Kerala Mosque Still Reveres 18th Century Hindu Martyr

Even as religious intolerance is growing in the country, a mosque in Malappuram district of Kerala, stands out as an epitome of communal harmony. Valiyangadi Juma Masjid continues to offer special prayers and pays homage to Kunhelu, an 18th century Hindu martyr who fought alongside Muslim warriors.

At Valiyangadi Juma Masjid, where Kunhelu was buried nearly three centuries ago, offering special prayers at his grave is an age old tradition, reports TOI.

According to the report, Kunhelu, locally revered as a legendary figure, is believed to have lost his life along with 43 Muslim warriors in a battle against the erstwhile Zamorin (ruler) of Kozhikode 290 years ago. As per historical evidence and Malappuram Kissa Mala written by poet Moyinkutty Vaidyar, 44 ‘shuhadakkal’ (martyrs) died fighting the army led by Varakkal Para Nambi, the minister of Zamorin over an issue of tax collection.

Kunhelu, who belonged to thattan (goldsmith) community, joined his Muslim friends under the leadership of Ali Marakkar. Muslims were forced to flee the region when the mosque was set ablaze by Nambi. Later, the issue was resolved and Nambi himself took the effort of rebuilding the mosque and brought many Muslim families back to Malappuram. The mosque evolved over the years to become a major religious centre in Malappuram Town.

Descendants of Kunhelu are invited during prayer meetings and annual aadu nercha (goat sacrifice) held in memory of the martyrs at the mosque, says the TOI report.

“The family members are invited to prayer meetings. During the nercha held in the Arabic month of Sha’ban, cheerni (sweet) is prepared and distributed among the public,” said Manukuttan, a teacher, who belongs to the family of Kunhelu.

Sayed Muthukkoya Thangal, khazi of Malappuram, said the tradition showcased the unity among Hindus and Muslims. Historian K K N Kuruppu said people cutting across communal differences had joined hands in fighting for a common cause centuries ago. “As there are no inscriptions or documents citing the names of the martyrs, historians depend on legends and ballads,” he said.