Chennai, Aug 30: The film opens with the excavation by Kerala Council of Historical Research at Pattanam near Kodungallur, erstwhile capital of the Chera kingdom. The Mesopotamian shreds found there predate south India’s Roman contacts. Such lesser known facts about south India’s connections with West Asia and Islam form part of the narrative in historical researcher S.Anvar’s documentary film on the history of Tamil Muslim community which would be out in a month’s time.
Titled ‘In search of my roots’, the film is the first visual document on the history of Tamil-speaking Muslims. “Islam came to south India through trade contacts with Arabs which is more than 2,000 years old as proved by inscriptions, edicts and copper plates,” Mr Anvar told this newspaper. His film is a result of nearly five years of research and travel across Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
It all began when Anvar found that his Muslim identity posed several challenges post- 9/11. Born near Theni, he always knew Islam as practiced in Tamil Nadu is distinctly different from the way it is practiced elsewhere in the country. “The fact that Muslims here are very much integrated into the Tamil society has a historical legacy as I found during the course of my research,” he said.
Muslims were part of the local rulers’ military such as the army of the Pandyas and the navy of Calicut Zamorins. Amir Khusrau’s chronicle on Muslim presence in the Pandyas’ army and the edict on the Muslim presence in the Zamorins’ navy are filmed to tell the story of how Muslims integrated into the mainstream society in the then south India.
The work of the Sufi saints such as Nathar Vali of Tiruchi and Shahul Hameed of Nagoor in the spread of Islam is another relatively unknown factor in the film. The kinship pattern between Muslims and other communities in the state is depicted in detail.
The film also tells how Islam adapted to the Dravidian milieu, filming many of the hundreds of mosques in the state which were built in Dravidian architectural style of stone masonry.