MAPPILA TRADITION IN FOLK ARTS - Information and ... TRADITION IN FOLK ARTS Folk Arts are a branch of Folk culture but the tradition of Folk arts among Mappilas deservesspecial study due to its vibrant and variant nature. Mappila Folk arts are the blend of Arab cultural ...

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    Abdurahiman.K.P Mappila heritage: A study in their social and cultural life Thesis. Department of History, University of Calicut, 2004

  • CHAPTER - 7


    Folk Arts are a branch of Folk culture but the tradition of Folk arts

    among Mappilas deservesspecial study due to its vibrant and variant nature.

    Mappila Folk arts are the blend of Arab cultural elements and the indigenous

    cultural aspects. But in some aspects of the art forms, resemblance can be

    seen with Hindu art forms. The rhyme of songs used in the art and the rhythm

    of recitation of such songs is closer to Arabian tradition but the performance

    of art forms is closer to local arts. The Ayiila performed by Arabs have closer

    similarity with Duffmutt of Mappilas. But more is the indebtedness of

    Mappilas Folk arts to local art forms practised by various Hindu classes.

    The Hindu Muslim cultural symbiosis is also evident in the Mappila art.

    The Mappilas followed the indigenous art form with slight variations.

    Mappila folk art called K6lka_li is the Muslim version of the indigenous art

    known as kbliittarn or RGjasiiya. Mappilas Islamised this art by replacing tile

    Hindu devotional songs to Mappila songs. Mappilas start their K@lka_li with

    prayers to Allah, Prophet Muhammed and Sufi saints. The martial an called

    Ka1aripa~t_ is directly adopted and practised and made their own art by

    Mappilas. M8ppda Kaiaris were started in Mappila centres in par with Nair

    Kalaris. The parichakali is an adaptation of kajaripayqtf and the Mappilas

    have developed their own tradition in this art which is known as

  • Parichamuttu. The Oppana dance of Mappilas resembles the Kaikottika_l~ and

    Tirztvathi_rakak as practised by Hindu women.

    Among the Mappila Folk Arts, we can see three categories. One is only

    the oral forms in which no musical instruments or body movements are used

    like VattapZttzr, pZd1pparachil etc. The second category includes songs and

    physical, movements combined together like the fine arts oppana, kzlkdi,

    Dzlff and Arabana. The third category is martial arts in whlch physical

    exercises are the only aspect. Ka_la_rpaya_t& Pa~ichanzutt and Padkaii belong

    to this group. Whatever may be the art form, the Mappila songs are an

    integral part of arts. This is the soul of all folk art forms. Thus the Mappila

    folk arts are a combination of songs and play which make it pleasing and

    enjoyable. Not only the peasants, labourers and workers enjoy it, but people

    in the all walks of life enjoy the folk art forms.


    LattapZtt is a folk art which was an essential part of Mappila marriages

    in the early years of 20"' centuly. In some areas of Malabar it was also known

    as KalyanapZt, - p~tthlyaplZpZtt and KolZnnlbipZtt. In those days marriages

    were conducted at night and VattapSltr was the major attraction of the event. A

    maniage without this a ~ t form was unthinkable. The Vattapittlrkiir were

    professional troops of Mappila marriages.

    The date of VuttZpattzrkZr was fixed one or two weeks earlier. Usually

    there were 8 or 10 singers in a troop. They had reached the house of

  • bridegroom in the evening. After prayer and light food, the singers would seat

    in a circle on mattress spread in the panda1 or on pad@purarn (high platform). S

    Small drum, kainzagi, wooden clappers, kOIZmbi - etc., were used as musical

    instruments. With the permission of the house kiiranavar, - the team started the

    1 programme. The VattapZtt started with Viruthanz, (Bismi, - hanzd and - salzth),

    Munajath and Mangala gana. After this, clappings and musical instruments

    were used according to the songs.

    The songs for VattapZttzr were mostly taken from the compositions of

    Tamil poets namely Pulavar, Shahul Hameed, Gundevedi, Hassanali, Alim

    Labba Late K.T. Muhammed and V.K.S. Moulavi composed good songs

    especially in the Hindi film tunes.2

    The singers accompanied the bridegroom procession and sang on the

    way Baineelam songs as they reached the bride's house. These songs got rid

    off the boredom and difficulties of journey in the night and delighted the

    people especially when they had to walk 10 or 15 miles. Through out the

    procession the singers sang pallavi, i.e. Thana Thana Thana, Thanani,

    Pzrthzrniiiranuni Sodaranrm Etha Pokzrnne As the p m reached about 50 yards

    away from bride's residence, they would wait till the k@a~?_avar and singers of

    the bride's side welcomed them. These two groups of singers competed each

    1 V.T. Alavikutty. Pookkottur. "Onnayile Thollapattthl'.. Cllandrika Weekend Ediuon. Calicut. 25.10 98. p.3

    2 Eqbal Kallingal. ' Vattapatt sangam'. Chandrika Dail;.. Calicut. dtd. 13.4.1999.

  • other with songs until the K&anavar interfered to stop it and invited them to - - the pandal. Then the two groups of singers would sit face to face. After light

    refreshment the competition would start. After the usual virutham and

    MunZjZth one party would sing two or three songs fiom any famous

    composition. The other party should sing fiom the same composition other

    wise they would be considered incompetent. Such a high competitive spirit

    existed among the singers. Even at the time of fixing the date, they would

    enquire about the opposite party and would make preparations accordingly.

    Some professional troops participated in 25 marriages within one week. With

    the shifhng of marriage ceremonies to day time and with the introduction of

    modem musical instruments vattapiittu has almost vanished.


    This is a form of art fostered by Mappilas of Malabar which is also

    known as Qissap'Lattu recitation. A similar art exists among the Hindu class

    namely Harikathii Kalakshepa or p~dakam.3 It is a primitive form of the

    modem Kathiiprasangam. PZdipparachil (to sing and explain) is not entirely

    an art form for amusement but it has close affinity to religious devotion and

    piety, because this art is performed by learned scholars of religion. Among

    the two persons participated in the art, one is a good singer and the other is a

    3. P.K. Mohamad Kunhl, Muslirnin~alu~n Kerala Samskmwrn. Trichur, 1982. p.3 11

  • good speaker well-versed in religious books, hstory and culture. This a13 is

    conducted during the night and venue is a public place of gatherings or near a

    mosque or othupalli. In early days, petromax or r6ntal used to lighten the area

    and the pZdipparachi1 started with Salafh and Madb songs. The Qissa or story

    is completely based on Islamic literature. The old stories of Prophet's, events

    in the life of Prophet Muhammad and the wars during Caliphs are the theme of

    QissapZttu. The works of Moyinkutty Vaidyar are widely used. His famous

    works like Badr padapZtt, Uhud padapiitt, Badr-ul-Muneer Husnul Jamal,

    Malappuram Qissapztt are the favourite ones. The old poetical compositions

    like Yusuf Qissa, Futuhushiim, Gulzanober, Karbala Qissa, Khybar Qissa etc.,

    are also used for this art. The singer beautifully recites the songs and speaker

    explains its meaning, circumstances and back ground. While explaining he

    often refers to contemporary events and makes the presentation enjoyable. On

    some parts of story both singer and speaker jointly recite the song to get more

    emphasis to the story. But never the singer explains the story. Usually one

    QissapZtt prolongs to 7 to 10 days to finish. Often the Qissapiitt is extended

    to late night meanwhile the audience patiently enjoy the songs and story. Thus

    it is a grand art form which the Mappilas are still enjoying enthusiastically.


    This is a three fold musical instrument with one cheeni (musical pipe),

    oflla (Drum) and one Murash (small drum). Cheeni is in close resemblance

    with Persian instrument called Shahnai, thus cheeni came to be known as

    Mutturn vijiyum. When beautiful musical tones would be played through

  • cheeni the otta - - and Murash would be beaten to match the tunes. The tune

    played through cheeni is mostly from mcrppi_lapirrtu, especially the songs of

    Moyinkutty ~ a i d ~ a r . ~ Cheenimutt has some resemblance with Panchmtiea

    used in temple festivals. If one pipe and ElathZjam is omitted from

    Panchavacj/a it becomes cheenimutt. As Panchaviidya is closely associated

    with Hindu festivals, cheenimutt is closely associated with Mappila festivals

    known as nzrchas. The Cheenimutt is an integral part of all nerchas of

    Malabar. Besides MappilapiSttu, popular songs fiom Malayalarn, Hindi and

    Tamil films are also tuned through cheenimutt. With the extinct of so many

    n e r c h , this beautifbl art form almost vanished fiom the scene. The only

    living legend of this art form is V. Kuttiyali of Kondotti.


    This is another form of the art Cheenimutt. In place of small drums, big

    round shaped drums are used. As per the tunes fiom Cheeni one expert

    acrobat will jump, lay and stand over the drum and beat the drum with a ball

    of cloth tied on a rope.j The acrobat will beat the drum in several body

    postures to the enjoyment of viewers. This art is also associated with nercha

    festivals. Thls is an important item ofpettivaravtr in connection with nerchas.

    4. Valiyakath Kuttiyali, "Cheenimutt", Mapvilakala Darpanam, Kottayam, 1998, p. 124.

    5. Abdulla Perambra, "Anyam Nilkunna Mappilakalakal". Poonkavanam Monthly, Calicut, Aug. 1998, p.27.

  • Duff Muttu

    History: Duffis an instrument which has an historical past. Before BC, 2000

    itself, Israelites used the instrument called Duffat the worship of tribal gods in

    order to raise their devotion to the e ~ t r e m e . ~ Later Europeans used tlus in the

    festivals connected with churches during the procession of high priests as a

    part of Christianisation of young children.' The Egyptians, called it Twara

    and the Arabs called it Dubb and the Persians, Duff It was later commonly

    used by all. The kufans called it DaJik Albania, Bosnians as DuffAsbani,

    Bulgarians as Udqand Serbians as ~ e e r a . ' During the time of prophet, Duff

    was used by the Muslims especially in Madeena. Prophet was welcomed to

    Madina by Ansari girls singing songs and playing DufJ: In the first century

    Hvra, Duffhad been widely used as an instrument for entertainment. In India,

    Duf had been introduced by the Persians. When the renowned poet Amir

    Khusrau, came to India, his disciples popularized this instrument in North

    India. In Kerala, Duffhad been used by Jews and Christians in their festiva~s.~

    When the first Muslim missionary to Kerala, Malik Ibn Dinar came, his

    followers practised it. But Duff really became popular among the Kerala

    I Muslims through the contact with Lakshadweep Muslims. The Qiidiripa Sujs

    who migrated to Kerala, popularized it.

    6. Abdulla Karuvarakundy "Duff Muttu", MaDDila kalakal, Manjeri, 1995, p.78.

    7. Mohamad Koothali, "DuEMuttu", Ma~~ilakala Dar~anm. op.ci1.. 1998, p. 108.

    8. Adullah, Karuvarakundu, op.cit., p.79.

    9. Ibid., p.79.

  • The instrument: The Duffused by the Mappila Muslims of Malabar is round

    in shape. A round wooden f'rame, which is covered by the leather (slun of ox)

    stretched over it. The wooden frame is 6 inches height. To tighten the leather,

    strings are used in the sides. To maintain the tone of Duff; it is frequently

    warmed. Strings of Duff are to be adjusted in order to maintain uniform


    Performance: Duff Mutt is started with Saliith and Hamd. At least 10 persons

    participate at a time in which one will be ustiid (leader). After Saliith, the

    players start to sound Duff in low voice. Then the players stand in two rows

    holding the Dufin one hand and striking the Duflperiodically in accordance

    with the tune of Bayth (Arabic poems). When the play progress the players

    rotate the Duff through shoulder and above the head. Some times they use

    elbow to strike the D u g All the movements are done simultaneously with

    systematic order from ustad. But in DuffMutt the actual stress has been given

    to recitation of Bayth. The Ustifd would loudly recite which will be repeated

    by other members.'' Devotional songs and Madb (praising) songs are also

    sung along with Bayth.

    Occasions: DuffMutt is closely associated with ~iit;b" whch is performed in

    Nerchas, devotion to dead saints. In RC?&. DzflMzdtt is performed in the dim

    light of lamps, either in the premises of mosque or in the houses. ~?l t ib, a rite


    10. C.K. Kareem, Kerala Muslim Directory, Cochin. 1997, Vol. I. p.66.

    1 1. Ratib - A devotional rite in the name of dead saints.

  • performed to get the blessing of saints, popularized DuSf Mutt. The Dtrff'

    Muttu in connection with RZtFb named R&b Muttu, started with fathzha, -

    prayer to Prophet, Pious caliphs, Mohiyuddin shalkh, k f a i shaikh and other

    Aulzyas. In Arabia girls used to perform Duff but in Kerala girls do not

    perform thls art forms. Due to its association with religious occasions, girls

    keep completely aloof from this art. The intermingled sound of Bayth and

    Dtflgive a spiritual ecstasy to the devotees. Duff later became a common

    item of nerchas in the procession called varuvu. In Calicut city, there were

    professional Duff Muttu teams who roamed the city on the eve of Friday.

    Kappat Syed Musliyar, Chekutty of Idiyangara, Imbichi Ahamad Musliyar of

    Chemancheny were the famous DuffMutttr u s t Z i in and around calicut.12 In

    the past years, Today Ratib is abandoned by the people and Duffinutt also

    been dropped off. Only in stage shows, this cultural form can be seen.

    Arabana Muttu

    Arabana was the name of a village in old Babylonia and the popular

    musical instrument of that village came to be known as Arabana. Later this

    instrument had been used by Arabs in their tribal festivals with songs and

    dances. Arabana had been beaten to declare battle-c~y for the intertribal

    battles. During the period of Abbasids, court musicians of Al-Mansur used

    Arabana in their music programmes. During the reign of Harun-al-Rashid,

    Arabana had been widely popularized. Later Shias inherited this instrument.


    12. P.P. Msnlrnad Koya Parappil. Kozllikkotte Muslimkalude Charitram, Calicut 1991. pp.233.

  • When Adilshahi sultans ruled Deccan, some Shias came to Kerala and they

    brought Arabana with them. Later Rfai ~arrqat introduced h s Arabana in

    worshipping form of Ratib, to distinguish themselves from 'Qadiri Tariqat

    who accepted Duff at the time of ~ s b . Mappilas of Malabar had fallen to so

    many superstitions. It was believed that small pox, an epidemic, could be

    averted by beating Arabana up to the border of their village and like wise in

    order to purie those who recovered from small pox, Rifai Ratib with Arabana

    beating was performed.13 There were so many groups who specialized in this

    art throughout Malabar.

    Instrument: Arabana is a larger form of Duff but in the construction there is

    some difference. In a round wooden frame of 8 to 12 inches diameter and 5

    inches height, leather (skin of ox) is tied over one...