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Oppana, a dance form among the Mappila community

Mappila, also known as a Muslim Mappila, formerly spelt as Moplah and Jonaka Mappila, are two major ethnoreligious communities among Malayali Muslims found in the districts of Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur(with Muslim Mappilites) and Ernankulam, Thrissur(by Jonaka Mappilites or Yavanaka Mappilites) of the erstwhile Malabar region and Kingdom of Kochi respectively in the Indian state of Kerala. Another minority community among Malayali Muslims are the Muslim Methan found in the Alappuzha, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Thiruvananthapuram districts of South or erstwhile Travancore region of Kerala. [1] Muslims of Kerala, of which Mappilas make up a large majority, constitute 26.56% of the population of the state (2011), and as a religious group they are the second largest group after Hindus (54.73%).[2] Mappilas share the common language of Malayalam with the other religious communities of Kerala.[3][4]

The Mappila community originated primarily as a result of the pre and post-Islamic Arab contacts with Kerala, which was fundamentally based upon commerce.[1] As per tradition, Islam reached Malabar Coast, of which the state is a part of, as early as the 7th century AD. The uninterrupted association of the Mappilas with the merchants from the Middle East have created a profound impact on their life, customs and culture. This has resulted in the formation of an unique tradition - although within the large spectrum of Malayali culture - in literature, art, and music.[3]

Most of the Mappilas follow the Shafi'i School, while a large minority follow movements that developed within Sunni Islam.[5]


"Mappila" was a term originally used to denote foreign visitors and immigrants to Malabar Coast including the Muslims, Christians and the Jews. These three were the dominant the trading communities of historical Kerala.[3] The Muslims were referred to as Jonaka or Chonaka Mappila ("Yavanaka Mappila"), to distinguish them from the Nasrani Mappila (Saint Thomas Christians) and the Juda Mappila (Cochin Jews).Today, Mostly the term 'Mappila' used to denote the Muslim community[6]

Demographics and distribution

According to the 2011 census, about one-quarter of Kerala's population are Muslims. A small number of Mappilas have settled in the southern districts of Karnataka and western parts of Tamil Nadu, while the scattered presence of the community in major cities of India can also be seen. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of Mappilas have left Kerala to seek employment in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.[7]


Early history

It is generally agreed among scholars that Arab merchants frequented the Malabar Coast, which was the link between the West and ports of East Asia, even before Islam had been established in Arabia.[8][9] Some historians assume that the Mappilas can be considered as the first native Islamic community in South Asia.[10][11]

According to tradition, the first Indian mosque was built in 621 CE[12] by the last ruler of the Chera dynasty, who converted to Islam during the lifetime of Prophet Muhamm ed (c. 571-632) in Kodungallur and facilitated the proliferation of Islam in Malabar.[13] But this tradition hasn't found any historical evidence.[10] There are a few more legends of the Mappilas which relate them with early Hindu culture in Kerala; first one is regarding one Uppukutan Mappila who appears in the legend of Parayi petta panthirukulam (The twelve tribes born of a Pariah Woman) and another one is the story of Ouwayi, a Jonaka Mappila, who through extreme devotion made the goddess of Kozhikode appear before him.[14]

The 14th century Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta was surprised when he discovered that the Mappila communities near Calicut were the followers of Imam Shafi'i while the rest of the Indian Muslims were not.[]

European Era

The monopoly of overseas trade in Malabar was safe with the Arab-Mappila alliance until the arrival of Portuguese in Kerala.[15] At the time, a good number of Mappilas were enlisted in the naval force of Zamorin, the ruler of Calicut. The naval chiefs of the Zamorin were usually from the Mappila community; they were given the title of Marakkar. Initially, Portuguese traders were successful in reaching in an agreement with the Zamorin and hence got support from Mappilas. However, fearful of losing their monopoly in the trade-routes to Europe via the Indian ocean, the Mappila merchants persuaded the Zamorin to attack the Portuguese, killing the traders left behind by Vasco da Gama. This led to war between Calicut and the returning Portuguese fleets, who allied with their Hindu rival in Cochin.[16] During this period, Portuguese forces tried to establish monopoly in spice trade using violent methods against the Arabs and other Muslim merchants from the Middle East.[17] The possibility that a few Muslim traders from Basra, Damascus, Tunis and Egypt joined the Mappila community during this period can not be ruled out.[]

Portuguese-Zamorin relation deteriorated and the military of Zamorin, including Mappilas, engaged the Portuguese colonial forces in 1524 CE.[17] The Portuguese attacked and looted the town of Calicut. They set the town to fire and, in the arson, many buildings including the Jami' Mosque of Mappilas were destroyed.[18][19] Ships containing trading goods were drowned, along with thousands of merchants and their families; anyone who was an Arab was killed. All this resulted in the Mappila losing control of the spice trade they had dominated for more than a thousand years.

In the Mysorean invasion of Kerala, Mappilas gave support to the invading military of Hyder Ali in 1765.[20] In the following Mysorean rule of Malabar, Mappilas were favoured against the Hindu landlords of the region and the most notable advantage for the community during this time is the grant of customary rights for the Mappila tenants over their land. However, such measures of the Muslim rulers widened the communal imbalance of Malabar and the British colonial forces taking advantage of the situation allied with the Hindu upper-caste communities to fight against the Mysore regime. The British won the Anglo-Mysore War against Tippu Sultan and, consequently, Malabar was organised as a district under Madras Presidency. The British repaid landlord communities with a slew of measures: The first one being the abolishing of tenant rights over land.[21] The partisan rule of British authorities brought the Mappila peasants of Malabar into a condition of destitution which led to a series of uprisings against the landlords and British in 1921; it took in the form of a communal war known as Mappila Rebellion that lasted for six months and cost the lives of about 10,000 people.[21][22] Mohommed Haji was proclaimed the caliph of the Moplah Khilafat (Caliphate) and flags of "Islamic Caliphate" were flown. Eranad and Valluvanad were declared Khalifat kingdoms.[] The riot was controlled by the British military and many Mappilas lost their lives in the military action and many were taken as prisoners, mostly to Port Blair.

The book Moplah Rebellion 1921, offers an alternate explanation of the 1921 Moplah rebellion and its root causes.

Moplah led Khilafat movement and India's nationalists movement

After the death of Tipu in 1792,The Britishers regain power on Malabar became of Madras presidency.The British government make new tenant policy which favourable to Hindu higher caste.


The modern theological orientations amongst the Muslims of Kerala are primarily divided into three; Sunnis, Mujahids (Salafis) and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, though all these belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The Sunnis referred here are identified by their conventional beliefs and practices and adherence to the Shafi'i madh'hab, while the other two theological orientations, the Mujahids and the Jama'ats, are seen as movements within the Sunni Islam. A minor group of followers may be found with Tablighi Jama'at. Both Sunnis and Salafis again have been divided to sub-groups.



It is a popular form of social entertainment among the Mappila community of Kerala, south India, prevalent all over Kerala. It is generally presented by females numbering about fifteen including musicians, as a part of wedding ceremonies a day before the wedding day. The bride, dressed in all finery, covered with gold ornaments, is the chief spectator; she sits on a peetam, around which the singing and dancing take place. While they sing, they clap their hands rhythmically and move around the bride using simple steps. Two or three girls begin the songs and the rest join the chorus.

Mappila Paattukal

A typical Mappila sword

Mappila Paattu or Mappila Song is a folklore Muslim devotional song genre rendered to lyrics in Arabic-laced Malayalam, by Muslims or Mappilas of the Malabar belt of Kerala in south India.[23] Mappila songs have a distinct cultural identity, as they sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia. They deal with themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism. Most of the mapillapatu are mixed with Malayalam, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Tamil etc. it keeps many 'ishals' (tunes), prasams (rhyming parts) and things like that. Moyinkutty Vaidyar is one of the oldest poets in mapilapattu.


Kolkkali is a popular dance form among the Mappila Muslims in Malabar. It is played in group of 12 people with two sticks, similar to the Dandiya dance of Gujarat.

Duff Muttu

Duff Muttu[24] (also called Dubh Muttu) is an art form prevalent among Mappilas, using the traditional duff, or daf, also called Thappitta. Participants dance to the rhythm as they beat the duff.

See also


  1. ^ a b Panikkar, K. N., Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar 1836-1921. Oxford University Press, 1989
  2. ^ "Population by religious community - 2011". 2011 Census of India. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015. Retrieved 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Miller, Roland. E., "Mappila" in "The Encyclopedia of Islam". Volume VI. E. J. Brill, Leiden. 1987 [1]. pp. 458-56.
  4. ^ " "Oh! Calicut!" Outlook Traveller "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 2012.  December, 2009
  5. ^ Kerala Public Service Commission
  6. ^ Mathur, P. R. G. "The Mappila Fisherfolk of Kerala: a Study in Inter-relationship Between Habitat, Technology, Economy, Society, and Culture" (1977), Anthropological Survey of India, Kerala Historical Society, p. 1
  7. ^ "Remittances and its Impact on the Kerala Economy and Society - International Migration, Multi-local Livelihoods and Human Security: Perspectives from Europe, Asia and Africa", Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands, 30-31 August 2007
  8. ^ Shail Mayaram; M. S. S. Pandian; Ajay Skaria (2005). Muslims, Dalits, and the Fabrications of History. Permanent Black and Ravi Dayal Publisher. pp. 39-. ISBN 978-81-7824-115-9. Retrieved 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Uri M. Kupferschmidt (1987). The Supreme Muslim Council: Islam Under the British Mandate for Palestine. Brill. pp. 458-459. ISBN 978-90-04-07929-8. Retrieved 2012. 
  11. ^ A. R? Kulakar (1996). Mediaeval Deccan History: Commemoration Volume in Honour of Purshottam Mahadeo Joshi. Popular Prakashan. pp. 54-55. ISBN 978-81-7154-579-7. Retrieved 2012. 
  12. ^ Jonathan Goldstein (1999). The Jews of China. M.E. Sharpe. p. 123. ISBN 9780765601049. 
  13. ^ Edward Simpson; Kai Kresse (2008). Struggling with History: Islam and Cosmopolitanism in the Western Indian Ocean. Columbia University Press. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-231-70024-5. Retrieved 2012. 
  14. ^ Husain Raatti (2007). Mappila Muslims: A Study on Society and Anti Colonial Struggles. Other Books. pp. 179-. ISBN 978-81-903887-8-8. Retrieved 2012. 
  15. ^ Mehrdad Shokoohy (29 July 2003). Muslim Architecture of South India: The Sultanate of Ma'bar and the Traditions of the Maritime Settlers on the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa). Psychology Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-415-30207-4. Retrieved 2012. 
  16. ^ Henry Morse Stephens (1897). "Chapter 1". Albuquerque. Rulers of India series. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-1524-3. 
  17. ^ a b Sanjay Subrahmanyam (29 October 1998). The Career and Legend of Vasco Da Gama. Cambridge University Press. pp. 293-294. ISBN 978-0-521-64629-1. Retrieved 2012. 
  18. ^ Mehrdad Shokoohy (29 July 2003). Muslim Architecture of South India: The Sultanate of Ma'bar and the Traditions of the Maritime Settlers on the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa). Psychology Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-415-30207-4. Retrieved 2012. 
  19. ^ The Edinburgh review: or critical journal - Sydney Smith, Lord Francis Jeffrey Jeffrey, Macvey Napier, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, William Empson, Harold Cox, Henry Reeve, Arthur Ralph Douglas Elliot (Hon.). Retrieved 2012. 
  20. ^ Robert Elgood (15 November 1995). Firearms of the Islamic World: in the Tared Rajab Museum, Kuwait. I.B.Tauris. pp. 164-. ISBN 978-1-85043-963-9. Retrieved 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Prema A. Kurien (7 August 2002). Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India. Rutgers University Press. pp. 51-. ISBN 978-0-8135-3089-5. Retrieved 2012. 
  22. ^ "Moplahs a Menace for Several Years -- Malabar Fanatics Said to Have Been Emboldened by Shifting of British Troops". The New York Times. 4 September 1921. 
  23. ^ "Preserve identity of Mappila songs". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 7 May 2006. Retrieved 2009. 
  24. ^ "Madikeri, Coorg, "Gaddige Mohiyadeen Ratib" Islamic religious "dikr" is held once in a year". YouTube. Retrieved 2012. 


  • The Cochin State Manual by Mr. C. Achutha Menon, Government of Kerala, 1995

External links

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