Monday, June 22, 2009

PONNANI, The ancient city

Ponnani (Malayalam: പൊന്നാനി) is a coastal town and a municipality in Malappuram district in the Indian state of Kerala. It is the smallest Taluk in Malappuram district. This tiny, picturesque town is bounded by the Arabian Sea on the west. It is the only port in Malappuram district and one of the oldest ones in Kerala. This tidal port, mainly used by the fishing industry, is at the mouth of Bharathapuznta, the longest river of Kerala. This place is an important fishing centre.
Ponnani has a population which is a blend of almost equal percentage of Hindus and Muslims and has set an example for tolerant and peaceful co-existence. Malik Ibn Dinar, the first Islamic missionary to come to Kerala, is believed to have visited Ponnani. William Logan, the British historian, records in his Malabar Manual that the Ponnani Juma Masjid was built in 925 Hijrah Era. Ponnani was considered as the second capital of Malabar during the reign of Zamorins of Calicut and was the headquarters of Kunjali Marakkar, the naval chief of Zamorin.
It attained a status as an important centre for education in the philosophy of Islam. In the early period, Ponnani was considered the Al Azhar University of Kerala, for its great religious schools and teachers. Ponnani was called the 'small Mecca' of South India.
Hyder Ali of Mysore conquered Malabar in 1766 and established an outpost in Ponnani. During his son Tipu Sultan’s regime Ponnani became an important centre for Islamic studies. Tipu developed the port at Ponnani for trade and security reasons. After Tipu’s defeat in 1799, the British took the territory of Malabar under their control.
Ponnani is a name very much associated with the nationalist movements in the freedom struggle. A number of prominent leaders from this taluk had contributed in soul and spirit towards realizing the dream of Independent India. Role of great freedom struggle leaders like Zainuddin Makhdoom II, who wrote a book Tuhafat Ul Mujahideen, which is the first authentic book on Kerala history, to inspire people to fight British invasion is remembered for ever. Ponnani has also contributed a great deal to the cultural and literary heritage of Kerala.
Shri. KV Raman Menon (1900-1974), known as Ponnani Gandhi, was a great Congress leader of the time who had actively participated in the freedom movement of Malabar. He was a social reformer and was a leading lawyer of the Court of Ponani.
EK Imbichibava has played a tremendous role in its development. He is known as The Soul of Ponnani. He was a great Communist Leader and former Member of Indian Parliament and Member of Kerala Legislative Assembly.

With a history that is culturally rich and ethnically diverse, Ponnani carves itself a niche in the history of Malabar and the country as a whole. This tiny sea side town was the naval base of Kunjali Marakkar , the army chief of the Samoothiri, whose reign is known as the 'Golden era' of Malabar.Behind the nameAccording to some historical records, Ponnani’s history dates back to 2000 years. There are differences of opinion regarding the evolution of the name 'Ponnani'. Legend has it that the Ponnana (meaning a type of elephant in Malayalam) was auctioned in the Brahmin temples here and thus came to be known as Ponnani. Yet another legend says that a king called ‘Ponnan’ ruled the land and was thereafter called Ponnani.Historical records rather point to another truth. The use of Gold coins ('Ponn - nanayam' in Malayalam) . This represents the wealth that was brought in by the trade relations with the Arabs and Europeans.Political HistoryPonnani was the second capital town of Malabar during the reign of Samoothiri. When Vasco De Gama landed at Kappad in Kozhikode in 1498,Sammothiri was residing in Ponnani. The rule of Samoothiris came to an end when Hyder Ali, the then ruler of Mysore, captured the place. Ponnani then became a part of Mysore kingdom and later under the rule of his son Tipu Sultan. The road from Palakkad to Ponnani, Tipu Sultan Road was named after him.The fall of Tipu Sultan led Ponnani to be a part of Bombay Province under the British rule. Later this place became a part of Malabar under Madras state.After independence,when the state of Kerala was formed in 1956, Ponnani was included in Palakkad district. In 1969,the Malappuram district came into being and Ponnani became part of that.References in Malabar Manual
William Logon, the historian, records in his Malabar manual about the Ponnani Juma’ Masjid built in 925 Hijrah is 90 ft long and 60 ft wide. Zainudhin Ibn Ali Ibn Ahmed Ma’bari was the one who built it. He was the Makhdum, meaning the one who was worthy of service.
He held the reigns of spiritual leadership of Muslims in and around Ponnani. He authored many books of which some of are textbooks in Egyptian and other Arab countries’ universities.William Logon says that in 1887 there were 400 students in the Juma’ Masjid Madrasa. Kunhai Musliyar, Umar Qazi, Sheikh Syed Hasan Jifri and Ali Musliyar were some of the products of Ponnani Madrasa of Juma’ Masjid. This is where the Bharat river and Arabian Sea meets. Ponnani, often referred as the cultural capital of Kerala Muslims, has some of the most rare collection of Arabic books of the past. The 'Mounathul Islam Sabha' of Ponnani is a century old institution and is famous for Islamic studies in south India. The Thottungal Masjid built by Sheikh Faridudhin, is the oldest mosque in Ponnani.

Malik Ibnu Dinar, the first Islamic missionary who came to Kerala, was believed to have visited Ponnani. The Juma-ath mosque, the biggest mosque in the town, was built by Sheikh Zainuddin Makhdoom in the 16th century. Zainuddin Makhdom was the great historian, who wrote the first book on early history of Kerala.
Ponnani was considered the Al Azhar university of Kerala, for its great religious schools and teachers. Ponnani was called the small Makkah in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Malaya, Indonesia, Lakshadeep etc. It was the scholars of the Makhdum family that gave Ponnani this historic importance. They had migrated from Yemen centuries ago.

Society and Culture
Ponnani is famous among Keralites for its mosques. There are number of mosques situated in Ponnani municipality. It is also famed for its Hindu temples such as Thrikkavu Temple in downtown Ponnani and the Navamukunda Temple in Thirunavaya, located near Ponnani. Another famous temple in Ponnani is Mookkuthala Bhagavathy Temple. Mookkuthala Kannemkavu temple is situated nearby the Mookuthala temple. The temple is owned by Azhvancheri Thamprakal. Centuries ago, saints from the famous Chettikulangara Temple, Mavelikkara, visited and stayed here for Bhajanam, at the time of their journey to Azhvancherry Mana.
Ponnani has an important place in the cultural history of Kerala. Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan, who is considered as the Father of the Modern Malayalam language, Vallathol Narayana Menon (1878-1958), Kuttikrishna Marar, Krishna Panikkar, illustrious novelists like Uroob (pseudonym of P. C. Kuttikrishnan), M. T. Vasudevan Nair, Kamala Suraiya (Madhavikkutty) and C. Radhakrishnan, poets like Edasseri Govindan Nair etc. are from Ponnani taluk. The well-known painters like K.C.S. Panikkar, Namboothiri too are from here. Trikkavu in Ponnani was the summer capital of Zamorins of Calicut, the rulers of Malabar.
The role of EK Imbichibava is remembered for his contribution to the town and people. K. V. Raman Menon, Adv. Koladi Govindan Kutty, K. Krishna Warrier, Justice Kunhammad Kutty, Fatima Teacher, Prof. A. V. Moideen Kutty, Prof. M. M. Narayanan, Prof. K. V. Abdurahiman, Prof. Kadavanad Mohammad, etc. have contributed a lot for the cultural development of Ponnani

Ponnani is located at 10°46′N 75°54′E / 10.77°N 75.9°E / 10.77; 75.9[4]. It has an average elevation of 5 metres (76 feet).

There are two administrative systems prevailing in Ponnani taluk:
Local self-government.
The local self-government system constitutes the Municipality and Block Panchayat. Ponnani Municipality has 50 wards. Each ward is represented by an elected member in the Municipal council. Under the revenue system, the taluk is divided into 11 villages. Ponnani taluk is constituted of the following villages.
Nannam Mukku
k.k junction

Ponnani assembly constituency is part of Ponnani (Lok Sabha constituency).[5]
Ponnani is one among the 20 parliament constituencies of Kerala. The constituency is rural in character, with agriculture and fishing being the main means of livelihood. The area boasts a few NRI pockets, wherein foreign remittances have created an aura of prosperity. The Ponnani constituency comprises the assembly segments of Tirurangadi, Tanur, Tirur, Ponnani, Mankada, Kuttipuram, Perinthalmanna and Thrithala.
Between 1957 and 1977, when Ponnani was a reserved constituency, it was held by the Marxists. Once it was re-labeled a general constituency in 1977, the balance of power shifted to the IUML. General Statistics (Municipality as per 1991 Census)[6]:
Area - 199.42 sq. km
Population - 320,888
Literacy 71.3%

The tidal mouth of Bharathappuzha in Ponnani, where 'Bharathapuza' and ' PonnaiPuzha' join together to traverse into the Arabian Sea, is a seasonal home to hundreds of migratory birds and attracts a large number of bird watchers and ornithologists. If one crosses the ferry of Chamravattom in March-May period one cannot but miss the lovely flock of birds. Nearly 25 varieties of birds have been identified in this area.
Another tourist attraction is 'Beyyam Kayal'. This placid, green fringed waterway has water sports facilities. A boat race is conducted here annually, during Onam celebrations. A permanent pavilion is built for the spectators and nearly two dozen country boats, including some rowed by women, participate in the race. A big scheme is underway to develop a tourist complex here, with hotels, parks, etc. Today, a rest house situated on the banks of the lake, welcomes the tourists for a comfortable and cozy stay.
As Chamravattom project become reality, a landmark growth is expected in tourism, irrigation and transportation sectors. The foundation for this ambitious project was laid down in 1982.
As of 2001[update] India census, Ponnani had a population of 87,356. Males constitute 48% of the population and females 52%. Ponnani has an average literacy rate of 74%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 77%, and female literacy is 71%. In Ponnani, 13% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Land Marks
Ponnani Lighthouse: Ponnani Lighthouse is situated close to the South bank of Bharathapuza River joining the sea on the outskirts of Ponnani town. The nearest Railway station is in Kuttipuram and is 21 KM away. The NH-17 connects Ponnani to Kuttipuram. Ponnani is also linked by an inland water navigation system of canals to south Kerala.
Bharathapuza: Joins in Arabian Sea at Ponnani.