thalangara itself. Even the gorgeous Masjid that adorns the land of Thalangara is often titled as ‘Kasaragod Great Juma Masjid’. Thus, Kasaragod is itself Thalangara and vice versa.
The Advent of Light
The history of Thalangara Muslims is as old as the advent of Islam in Kerala. When Malik Deenar, the blessed Companion, set foot on the shore of Kerala, neither did he know Malayalam nor could the natives comprehend the Arabic language. Add to it, the cultural barriers they both had. However, true minds need no words to express; for, barriers break, when legends walk. Truly, it was his righteous deeds that enraptured the natives’ hearts. They were wholly attracted to his teachings like a bee drawn to a pot of honey.
Simply put, before the advent of Malik Deenar, Thalangara was a land of ‘irrational’ beliefs, a land revering serpent-gods and evil spirits. Social evils were rampant at that time. Malik Deenar and his companions led the people from the shackles of ignorance to the pinnacle of enlightenment.
Malik Deenar built the Masjid on the panoramic coast of Arabian Sea. Afterwards, all the events of this region were tied intimately with this historic Masjid. The growth of Thalangara as a rainbow land was on the foundation laid by Malik Deenar, the Companion, whom every Thalangarite believes to be resting on their soil, though historians may differ on this.
A legacy woven around a cap
Thalangara was always an affluent godly land. The Almighty has blessed it with grace and grandeur. People were industriously engaged in manufacturing and mercantile affairs. They manufactured boats and Urus (vessels) after the famous Yemeni design. These vessels were employed to carry 50-75 tonnes of merchandise to nearby sea coasts. Attracted by its efficiency, even Arab and African merchants bought Urus for their lucrative seafaring trade. Over the decades, its demand declined and people were no more interested in this traditional trade.
The fame of this region is woven around its own beauteous Thalangaratthoppi. In the not-so-distant past, Thalangara was totally immersed in Thoppi (cap) making. This has a legacy of a century, tracing back to the time of Qadi Abdullah Haji.
Merchants from islands had been visiting Kasaragod and Mangalore region as part of their trade. Coconut products and dried fish were their main items. Nonetheless, it was not their products, but those islanders’ delicately woven caps that enraptured Abdullah Haji’s heart. He persuaded them to commence their cap-making works in this land, which came to be known globally because of this cap. Eventually, it became one of the leading products for export. Faraway African and Gulf countries were the main markets of Thalangaratthoppi.
More than a profession to earn money, Thalangarites had an obsession to weave the warp and woof of the cap, as though they were caressing a lovely child. Resting on a sit outside their home, pious men would sew their caps in tune with the rhythm of Malappattu. Meanwhile, women would embroider them with their own beauty. After finishing their daily works at home, women would get together in a house and would fairly but meticulously emboss their woven caps with flowers and deboss them with leaves and colourful threads. It was always done with the melodious chorus of Sabeena songs and Mala-Maulids. However, with the import of Omani caps, Thalangaratthoppi has lost its past glory. Barring a few exceptions, local people are no longer engaged in sewing and embroidering their traditional cap.
The epic of the Rainbow Land
Similar to the seven colours of the rainbow, Thalangara is a symbiosis of different cultures and languages. Cultural syncretism has always been a part of the region.
Thalangara is a witness to many luminaries, saints, revolutionaries, and erudite scholars. Throughout history, the progress of this land was made possible by such pious scholars as Malik b. Muhammad, Qadi Abdullah Haji, Twaqa Ahmad Azhari, and Prof. Alikkutty Musliyar. Apart from these scholars, many visionary leaders and activists like T. Ubaid, Thalangara Muhammad Kunhi and KS Abdullah Haji have left their indelible imprint.
Qadi Abdullah Haji was a man of great affability, suavity, and personal charm. Serving as a jurisconsult for four decades, his life became a watershed in the religious, cultural, educational, and political history of Thalangara. Through his relentless efforts, he strove for the upliftment of his community in every walk of life. Thalangara witnessed a drastic change during the lifetime of Abdullah Haji. He spent his days in religious teaching and the nights offering public address. His orations were so effective and captivating that people from the four corners of the region gathered around him and were deeply moved by his maxims. Abdullah Haji gave much attention to social reform in his land, especially in the domain of education. After his ascension as the Qadi of Kasaragod and Mangalore, Thalangara became a hub of religious learning. In 1918, he established Muizzul Islam Madrasa with a vision of spreading integrated education in Muslim society. His efforts were not merely confined within religious and educational initiatives. He was also a great anti-colonial freedom fighter. During the turbulent freedom movement, he motivated his community to join hands together with the Congress in their struggle for freedom. During the last phase of his life, he was joined by an enlightened young man, T. Ubaid and this event became the turning point in the history of entire Kasaragod. Abdullah Haji’s renaissance efforts were kept unextinguished by T. Ubaid.
Ubaid was a combination of revolutionary ideas, unbridled courage, and creativity, a man with rare qualities of head and heart. The socio-cultural renaissance of Thalangara Muslims was later led by him. He became the epitome of how Muslims could regain their lost glory culturally and educationally. Ubaid sahib is still remembered in the literary world as a poet, essayist, and translator of high repute. He could write thought-provoking poems – pivoted around the Quran – in Arabic, Malayalam, Kannada, Urdu, and Tulu languages. His melodious mappilappattus still linger in the literary arena of Malabar. As a revolutionary leader, Ubaid strove hard for the academic progress of the Muslim community. He motivated people around him to reach the highest level possible in every virtue. His friendship with Muhammad Sherool, a progressive freedom fighter, had a great influence on his growth as a fearless leader. Sherool was eager to spend money for the reformist ideas of Ubaid. So, they made incessant efforts for the educational advancement of the Muslim community. In 1931, Ubaid came to the helm of Muizzul Islam Sangham and his attempts for reformation grew manifold. Till his last day, 3 October, 1972, he immersed himself in reformative endeavors. The day he died, he was inaugurating an Arabic seminar in the preeminent Muslim High School.
Muhammad Razi T Hudawi is based in Kasaragod, Kerala. He graduated from Darul Huda Islamic University and is currently a post-graduate student at Calicut University, Kerala.
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