At 90, Kerala’s first Eid Gah recalls Thalassery’s multicultural past

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It’s another Eid-al-Adha on Monday, and if the rain blesses the day by its absence, Kerala’s first Eid Gah in Thalassery will host another Eid mass prayer on the ground.
An article the late journalist KP Kunhimoosa wrote a decade ago says the Eid Gah began on Shawwal 1, 1352 of the Islamic Hijri Calendar(17 Jan-1934). Kerala’s second Eid Gah came up in Kozhikode in 1956.

This is the background: Most Kerala Muslims follow the Shāfiʿī school, one of the four jurisprudence schools in Islam. The followers of Shāfiʿī school don’t give much importance to the Eid prayers in open ground, they prefer to do it inside the mosque. Prof AP Zubair, a local public historian, writes that Kerala’s intermittent rains could also be a reason for conducting the mass prayer in mosques, rather than in open ground.

The situation changed when the migrant traders and British court officials who settled in Thalassery thought of an Eid Gah of their own as per the Ḥanafī school which prefers open-ground Eid prayers in normal weather conditions. Prof AP Zubair writes that the then district court judge Mir Zainuddin, who is from Andhra Pradesh, found it very strange that Kerala Muslims don’t offer their Eid prayers on open grounds which is very common elsewhere in India.

The judge teamed up with other non-Malayali Muslims such as Haji Abdul Sattar Sait who belonged to Gujarat’s Kutchi Memo community and members of the Urdu-speaking Dakhni community who settled in Thalassery as lawyers, government officials under the British government. They sought permission from the sub collector to use the cricket stadium for the purpose. “There were not many people when they started it,” Prof Zubair says.

The Eid Gah had the support of many progressive Malayali Muslims of that time. Kunhimoosa’s writings list many: KM Seethi Sahib, who was the Speaker of the Kerala Assembly during 1960-61, Kerala’s first Chief Engineer TP Kuttiammu, social reformer P Kuhahammed Kutty Haji, Writer Payyampalli Ummer Kutty and national award-winning teacher P Abobaker Master, Pothuvachery Moosa who worked for Tata group are among them.

When many non-Malayali Muslims left Thalassery, Eid Gah also stopped briefly around the early 1960s. When revived again a few years later the Eid Gah had pulled a lot of crowds. Now both youngsters and seniors moved from the centre of town to the ‘suburbs’ and find it is a place to catch up with friends. Over the years, Eid Gah culture also spread across various Kerala towns with a decent Muslim population.

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