Kochi: The Fort Kochi-Mattancherry region in Kerala's Ernakulam district boasts of a unique cultural diversity.
Around 30 different communities and 20 languages merge effortlessly in this small piece of land, proving to be the ideal example of religious harmony. There are even several sects of Muslims in this region. Among those, the legacy of the Naina community have filled our historical tales.
Though not much is documented about the Nainas, their history is eventual with several interesting incidents. Holding on their rich legacy, the Naina community still lives on in Fort Kochi-Mattancherry area.
Arrived in India for business
Though no clear historical records are available, Nainas arrived in Tamil Nadu in India from Yemen during the 13th century for business purposes. They reached Kochi durinh the 14th century through the sea. They then migrated to several parts of Kerala.
Kochi alone has 600 people from this community.
A book on freedom fighter Mohammed Abdurahman brought out by the Information Department in 1978 narrates as to how the community became part of Kochi and their links to the royal rulers.
"Kunjali Naina was the supreme commander of the Paliath Achan's military force. (Paliath Achan is the hereditary prime minister to the king). During this time, Cochin King went against the Portuguese, while the Samoothiri backed them. A huge battalion of the Samoothiris, comprising strong Muslim men, reached Cochin. But the Portuguese lost the war. One section of the Samoothiri's army stayed on in Kochi.
Among these, four youths were picked to be bodyguards of the King of Cochin.
These four were brothers. Since they did not have a mosque to pray, they said they wanted to return to their native place. When the king got to know of this, he donated land for them to build the mosque. They built a mosque at Kochi angadi. The King also gave them an honorary title Nainar, which later became Naina. Kunjali Naina's daughter was married by warrior Kalanthan Pokker. Freedom fighter Mohammed Abdurahman was a descendant of the Kalanthan Pokker."
Sainudheen Naina and Basheer Naina are some of the other freedom fighters from the community. Sainudheen joined the salt satyagraha in Kozhikode three days after his marriage. He courted arrest and was jailed. Freedom fighter E Moidu Maulavi had lauded Sainudheen's bravery in his autobiography 'Ormakal.' P Keshavadev and Vaikom Mohammed Basheer were his close friends.
He published a journal, Ujjivanam, with Bahseer as its editor. When Basheer was being hunted down by the police, he gave his watch to Basheer and asked him to escape. The money that he got on selling the watch was used by Basheer to go an all-India tour. Sainudheen Naina died in 1952.
The royal connect
The Nainas were special invitees to the coronation ceremony of the Maharajah of Cochin. This invitation was proof of the friendship between Nainas, the King and royal family. The Nainas even handed over Mangalapathram (felicitation scroll) during the event.
The relation between the Naina and the roayl family are mentioned in the records found in the valuable collection of Kovilakathe Anujan Thampuran, who is a close relative of Parikshith Thampuran, the last ruler of Cochin.
One such record was the notification submitted by the then diwan Joseph William Bhore to the British government.
"The Nainas have special rights to escort the king during the events linked to the royal palace. These are one of the early Muslims to come to Kingdom of Cochin. The King used to gift them money bags," it read.
The suffix 'Thachy' was added to the names of women from the Naina community. They generally do not wear purdah. Instead, they dress mainly in dhothi, a long top and the hijab. Later, some of the women from the community started wearing sari. Earlier, they used to adorn themselves with gold ornaments.
Chronicling the history
A book, chronicling the history and lineage of the Naina community, is out. Judge C K Abduraheem officially released the book at Town Hall at Mattancherry on Tuesday. Steel Fabrication welding contractor Mansoor Naina is the author. Two books – 'Naina Charitram Noottandukaliloode' (History of Naina over the centuries) and 'Kochi' – were brought out. The first book was published by Naina Association and the second book by Mansoor himself.
Mansoor was inspired after he got the book 'Mohammed Abdurahman' from his brother-in-law Ashraf. He was also aided by a manuscript in Arabic from a Naina family in Alappuzha. Mansoor travelled to several places, including Kayalpatnam near Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, to document the Naina history.
Kayalapatnam was the biggest the port in the country during the 13th century. This was also the place where the Arab Muslims first settled.