History of Mappila Pattu
Mappila Pattu has been in circulation for almost 7 centuries and has been passed down from generations through oral tradition. The first dated work was by Qadi Muhammad who wrote Muhyidheen Mala in 1607 AD. Several literary pieces were produced in this medium thereafter and over the centuries various types of Mappila Pattu were composed. The 17th century saw the earliest known dated works of the Mappila Pattu which primarily belonged to the Mala genre and subject was mostly based on devotional works. Various other categories also grew during the following centuries with subjects ranging from romantic ballads and marriage songs to philosophical ideas, sea journeys and even flood ordeals.
Various Genres of Mappila Pattu
The earliest genre of Mappila Pattu was the Mala genre, which belonged to the 17th century. The songs were written in Arabi-Malayalam script and were praises of pious personalities of Islam who were supposed to have gained high spiritual status. Generally most of the works were themed on the lives of Sufi saints or Wali and became popular in the era of Sufism when it gained a strong foothold amongst the Mappilas. Each Mala was typically associated with the leader of a Sufi order known as Thareeqath. These leaders were lavishly praised in poetry, often surpassing the boundaries of human abilities.
The 17th century also witnessed the composition of other popular works in the Malappattu genre, namely the Rifai Mala written in 1623 by Ahammadul Kabeer, Uswath Mala written in 1628 and Valiya Naseehath Mala in 1674 by Manantakath Kunhikoya Thangal.
Advent of the 18th century bought the Kissa genre in Mappila Pattu where the main subject was narrating stories of the prophets of Islam or Sufi saints. It is also called “Kissa” genre, where ‘kissa’ means story. Examples of such songs include the Ibrahim Nabi Qissa and the Ibrahim Ibn Adham Kissa. Songs like the Kaddapattu and Safalamaala by Shujayi Moisu Musailyar conveyed ideological messages to the community in the era of post-Portuguese years.
The dawn of the 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of the British Rule in Malabar and thus the songs of this era are marked by the anti-British feelings. Most of the songs of the era come under the genre of Padapattu, which are basically battle songs. The first dated work in Padappatu genre was the Zaqqom Padapattu in 1836. The songs of this genre can be classified into 4 different types: Islamic folktales, Islamic history, Mappila history and fictional songs. The common feature of all these songs were their pattern of narration of the bravery of the heroes depicted. While the battle songs roused the feelings of the community against the authorities, this era also witnessed the popularization of romantic ballads like Moyinkutty Vaidyar's Badarul Muneer Husnul Jamal and Chettuvayi Pareekkutty’s Soubhagya Sundari. During the time of composition of these ballads the authord were believed to be in their teens or twenties.
Poets of Mapilla Pattu
During the era of the 18th century, poets like Kunhayan Musailyar and Umar Qadi were quite popular. Musailyar authored popular titles like Nool Mad’h, Nool Mala and Kappappattu, where Nool Mad’h was a devotional work on Prophet Muhammed with 666 lines composed in 16 different Ishalukal. Umar Qadi on the other hand was a scholar, poet and freedom fighter well known for his tax non-cooperation movement against the British rule in the Malabar. He composed songs of various subjects, ranging from the ruler of the Chera Dynasty, Cheraman Perumal to Arabic grammar. Other poets like Moyinkutty Vaidyar, Pulikokottil Hyder, Chakeeri Moyidin Kutty, Chettuvayi Pareekkutty, T Ubaid and S.A. Jameel were also quite popular in the following eras.
Moyinkutty Vaidyar (1857-1891), often hailed as Mahakavi (great poet), is regarded as one of the most esteemed and authentic Mappila poets in history. Born into an Ayurvedic family in Kondotti, Malappuram district, in 1857, he possessed a deep knowledge of Sanskrit and Arabic. Remarkably, at the tender age of seventeen, he composed the romantic epic "Badarul Munir - Husnul Jamal" in 1872.
Pulikkottil Hyder, born in 1879 in Wandoor, was a popular poet known for his compositions of short songs in Arabi-Malayalam that tackled prevalent social issues. His simple yet impactful lyrics, centered around the everyday lives of the Mappilas, challenged the conventional patterns of Mappilappattu, earning him the epithet "The Kunchan Nambiar of Mappilappattu." In his notable work "Vellappokka Maala," he masterfully depicts the ravages of a severe flood that affected the regions of Malabar, Mysore, and Travancore, vividly capturing the plight of common people using ordinary Malayalam vocabulary.
Chakeeri Moyidin Kutty of Cherur, near Vengara, gained recognition for his poetic composition titled "Ghazvath Badril Kubra" (The Great Battle of Badr) in 1876, following in the footsteps of Moyinkutty Vaidyar's "Badar Padappattu." This work introduced a fresh pattern in Mappilappattu, featuring poetry in pure Malayalam language instead of the earlier practice of incorporating Arabic, Kannada, and Tamil. It was also known as the “Chakkeeri Badr” to distinguish it from other poems on the same subject by different poets.
Chettuvayi Pareekkutty, the author of notable works such as "Futhuhussaman," "Minhathul Bari," "Soubhagya Sundari," and "Adi Ahaduna," was another prominent poet of the era. Proficient in Tamil, Sanskrit, and classical music, he left a lasting impact on the Mappila Pattu tradition.
T. Abdurahman (1908-1972), born in Thalankara, Kasargode, was a towering figure in Malayalam literature during the 20th century. Known as T. Ubaid or Mahakavi Ubaid, he possessed extensive knowledge of English, Malayalam, Arabic, Urdu, Kannada, Sanskrit, and Tamil. Besides being a poet, he dedicated himself to researching Mappilappattu and meticulously documented a vast collection of Mappila songs prevalent in North Malabar through the oral tradition.
S.A. Jameel is a poet closely associated with the genre of kathu pattu (letter songs) within Mappila songs. His most celebrated works include the 1976 letter and reply duet "Ethrayum bahumanappetta ente priya bharthavu vayikkuvan" (Oh my dear respected husband) and "Abu Dhabeelullorezhuthupetti" (A letterbox in Abu Dhabi).
Role of Female in Mappila Pattu
Muslim women do feature in the culture and literature of Mappila Pattu. There are female poets who have enhanced the Mappila Pattu literature. There are several Mappila songs that were based on female subjects. Songs that belong to the Oppana genre describe the beauty of a bride in a colourful manner. The famous Badarul Muneer Husnul Jamal by Moyinkutty Vaidyar writes a separate section in order to describe the beauty of the heroine named Husnul Jamal.
Female poets like CH Kunhayisha, V Ayishakkutti depicted sorrowfully the final moments of Khadija who is the wife of Prophet Muhammed and Fatima, his daughter. Nafeesath Mala authored by Nalakath Kunhi Moideen Kutty praises a woman named Nafeesa, who belonged to the lineage of the Prophet. Other female poets include Puthur Amina, Kundil Kunhamina, B Ayishakkutty, and K Aminakkutty.
The themes and the representation have left a never ending impression on Malayalam Poetry. Renowned poets like P. Krishna Kumar, P. Bhaskaran and Vayalar Ramavarma composed several popular Mappila songs. Since the year 1954 Mappila songs have been popular. Some of the movies that feature Mappila songs are Mailanchi, Pathinalamravu, Ulpathi, Sammanam, Manya Maha Janangale and some more.
S. M. Koya is noted for his genre of Malabar Mappila Pattukal. V. M. Kutty, the singer and composer made noteworthy contribution in order to popularise Mappila songs. Other composers of Mappila songs are Punnayurkulam V Bapu, O. M. Karuvarakkundu and Mohar Munir. Some of the popular singers of this genre are Vilayil Faseela, V. T. Murali, Ramla Beegum & Aysha Beegum, A.V.Mohamed, M. P. Ummerkutty and more.
Social Significance of Mappila Pattu
Mappila Pattu served as a vehicle for imparting religious teachings and educating the masses about the principles of Islam. In an era predating the printing press, when literacy was limited, oral traditions held immense importance in disseminating religious knowledge, particularly among those who couldn't read or write. Songs such as Aqeedath Mala, Niskaarapaattu, Naseehath Mala, Kombinte paattu, Liqa Mala, and Amaliyyath Mala were composed specifically for this purpose.
During the Mappila uprisings against British colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Pada pattu genre of Mappila Pattu played a significant role in instilling a sense of resistance and unity among the Mappila peasantry. These ballads fueled Mappila sentiments and contributed to the development of a collective consciousness rooted in a heroic tradition. Following each uprising, songs were composed eulogizing the bravery of the participants and idealizing their sacrifices.
Mappila bands traversed the countryside, spreading these ballads, and they also became popular through group singing at social and domestic functions. The war songs often depicted the pleasures of paradise awaiting the "martyrs" and were recited alongside other preparations prior to launching an attack.
Mappila Pattu encompasses genres like Mailanchi Pattu, Oppana Pattu, and Ammayi Pattu, which revolve around themes of love and marriage. These songs, often sung in chorus, are an integral part of marriage festivals and are accompanied by rhythmic clapping by women. They celebrate the joyous occasions of union and reflect the cultural significance attached to marriage within the Mappila community.
During the "Gulf boom" period of the 1970s and 80s, when a large number of workers migrated from Malabar to the oil-rich Gulf states of the Middle East, Mappila Pattu gained renewed relevance. Many households experienced separation, with men working abroad and communication limited to letters. This situation sparked a surge of interest in the Kathu pattu genre of Mappilappattu, which involved letter songs. The lyrics of these songs resonated closely with the lives of migrant workers and their families, popularizing this genre as a means of expressing their emotions and experiences.
While Mappila songs predominantly focused on the Muslim community, there were occasional narratives that explored stories beyond those confines. One notable example is the Mappila Ramayana, a ballad that narrates the Hindu mythological tale of Sri Rama. This demonstrates the inclusive nature of Mappila Pattu, encompassing diverse cultural and narrative elements.
Influence of Mappila Pattu
Mappila Pattu, with its captivating melodies and profound themes, has exerted a significant influence on the cultural landscape of Kerala. Its spiritual significance, historical recitals, poetic beauty, and integration into various forms of media have made Mappila Pattu an enduring and influential tradition.
The Mala songs hold a revered status among the Mappila community, comparable to the works of Ezhuthachan and Cherusseri Namboothiri among the Hindu population of Malabar. These songs were believed to instill religious beliefs in those who recited and listened to them. Certain Malas, such as the Muhyidheen Mala, were regarded as a protective charm against calamities, while the Rifa'i Mala was chanted for its healing properties against burns and snake bites. The Nafeesath Mala, on the other hand, was prescribed for pregnant women to facilitate an easy childbirth. The importance of Mala songs was so significant that memorizing them was considered a qualification for prospective brides.
The songs of Moyinkutty Vaidyar were not only sung but also explained to public audiences in what was known as Seera Parayana Sadassu (history recital sessions). These sessions, often lasting for several nights, were immensely popular throughout the Malabar region. The spirit of the themes and the beauty of representation in Mappila Paattukal left a lasting impression on Malayalam poetry, showcasing the enduring power of these compositions.
The influence of Mappila songs extended to the realm of cinema. Renowned poets such as P. Krishna Kumar, P. Bhaskaran, and Vayalar Ramavarma have composed numerous popular Mappila songs, integrating the essence of this tradition into Malayalam cinema. The success of the 1954 classic "Kayalarikaathu vala erinjappol" by K. Raghavan from the movie "Neelakuyil" marked a turning point, popularizing Mappila songs in the film industry.
Mappila Pattu continues to thrive in contemporary media as well. Shows like "Mylanchi," presented by Asianet, have gained immense popularity and are currently heading towards their fifth season, known as "Mylanchi Little Champions." Similarly, "Pathinalam Ravu" by MediaOne has become a highly successful reality show in a short span of time. Upholding the traditional values of Mappila Pattu, "Pathinalam Ravu" is now in its third edition, highlighting the enduring appeal of this rich musical tradition.
Institutions teaching Mappila Pattu
Mappila Pattu, the cherished folk music tradition of the Mappila community in Kerala, has garnered significant institutional support over the years. These institutions play a crucial role in promoting, researching, and recognizing the contributions of Mappila Pattu to the cultural landscape of Kerala.
Mahakavi Moyinkutty Vaidyar Smarakam: In 1999, the Mahakavi Moyinkutty Vaidyar Smarakam was inaugurated at the poet's birthplace in Kondotty by the then Chief Minister of Kerala, E. K. Nayanar. This cultural center serves as a hub for research, studies, and interpretations of Mappilappattu in Malayalam. The foundation stone for the Smarakam was laid by former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran on December 24, 1994. The center offers certificate courses in 'Mappilappattu' and 'Mappila kali', providing an avenue for enthusiasts to delve deeper into this art form.
Kerala Mappila Kala Akademi: Established in 2001, the Kerala Mappila Kala Akademi is a dedicated institution for promoting and preserving Mappila Pattu in Kerala. The Akademi annually confers awards to distinguished personalities in the field of Mappilappattu, recognizing their significant contributions. Additionally, the Akademi provides fellowships to researchers engaged in studying and exploring various aspects of Mappila Pattu. The awards are named after renowned figures in the realm of Mappilappattu, such as Gul Mohammed, K.K. Muhammed Abdul Kareem, and Qadi Mohammed.
All Kerala Mappila Sangeetha Academy: Founded in 1992, the All Kerala Mappila Sangeetha Academy focuses on promoting Mappila arts and culture. The academy instituted the Mahakavi Moyinkutty Vaidyar Award and the M.S. Baburaj Award, both named after prominent figures associated with Mappila Pattu. These awards honor individuals who have made remarkable contributions to the field. Additionally, the academy organizes annual arts festivals with a special emphasis on showcasing the diverse aspects of Mappila arts.