Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Thani 1424 H
August 2003
Volume 16-08 No : 200
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Muslim Community Series : 4


Heard of Pedi? Wate? Joduvalli?

Heard of Pedi? Wate? Joduvalli?

The Memon businessman has a typical style of office. It is known as Pedi. Even today, the older generation function from their Pedi. The Navayaths have the tradition of eating from a big plate called 'wate' placed on a round mat (Sufra), where 5 to 7 members used to sit in a circle and eat from one 'wate.' Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala takes a peek into the tradition and culture of some of the Muslim Communities.

Islamic Voice, in co-ordination with Trend Research and Analysis Center (TRAC) conducted a random survey amongst the Muslim executives, professionals and businessmen to come up with the top Muslim communities.

In the Muslim community series 2, we had covered the contribution in the field of entrepreneurship and education. In series 3, we covered the penetration in the power structure. In series 4, we are covering, Tradition and Culture.

Social structure provides crucibles in which identities are forged and interests developed. However, social patterns are not monolithic or static, by selectively highlighting certain elements within given cultures, political organisations may reinforce or reshape dominant patterns. Upon the firmament of intellectual and social ferment, there appeared a colossus to champion the cause of Muslim women’s emancipation and intellectual advancement.

The various Muslim communities in India have interacted with their physical and social environment and with each other, in conflict and a give and take policy through centuries of shared life and struggles. This has given form and content to our diversity and unity, and is the best guarantee of our unity in diversity. Several Kerala Muslim writers have made their impact on Malayalam literature. These works include novels, short stories, poetry, history and travelogues. Among Kerala Muslim writers, one name that stands out is that of late Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer. Arabic language played a dominant role in the culture of Kerala Muslims. There were several Kerala writers of worldwide renown in Arabic. They wrote books on grammar, religion, medicine and history. Subsequently a version of Arabic - Malayalam with Arabic script of Malayalam words developed. The vast Arabic Kerala literature includes battle songs, poetry and prose. Many original Arabic works were also translated into Arabic-Malayalam.

Kerala Muslims also had distinctive recreational sports. Women’s ‘oppanapattu’, men’s ‘nasheed (mouleed)’, kolukali Daf Muttu (aravanamuttu) are some of these art forms. In central Malabar, there was a practice called ‘padayani’. Muslims owned ‘kalaris’, (the martial art of Kerala) where they trained in traditional techniques. Some Muslims were also wrestlers. The Beary tradition and culture is distinct from that of the Moplahs. The Beary women use a long garment, known as valli, as a sort of veil to cover their heads. If two women went out together they would use a joduvalli. The Beary men often wear white turban and a Rani-mark belt.

Bohras are the one

community that has stuck to their culture and traditional roots. Today, they are culturally the strongest community in India. With distinct dress and food habits, they stand apart amongst the crowd. Men with the traditional Bohra cap with a beard and women with typical Bohra style hijab are ubiquitous in the Bohra-dominated areas. Even their traditional Bohra style of having food is fast gaining popularity amongst the general Muslims like the Bohra’s Thal (a large Plate where seven people together eat). The Bohras’ traditional food items are even served in the social and marriage functions of other communities too.

The community prospered under the spiritual guidance of Dr Burhanuddin, the 52nd incumbent in what is said to be the uninterrupted chain of hereditary succession spanning over 850 years They have extensive network of madrassas and Jamaatkhaanas (Comm-unity centers) where Bohras’ social and cultural activities are encouraged.

Unlike Bohras, Memons do not have the traditional dress. But culturally they are equally strong. Through the vast network of local Jamaatkhaanas Memons are socially and culturally very active. The best occasion to observe Memon culture is the marriage ceremony. Customs, conventions and folk songs of myriad hues can be seen in the spectrum of the culture of Memons. Folk songs in the Memoni language are sung on social occasions like marriages.

The Memon businessman has a typical style of office. It is known as Pedi. Even today, the older generation function from their Pedi. Throughout India, Memons through their local Jamaat keep in touch with each other and maintain their distinct identity.

Navayaths of Bhatkal reveal a very high standard of culinary appreciation. Rice, fish, meat, eggs and wheat preparations enjoy the pride of place in their menu. Some of their traditional dishes unknown to others are relished by non- Navayaths.

“Patai” is yet another equally salient component of community life of the Navayaths. It is a huge antique box used for storing articles and also as a seat and as a cot for sleeping. Another tradition of the Navayaths is eating on a big plate called ‘wate’ placed on a round mat (Sufra), about 5 to 7 members used to sit in a circle and eat from one ‘wate’. One more remarkable feature of their social relations is that whenever in a certain family some special dish is prepared, it has to be shared with some of the relatives who live in different houses. “Bhade” is the name assigned to such a practice, which is still prevalent in some degrees. There are many who regularly exchange “bhade” irrespective of special dishes or occasions.

Certain furniture items adorning the house of the Navayaths speak highly of their refined taste and aesthetics. “Hullo” is a distinct type of swing cot exclusive to the community, which is an important feature of community life. Hullo is a rectangular shaped flat wooden plank seater with its four corners fixed to the roof by means of metal clews, which can swing. Swinging on the cot, the womenfolk and children used to sing traditional folk songs and enjoy the rides.

Kokanis from the coastal belt of Maharastra is another community, which has a distinct culture. Having its own dialect, dressing style and way of living, has given them specific identity. Their traditional style of cooking sea-food is amongst the best in India.

One thing is common to all these communities- the role and contribution of women in preserving and practising their specific tradition and culture. Without women’s contribution, most of this distinct culture and tradition would have by now become extinct.

The writer is a prolific documentary film maker and teaches journalism and marketing at A.P. College in Mumbai and can be reached at mhl@rediffmail.com

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News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments Men, Mission & Machine Update Investigation Choose Your Career Bouquets & Brickbats Face to Face From here & There Muslim Community Series:4 Children's Corner Quran Speaks to You Hadith Our Dialogue Islam n Universal Brotherhood Religion Living Islam Muslim Heritage Opinion Journey To Islam Thoughts on Life Acroos the Seas Matrimonial Jobs Archives Feedback Subscription Links Calendar Contact Us

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