This article was written by Dr. R.S. Abdul Latiff M.A.D.Litt.
Kayalpatnam is an ancient historical city of India. It lies in the southeast part of Indian peninsula, on the shore off the Bay of Bengal. It is a Muslim dominant town situated in Thoottukudi district (formerly it was in Tirunelveli district). It is situated about 400 miles from Madras and about 100 miles from Trivandrum and Madurai. Kayalpatnam was an important trade emporium even before the advent of Islam and it was the chief port of Mabar to which Arabs and Greeks were frequent visitors. During the lifetime of our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sal), Islamic missionaries were sent to Mabar to preach the peace mission of Islam.
The first settlement in Kayalpatnam occurred in 633 A.D. (Hijiri 12). The first settlers were from Mecca and Medina – who landed here during the reign of the first caliph, the successor of our Prophet Muhammad (Sal), Ameerul Momeneen Hazarat Seyedna Abubakar Siddeeq (Rali).
From 1980 onwards, I have closely inspected the archaeological remains in Kayalpatnam as well as studied the old available documents in papers, leaves, and metals. I have seriously studied the various rare inscriptions found in Kayalpatnam and consulted some expert archaeologists with the contents of inscriptions and obtained their opinions.
According to eminent historians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs visited Kayal even before the advent of Muslim missionaries of Arabia. Through our ancient saintly scholars’ records, we can make out that the first Muslim settlement in Kayalpatnam happened during the lifetime of Hazarath Abu Bakar Siddeeq (Rali). In 1998, Abdur Rahman Walliyullah of Cumbum, a close associate of Kayalpatnam Omar Walliyullah and Peria Muthu Wappa Waliyullah, while discussing about the early history of Kayalpatnam, confirmed that Islam entered Kayalpatnam through Arab traders and Muslim missionaries during the reign of the first Caliph Hazarth Abu Bakar Siddeeq (Rali). Further he said that Kadal Karai Palli was the first mosque and added that the saints who ever visited Kayalpatnam never missed to pray in this mosque.
The second settlement took place in 842 A.D. (Hijiri 227). They came from Cairo in Egypt during the tyrannical rule of Abbasid caliph Al-Multhazim (841 A.D.) and the beginning of Caliph Al-Wadiq’s rule, (842 A.D.). They came under the leadership of Muhammad Khalji (Rah). Big Jamiah mosque (Kuthba Periya Palli) was built by Muhammad Khalji in 843 A.D. (Hijiri 228). Kayal was the name of the place till the advent of Muhammad Khalji. After his arrival, the southern part of Kayal was named Kahirfathan (after Khalji’s home town town Kahira in Egypt). Kahirfathan, which is Arabic, slowly changed to Kayalpatnam. The northern part of Kayal is called Palaiya Kayal and Punna Kayal.
The third batch of Arabs (third settlement) came from Arabia in 1284 A.D under the leadership of Sultan Jamaluddin, a descendant of holy prophet Muhammad (Sal) and also a business magnate, statesman and famous ruler of Pandiyan kingdom. His descendants are still living in Kayalpatnam and they have their genealogical table from Sultan Jamaluddin.
Indian historians, and many famous foreign travelers and historians of the west, have perfectly made it clear that Kayalpatnam is situated near the Tamira Parani river – about a mile from its mouth – in Tirunelvelli district (presently Tuticorin district). Kayalpatnam is also distinctly identified with Islam from 8th century. Kail was long a famous port on the coast of what is now the Tirunelveli district of the Madras presidency. It is mentioned as part of Mabar by Polo’s contemporary Rashiduddin. Kail is definitely the one situated on the Tamraparani River about a mile and half from its mouth (Travels of Marco polo translated by Sir Henry Yule). Famous travelers and historians like Abdullah Wasaf, Rasheeduddin, Ibn Batuta and Marco Polo gave some information about Kayalpatnam in their books. The works of Dr. Rev. Bishop Caldwell, Sir Elliot, Col.Henry Yule, Sir John Emerson Tennant, Sir Simon Casio Chitty and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan substantiate the view that the Arabs had settled first at Kayalpatnam and from there spread to the other parts of eastern coast of India and Ceylon.
A Historical Atlas of South Asia edited by J.E. Schwartzberg, University of Chicago press, Chicago (printed in 1928), shows that famous Korkai and Kayal were situated on the delta of the Tamira Parani. Bishop R. Caldwell writes in his book History of Tinnevelly that both places are situated on the delta of Tamira Parani – Korkai within five, Kayal within two miles on the sea but each were originally on the sea coast. A well known Indian historian – K.A. Nilakanda Sastri – narrates in his book History of south India that the once wealthy and commercial cities of Korkai and Kayal on the Tirunelvelli coast, which were flourishing in thirteenth century, are now buried under sand dunes miles from the sea. According to Vascodagama, Kayal was on the Tirunelvelli coast where pearls were found. It was under Mussalman King (His book Reteriro). Travelers like Masudi and Ibn Batuata testify to the presence of Muslims and mosques all along the west coast. There were Muslim settlements on the east coast of which Kayalpatnam and Nagore were the most important. (History of India – Nilakanda Sastri)
Maps showing religious movements on the 8th to 12th centuries in India have been published by Menesto University in U.S.A. They identify Kayalpatnam and Nagore with Islam.
According to Abdullah Wassaf, a Persian historian and a contemporary of Marco polo, Kayal was the port of Mabar. During the reign of Mabar king Sultan Shaik Mabar, his administrative office was at Kayalpatnam. He died in Hijiri 628 (1231 A.D) and is buried here. His tomb is near Panchayat board – very close to the house of Sahib Thambi Alim, former principal of Mahalara Arabic College – on the way to Koman Street. Descriptions are given in Arabic on the tomb.
Kayal is a very ancient place. Five thousand years ago, it was the capital of second Tamil Sangam, called Kapadapuram. According to historians, Kapadapuram was very close to Tiruchendur. Kapadapuram was also known as Alaiwaiport. Abraham Pandithar says that Greeks in those days named it as Periplus port. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, in his book Discovery of India mentioned that Madurai was the capital of Pandiyan Kingdom and Kayal their port.
A great Tamil Scholar – Mr. S.M.L. Lakshman Chettiar (Alias Samala) – wrote in his book Tirunelvelli District that Kayalpatnam was a very famous port in Pandiyan kingdom during 12th and 13th centuries. Thousand years ago, Muslims from Arab countries arrived by ships and settled here. Kayalpatnam was also called as Sonoharpattinam. (Kayalpatnam port was closed in 1937)
First mosque in Kayalpatnam: (Kadal Karai Palli)
Kadal karai mosque was the first mosque to be built by the Arab traders and missionaries (mostly sahabas), who landed in Kayalpatnam in Hijiri 12 A.H (633 A.D) – during the lifetime of Hazarat Abu Bakar Siddeeq (Rali). According to Professor Dr.Kabeer of Calicut University, a mosque was built in Kayalpatnam during the reign of the second Caliph the great ruler of the Arabs and the aliens, Ameerul Momeneen Hazarat Seyedna Umar Farooq (Rali) (13 A.H – 23 A.H).
There is no doubt that Kadal karai mosque was the first mosque in Kayalpatnam – situated near the present Kosmarai Dargha. I assume that this Kadal karai mosque was built between 633 A.D to 640 A.D. This mosque was on the south side of Kosmarai Dargha, which was ruined hundred years ago. But two precious inscriptions were found near the Kadal karai mosque. One inscription describes about the land and how subsidies were given by the Pandiyan king to this Kadal karai mosque. Through this inscription we learn that Pavithra Manikka Pattinam and Kayal Thurai were the other names for Kayalpatnam. Another inscription is a tombstone of Sayyid Ahamed Bin Shaheed Ibnu Muhammad Kareem Madani. He died in Hijiri 430 (1038 A.D). He was a great scholar and a famous saint. His contemporary was saint Nathar Wali of Tiruchi.
Second mosque in Kayalpatnam: (Kutba Periya Palli)
Kutba Periya Palli or Big Jamiah mosque was built by Muhammad Khalji and his friends in 843 A.D (Hijiri 228). He was one of the 13th descendants of the first Caliph, Hazarat Sayedna Abu Bakar Siddeeq (Rali) and he is a saintly person. His tomb is in the graveyard of big Jamiah mosque. His pedigree (family tree) is mentioned on the tomb stone. Some of his important descendants were Shaik Ali Nusky Wali (buried at Magudoom Mosque), Omar Wali (buried at Thaika Saahib Thaika), Muttu Wappa Wali alias Syed Ahamed Sahib wali (buried at Periya Muttu Wappa Thaika) and Periya Shaikuna Miskeen Sahib Alim. Many of his descendants are living in Kayalpatnam.
Sultan Sayyid Jamaluddin, a descendant of our holy prophet Muhammad (Sal), lived in Kayalpatnam between 1284 to 1320. He rebuilt big Jamiah mosque into a huge mosque and it was completed by his son in 1329 A.D. It is in Nainar Street, the first street of Kayalpatnam. It is one of the most significant Islamic monuments in south India. Inscriptions inside the mosque denote the year of construction by Muhammad Khalji and reconstruction by Sultan Sayyid Jamaluddin. Sultan Sayyid Jamaluddin ruled Pandiyan kingdom for a short period immediately after the death of Sundra Pandiyan in 1293 A.D.
It was once said by a great person that more than 25,000 saints were buried in the two graveyards of Jamiah mosque. In few of the old tombstones, the name of the town is mentioned as Vaguthai and Pavithra Manikka Pattinam.
Third mosque in Kayalpatnam: (Karup-Udaiyar Palli)
Mosque is a place for prayers (Salat), remembrance of Allah (Dhikr),recitation of the Quran, seclusion(Itikaf) and for many other good functions. Needless to say as a hadith states The places on the earth which are dearest to Allah are the mosques. The pious Muslims who used to wear long black dresses at that time mostly practiced seclusion (Itikaf) in this mosque. Therefore this mosque was called as karup-udaiyar palli (based on their karupu-udai). The exact date of the construction of this mosque is unknown. According to the inscription in the mosque, a Pandiyan King named Veera Pandiyan gave land and paddy fields for the maintenance of this mosque. This King ruled Pandiyan Kingdom approximately around 946 A.D. Hence we assume that this mosque was built 1050 years ago. Pavithira Manikkaa Pattinam, Kayal karai and Kahirur were the other names for Kayalpatnam as per inscriptions. This mosque is near Muhyideen Matriculation Higher Secondary School.
Fourth mosque in Kayalpatnam: (Kattu Mogudoom Palli)
It is in the southern end of Kayalpatnam – touching Veerapandipattinam. Sayyid Mogudoom Walliyullah was born in Madina in 446 A.H. and his parents named him as Muhammad. He was one of the seventeenth descendants of our beloved Holy prophet Muhammad (sal). His father Sayyid Muhammad (Rah) a great scholar, was greatly respected by the people of Madina. His mother was Mogudoom Fathima alias Sayyid Ali Fathima. The Mosque and Darha were called Mogudoom Palli and Mogudoom Darha after her name – Mogudoom Fathima. It was told that Mogudoom Waliyullah came here after getting instructions and blessings in a dream from our Noble prophet Muhammad (Sal). The exact date of his arrival is unknown. He built the mosque during his stay (500-539 A.H). He spread Islam in Pandiyan kingdom and helped Pandiyan kings whenever they approached him. He was killed in a war (saheed) and buried here around 539 A.H. His father and Erwadi Sayyid Ibrahim Waliyullah’s grandfather were brothers. The celebrated Islamic scholars and saints like Hujjuthul Islam Imam Gazzalee (Rah) (450-505 A.H), Ghouthul Alam Muhyiddeen Abdul Khadir Jailani (Rah) (470-560 A.H), and Mogudoom Wali (Rah) (446-539 A.H) also lived in the same period.
Two inscriptions were found at Mogudoom Mosque, one near the pond and the other in between the Mosque and the Darha. The inscription found near the pond is very important in history because it clearly indicated the boundaries of Kayalpatnam and other ancient names for Kayalpatnam. Inscriptions strongly confirmed Kayalpatnam was called as Vaguthai and Pavithira Manikka Pattinam. As per inscription, Korkai was on the north side and Veerapandian Pattinam was on the south side of Kayalpatnam. The inscription found near the pond belonged to the period of first Maravarman Sundra Pandiyan. According to Mr. N. Sethu Raman’s book of Imperial Pandiyan, the king ruled Pandiyan Kingdom between 1216 to 1240 A.D. According to the inscription, Kayalpatnam was called Pavithira Manikka Pattinam and Kayal Thurai. Kattu Mogudoom Palli was called Sonavapil-lar Palli.
Here we have to compare the contents of the Kattu Mogudoom Palli’s inscriptions with that of the inscription at Tiru Pullani Koil, which was mentioned by Dr. M. Uvais in his book Islam Valartha Tamil. Dr. Uvais noted that Tiru Pullani Koil’s inscription mentioned about the land and subsidy granted by the king first Maravarman Sundara Pandiyan to Sonava Samantha Palli of Pavithira Manikka Pattinam. Dr. Uvais wondered where this famous Pavithira Manikka Pattinam was. The contents of Kattu Mogudoom Palli’s inscriptions and Tiru Pullani Koil’s inscriptions were similar and also the name of the king and the name of the town were also alike. It is a must to find out which town was called as Vaguthai and Pavithira Manikka Pattinam. Saint Mappillai Lebbai Alim in his poem Hadiya Malai says that Saint Thaika Sahib Wali was born in Vaguthai and died at Keela Karai. He also strongly confirmed that Vaguthai as Kayalpatnam. He was also born in Kayalpatnam, lived and died at Keela Karai.
Regarding Pavithira Manikka Pattinam and Vaguthai, we can gather some very important information from two old tombstones found at graveyard of Periya Jumma Palli. The following characters are inscribed on the tombstones: PavithiraManikkaPattinam VaguthaiPuri Kayal Athipar Nila-Kilar Maraividam Koallam——————— Vaguthaiyana ThenKayalpattinathu——— Mannavaruku Marukar Kazi——- SembiNattan———- Yunbavar Maraividam.
These two old tombs made stronger the opinion that Kayalpatnam was called as Vaguthai, Pavithira Manikka Pattinam and also ThenKayal. The oldest Tamil literature – now partly available – is Palchanda Malai. It contained eight poems, which dealt with a Muslim king who ruled Vaguthai Puri. The people of that area were very pious Muslims and that was why the poet called them as Anju Vannathar (Prayed five times daily). The words frequently used in Palchanda Malai poems like Vacchira Nadu, Vaguthai, Sonakar, Allah, Califa, Sonavapil-lar Palli are commonly found in the inscriptions of Kayalpatnam.
Mr. Arunachalam – a great scholar was of the opinion that Palchanda Malai was written in the earliest part of fourteenth century and the king mentioned in the poems should be a Muslim king who ruled Pandiyan kingdom during the end of thirteenth century or earlier part of fourteenth century. Dr. Caldwell confirmed in his book that Sulthan Jamaluddin ruled Pandiyan Kingdom immediately after the death of Sundara Pandiyan in 1293 A.D. Professor Vaiya Puri Pillai, a renowned Tamil scholar, `has strongly stated that Kayalpatnam was called Vaguthai Puri and Vacchira Nadu in ancient days. (Refer – KAYALPATNAM– Book, chapters- Vaguthai, Pavithira Manikka Pattinam and Kayalin kalvettu)
Another inscription of Kattu Mogudoom Palli was inscribed in 1387 A.D during the rule of Uthya Marthandam. According to this inscription, the Mogudoom Palli was called Uthya Marthandam Periya Palli and this area was named as Khonadu (Shonadu) Kondan Pattinam. The king had given the Kazi (administrator) to levy import duties on goods imported into this port and to use for the maintenance of this mosque. This inscription was recorded by the Department of Archaeology – Annual Report of Indian Epigraphy for 1949-50.
The other old mosques in Kayalpatnam are Kutba Sirupalli, Mogudoom Palli of Mogudoom street and Yusuf Appa Palli. According to available tombstones, evidences and inscriptions, those mosques were constructed during the thirteenth century. But it is very difficult to predict which mosque was built first among the three. The best example of fifteenth century mosque is Erattai Kulathu Palli alias Masjid Mikail. The brothers – Ahmed Nainar and Abdur Rasheed Wali – built Ahmed Nainar Palli and Kodi Mara Siru Nainar Palli around Hijiri 950 respectively.
The constructions of the following mosques happened after 1400 A.D. They are Salahuddeen Palli, Kadai Palli, Kutty Appa Palli, Koman Palli, Maricar Palli, Hafil Ameer Palli, Appa Palli, Thayim Palli and Aram Palli.