Once the military headquarters of Malabar’s most powerful royalty – the Zamorins, Malappuram is known for armed uprisings of the past led by the brave Muslims – known as Moplahs- against the British colonial masters. Another stellar example for the region’s nationalist pride is the Mamangam, an ancient festival to celebrate the local king and his brave a resistance against the imperialist designs of the region’s powerful Zamorin kings. Ironically, this legacy of blood and violence is juxtaposed Malappuram’s tradition as a seat of high spiritual learning philosophy both of Hindu and Islamic.
The state’s only Muslim-dominated district, the Islamic pilgrim centre of Ponnani here is known as Mecca of the East. It is a tribute for Kerala’s splendid secular tradition and religious harmony that some of the highest Nampoothiri (Kerala Brahmin) schools and practicing centres of the Hindu Vedic knowledge too are situated in Malappuram. Malappuram has a large number of prominent mosques and temples. The ancient port town of Ponnani once a favored haunt for traders from Arabia,has about 50 mosques now. The 600-year old Juma Masjid which looks much like a Hindu temple, is believed to have been built by Zainudeen Ibn bin Muhammad, a descendent of an Arab theologian who visited the region. Mounathul Islamic Sabha at Ponnani, revered mausoleums of Muslim spiritual leaders etc make Ponnani as Kerala’s nerve centre of Islamic culture.
The villages on the bank of Nila (Bharathappuzha) river are home to some of the ancient Vedic schools run by Namboodiri scholars. A centuries-old competition for excellence in Vedic chanting continues to be held here – Kadavallur- every year even today. The Tirunavaya Brahmaswom mathom an ancient Vedic school is located in Tavanur I this district. A certain form Vedic chanting survives only among the Nampoothiri scholars of the village here.
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