In an age of religious extremism, Azhiithala Makham, a mausoleum where the body of a Muslim warrior who fought against the Portuguese is believed to have been laid to rest, shows the ‘secular’ way by blending the Muslim and Hindu traditions. Amid Quran recitation, the Muslim believers, in a unique gesture, light Thookuvilakku (hanging lamp) at the shrine.
Though the Thookuvilakku is not part of Muslim tradition in the state, lighting lamps at the shrine has been a tradition for the Muslims of Azhithala. Curiously enough, Hindus also do the same at the shrine.
Asked why using Thookkuvilakku in the Makham, the secretary of the Mahal Committee T K Kareem smiled and said, “The tradition began centuries ago and we are just following the footstep of our forefathers.”
Listening to the rituals at Azhithala Feesabil Makham Shaheed Kunju Marakkar Ouliya Thangal, three kilometres away from Vadakara town, a newcomer could even mistake it to a temple. For the residents of Vadakara, this unique makham, said to be around 150 years old, is a fabric strengthening the communal harmony in the region. The makham is frequented by people from all the religions especially Hindu.
“Every day, at least two or three people from faraway places visit here with oil, incense sticks or white mundu to offer special prayer to Thangal. For us, there is no distinction between Sree Krishnan and Thangal, both are close to our heart,” said Pallintavide Chandri. Chandri, Nafeesa and other women in the neighbourhood used to light up the lamp at the makham.
Avarankutty, a warrior in Ponnani believed to have fought the Portuguese men to save a lady, is laid to rest in the makham.
According to myths, he fought the Portugese in the high seas and became a martyr. Seven pieces of his body were washed up on seven sea-coasts — Veliyankod, Tanur, Kalad, Beypore, Kottuppally, Muttungal and Azhithala. Interestingly, the land to bury the parts of his body were given by Hindu families in all the seven places.
The thatched roof of the makham was renovated about 12 years ago with the financial support of the devotees and the Purankara Sree Krishna Temple committee. “There were instances in which those who prayed before Thangal were relieved with desired results. We believe in his power,” said P Pankajakshan.
Irrespective of their religion, natives of Azhithala celebrate special days of Islam with much enthusiasm. “From my experience, I have learned that religions preach love. Supporting each other, as many as 370 Muslim and 200 Hindu families are leading a serene life here in the oasis,” said K V Hussainar Haji.
Though nobody can exactly cite the reasons of the unique tradition followed here in the makham, it has been done with great vigour for the past several decades.