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Mappila, also known as a Mappila Muslim, formerly spelt as Moplah and historically as Jonaka Mappila, in general, is a member of the Muslim community of the same name[1] found predominantly in Kerala, southern India.[2] Muslims of Kerala, of which Mappila community 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%).[3] Mappilas share the common language of Malayalam (Malayali) with the other religious communities of Kerala.[4][5] According to the renowned scholar Roland E. Miller, the Mappilas are the oldest Muslim community in South Asia. [1]

The Mappila community originated primarily as a result of the pre and post-Islamic Middle Eastern contacts with Kerala, which was fundamentally based upon commerce.[2] As per local 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 Islamic tradition - although within the large spectrum of Malayali culture - in literature, art, food, language, and music.[4]

Most of the Mappilas follow the traditional Shafi'i School, while a large minority follow movements that developed within Sunni Islam.[6]



"Mappila" ("the great child", a synonym for son-in-law[1]) was a respectful, and honorific title given foreign visitors, merchants and immigrants to Malabar Coast by the native Hindus. These three were the dominant the trading communities of historical Kerala.[4] 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).[7]

Demographics and distributionEdit

According to the 2011 census, about one-quarter of Kerala's population (26.56%) are Muslims. The number of Mappilas is particularly high in the northern Kerala.[1] 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.[8]

The estimated Muslim population (2014) in Kerala state is over 8,900,000.[1]


It is generally agreed among scholars that Middle Eastern 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.[9][10] Some historians assume that the Mappilas can be considered as the first native Islamic community in South Asia.[11][12] According to tradition, the first Indian mosque was built in 621 AD[13] by the last ruler of the Chera dynasty, who converted to Islam during the lifetime of Muhammad (c. 570–632) and facilitated the proliferation of Islam in Kerala.[14][11][15]

The Mappila community went through a long period of peaceful intercultural growth till the arrival of the European navigators.[1] The monopoly of overseas spice trade with Malabar Coast was safe with the Middle Eastern merchants until the arrival of Portuguese navigators (16th century AD).[16] Fortunes of these merchants depended on the political support of the chief of Calicut, the most powerful monarch in Kerala. Initially, Portuguese traders were successful in reaching in agreements with the local chiefs and Muslim magnates in Kerala, but soon, open confrontations between them and the Muslim-lead navy of the Zamorin of Calicut became a common occurrence.[17] Portuguese Armada tried to establish monopoly in spice trade, often using violent warfare against the native Muslims, Arabs and other Muslim merchants from the Middle East.[18][18] [19][20] Whenever a formal war was broke out between the Portuguese and the Calicut rulers, the Portuguese attacked and plundered, as the opportunity offered, the Muslim ports in Kerala. The relentless battles lead to the eventual decline of the community, as they lost control of the lucrative spice trade, and only to be followed by the systematic exodus of Middle Eastern merchants from Kerala.

Kingdom of Mysore, ruled by Muslim sultan Hyder Ali, invaded Kerala in the late-18th century. During these tumultuous years of unfortunate and brutal warfare, some Mappilas gave their support to the invaders.[21] In the following Mysore rule of Malabar, as a token of gratitude, Mappilas were favoured against the caste Hindu landlords of the region. 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 caste communities to fight against the Mysore regime. The British won the Anglo-Mysore War against Mysore ruler Tipu 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.[22]

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 caste landlords and British and in 1921; it took in the form of an explosion known as Mappila Rebellion.[22][23] The uprising - which began as a nationalistic movement - was brutally suppressed by the colonial government, leaving the Mappila community in further despair, poverty and illiteracy.

The complicated land tenure system - tracing its origins to pre modern Kerala - gave Mappilas and other tenants and labourers no access to land ownership.[1]

Theological orientationsEdit

Most of the Mappilas follow the traditional Shāfiʿī school of religious law (known in Kerala as the Sunnis) while a large minority follow movements that developed within Sunni Islam.[6] The Sunnis referred here are identified by their conventional beliefs and practices and adherence to the Shāfiʿī madhhab, while the other theological orientations, of which the Mujahids constitute a large majority, are seen as reform movements within the Sunni Islam. Both the Sunnis and Mujahids again have been divided to complex sub-identities.



Oppana was a popular form of social entertainment among the Mappilas. It is generally presented by women 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 peetham, around which the singing and dancing take place. While women sing, they clap their hands rhythmically and move around the bride in steps. Two or three girls begin the songs and the rest join the chorus.

Mappila PattuEdit

Mappila Pattu or Mappila Song is a folklore Muslim devotional song genre rendered to lyrics in Arabic-laced Malayalam.[24] 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.


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

Duff MuttuEdit

Duff Muttu[25] (also called Dubh Muttu) was an art form prevalent among Mappilas, using the traditional duff, or daf, also known as tappitta. Participants dance to the rhythm as they beat the duff.

Mappila Community
Anonymous 16th century Portuguese illustration, depicting Kerala Muslims ("Mouros Malabares") 
Rebels captured after a battle with British colonial troops, during 1921-22 Uprising. 
Moplah prisoners of 1921-22 Uprising go to trial at Calicut 
Muslim women of Kerala (1901) 
Mappila man and woman from Kerala 
Mappila man in Malabar (1926~1933) 
Ali Musliyar, the rebel leader of the Moplah Revolt (1921-22), shortly before his execution in Coimbatore. 
Muslim people of Kerala (1914) 
Mappilas of Ponnani (1930-37) 
Mappilas in Calicut (1900-1930) 
Mappilas of Ponnani (1930-37) 

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Miller, E. Roland. "Mappila Muslim Culture" State University of New York Press, Albany (2015); p. xi.
  2. ^ a b Panikkar, K. N., Against Lord and State: Religion and Peasant Uprisings in Malabar 1836–1921. Oxford University Press, 1989
  3. ^ "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 25 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Miller, Roland. E., "Mappila" in "The Encyclopedia of Islam". Volume VI. E. J. Brill, Leiden. 1987 [1]. pp. 458-56.
  5. ^ " "Oh! Calicut!" Outlook Traveller "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.  December, 2009
  6. ^ a b Kerala Public Service Commission
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ 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 24 July 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ 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 25 July 2012. 
  12. ^ A. Rā Kulakarṇī (1996). Mediaeval Deccan History: Commemoration Volume in Honour of Purshottam Mahadeo Joshi. Popular Prakashan. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-81-7154-579-7. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Jonathan Goldstein (1999). The Jews of China. M.E. Sharpe. p. 123. ISBN 9780765601049. 
  14. ^ 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 24 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Husain Raṇṭattāṇi (2007). Mappila Muslims: A Study on Society and Anti Colonial Struggles. Other Books. pp. 179–. ISBN 978-81-903887-8-8. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  16. ^ 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 30 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Henry Morse Stephens (1897). "Chapter 1". Albuquerque. Rulers of India series. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-1524-3. 
  18. ^ 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 26 July 2012. 
  19. ^ 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 30 July 2012. 
  20. ^ 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 17 February 2012. 
  21. ^ 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 25 July 2012. 
  22. ^ 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 25 July 2012. 
  23. ^ "Moplahs a Menace for Several Years — Malabar Fanatics Said to Have Been Emboldened by Shifting of British Troops" (PDF). The New York Times. 4 September 1921. 
  24. ^ "Preserve identity of Mappila songs". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 7 May 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  25. ^ "Madikeri, Coorg, "Gaddige Mohiyadeen Ratib" Islamic religious "dikr" is held once in a year". YouTube. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 


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

External linksEdit