Monday, 26 November 2012

Kanjiramattom Mosque

Sheikh Fariduddin was a great Sufi saint, who did a lot for the intensification of Islam. It is believed that he is a descendent of Hasrath Umarul Farooq and the son of Jamaluddin Sulaiman and Kharsam khathoon. He travelled far and wide for acquiring and spreading knowledge that he has acquired. He visited almost all the places of India for spreading Islam, and on one of his sojourns he reached Kanjiramattom, a small village in Kerala… 

It is believed that once, this place was a jungle and was rich with snake wood tree. Snake wood tree is locally known as kanjiram and eventually the place got the name Kanjiramattom.

The saint spent a great part of his life to abet the poor and uneducated people of this region. Gradually he was able to build a mosque here to satisfy the spiritual needs of the local Muslims.. Today this mosque is known as Kanjiramattom mosque and is dedicated to Sheikh Fariduddin…

The mosque, located 25km away from Cochin is famous for the Chandanakkudam festival celebrated here in January 13 and 14 every year. Thousands of people come to partake in the festival also known as Kodikuthu festival, and to visit the tomb of the saint each year. 

There are two mosques in this place, mele palli and thazhe palli. While Thazhe palli is dedicated to Sheikh Fariduddin, Mele palli is dedicated to Vavaru swami who is believed to be the close friend of Lord Ayyappa.

During the days of the saint, the place was in the clutches of poverty. So the saint used to make rice porridge with jaggery and coconut, and serve it to the local people himself. He never showed any religious discrimination and considered every one as the children of God. The local people used to address him as uppuppa, which means grandfather. 

In memory of this deed, people today offer nercha kanji or chakkara kanji to the saint. On the day of the Chandanakkudam festival, people from all walks of life without any religious barrier gather here to offer chakkara kanji to their dearest uppuppa.
A ritual called Kodikuthu is the main attraction of the festival... During those days the Muslims of this area used to accompany Hindu pilgrims to Sabarimala on the Makara samkranthi day. The local people say that their poverty tempted them to do this.

Sheikh Fariduddin found that this is a non-Islamic custom.  So on a makara samkranthi day, he gathered the local Muslims to the mosque by playing Kombu, a kind of trumpet. He tied a flag on a tree of the main mosque or the thazhe palli courtyard and then another one on the mele palli. He asked them to follow the custom every year and thus he managed to prevent them from following the non-Islamic tradition, at the same time maintaining the religious tolerance of the place. Devotees still follow this ritual as a tradition. Every year, on this particular day they tie a flag on a tree at the tazhepalli. Then as a procession they move to the mele palli to tie another flag.

Nercha kodiyeduppu is another interesting tradition of the mosque. This offering to the God is similar to the parayeduppu ritual of Hindus. Devotees have to book early to make this offering. On the festival day, caparisoned elephants from the mosque visit the houses of the devotees and receive offerings and a flag from each house.

‘Chandanakkudam’ the ritual after which the festival is named takes place at night. Devotees carry pots filled with sandalwood paste, from the thaze palli to the mele palli. A huge crowd accompanies it as a procession. Decked up Elephants, folk art forms, percussion instrument ensemble follows this procession.

Performance of Traditional Muslim art forms like daff mutt, kolkali etc. add to the attraction of the procession. The festival comes to a close when the procession comes back after presenting the pots at the mele palli…   

Kanjiramattom mosque is the best example for religious tolerance and communal harmony. It is a wonder in this age of all round chaos and disharmony.
Anyone can visit the mosque without religious or gender bias. Many customs of the mosque are similar to that of Hindu customs. Traditions like caparisoned elephants; percussion instruments ensembles etc. are closely connected with temple culture.

Breaking of coconut in front of the Vavaru swami is another interesting custom of the mosque, which has its roots in Hinduism.

May be all these customs are the desires of the great visionary, Sheikh Fariduddin, to maintain the harmony of our land and to show the real meaning of the saying ‘Unity in diversity’… Lets hope and pray it stays intact through the ages…

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