Documentary shows advent of Islam in the State was part of spice trade and it imbibed local tradition

One midnight in 2007, Kombai S. Anwar, a film-maker, was woken up by a youth from a village in Ramanathapuram district, asking him whether he could help save a 19 century mosque.

The mosque was built to resemble a temple mandapam, and the local Jamat had decided to demolish it, so that no claim can be made that the mosque was a temple.

But youth in the town were against the demolition. Anwar roped in Raja Mohamed, a former curator of the Government Museum, to establish the fact that the mosque was actually built in Dravidian architecture and has nothing to do with any temple.

“Subsequently, the mosque was renovated. They did not use sand-blasting which has defaced and destroyed many temples,” said Anwar.

Yaathum, a documentary, is Anwar’s effort to trace his Tamil Muslim roots. It has incorporated many such historical incidents, to convey the message that the advent of Islam in the State was part of the spice trade and imbibed local tradition and culture.

Kombai, ensconced itself in the foots of Western Ghats in Theni district, is the native town of Anwar and the film begins with the procession of Lord Vishnu, passing a mosque without silencing the music of nagaswaram and the beats of thavil.

The film, to be released on November 13, had its origins in the debate he had with the late writer Sujatha, who wrote about the persecution and killing of Vaishnavites in the wake of Muslim conquest.

The film captures the close relationship between the Muslims and other communities and in Madurai, a Muslim family has been given the responsibility of building t a fence around the yaga kundam in Puttu Koil, where one of the thiruvilaiyadals of Lord Siva worked as a coolie carrying sand to strengthen the banks of river in return for pittu.

If the mosques in the village and Kayalpattinam are designed like a temple mandapam, the structure above the temple mandapam of puttu koil bore designs of a mosque.

The contributions of Muslim Tamil scholars were also well captured in the film. Besides the existing forms, Muslim scholars with their exposure to Arabian and Persian literature introduced new forms in Tamil.