Taking communal harmony to an all-new level, two vaults in Elavaramkuzhi, a village in Kollam, about 70 km from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, stand cheek by jowl on the same platform bearing the features of different religions. The Juma Masjid and Mahadeva Temple, 250 metres apart, share a long history of mutual respect and brotherhood, a bond that no propaganda breaks. The decision to install the vaults side by side was taken unanimously, and they came into being six months ago.
“Both the mosque and temple had separate vaults and we demolished them both to construct the new ones to set an example. We constituted a common committee for the construction and Shaji Shanmukham, a resident, donated the land for the purpose. As per the property deeds, the land now belongs jointly, to the mosque and temple,” says M. Ashraf, secretary of the mosque committee. Now devotees make contributions to both the boxes.
This is not the first time the two religious places collaborated. About two years ago, they had constructed a common arch on the main road that leads to both the places of worship. Called ‘mathasauharda kavadam’ (harmony gateway), the structure displays verses and scriptures belonging to both religions. “Elavaramkuzhi is an interior area, but it has a very strong secular character. It’s the temple committee who first serves us sweets during the Eid procession,” he adds.
When the annual temple festival takes place towards the beginning of the year, members of the mosque form a part of the festival committee. “A spiritual lecture series is part of the festivities and literary critic M.M. Basheer has been our main speaker for several years. The masjid committee also offers ‘annadanam’ (free food) in the temple during the festival,” says Sudhakara Panicker, a patron who is part of the temple committee.
“The need for peaceful coexistence and communal harmony has become all the more important in current times. We are planning to launch more such initiatives in the future,” adds Mr. Panicker.
“Most of us are born and brought up here and we don’t believe in communal barriers,” says Ayub Khan, a resident of Elavaramkuzhi. Though a few people came forward to sponsor the construction, it was decided that money would be raised from the public. “It was also a way of knowing public opinion. Not a single person was against it and all the residents contributed,” he adds.
A sculptor from Kottarakara, the home of Kathakali, was hired to ensure the presence of architectural elements from both the communities, while the design and colour scheme were fixed in consultation with devotees.
“We don’t think it’s a big deal. I go to the temple every morning. The only difference these days is that I carry two coins whenever I make an offering,” says N. Rajamani, a resident.