Mappila Muslims, Kerala

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added in People & ethnicity by LC Marshal

Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands in southern India

The Mappila Muslims, concentrated in Kerala and Lakshadweep Islands in southern India, constitute 26.56% of Kerala's population.

Believed to be the oldest settled native Muslim community in South Asia, Mappilas trace their origins to West Asian interactions with Kerala, particularly in the spice trade. Influenced by continuous ties with the Middle East, Mappilas have shaped a distinctive Indo-Islamic synthesis in literature, art, food, language, and music within the broader Kerala culture.

Demographics and Diaspora

Muslims are concentrated in northern Kerala, particularly in the former Malabar District, and are also present in the Lakshadweep Islands. Some Malayali Muslims have settled in southern Karnataka and western Tamil Nadu, with scattered communities in major Indian cities.

During British rule in Malabar, Mappilas were recruited for work in Burma, Assam, and Southeast Asia. Diaspora communities of Mappilas exist in Singapore and Malaysia. Additionally, a significant number of Muslims from Kerala have sought employment in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


  1. Language and Literature:

    • Mappilas often speak Malayalam, the predominant language in Kerala. However, they also have a distinct dialect known as Mappila Malayalam.
    • Mappilas have a rich literary tradition, with a unique form of folk poetry called Mappila Pattu. These songs often reflect themes of love, cultural values, and religious teachings.
  2. Religious Practices:

    • Mappila Muslims follow Sunni Islam and are known for their strong adherence to Islamic traditions. They have a rich tradition of Islamic scholarship and religious education.
    • The community actively participates in Islamic rituals, festivals, and practices. They celebrate Islamic festivals such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha with great fervor.
  3. Cuisine:

    • Mappila cuisine is known for its unique blend of flavors influenced by Arabian, Persian, and Indian culinary traditions.
    • Biryani, a spiced rice dish, is a popular Mappila dish. Other traditional dishes include pathiri (rice pancake), kozhi curry (chicken curry), and meen curry (fish curry).
  4. Dress and Attire:

    • Mappila Muslims often wear traditional Islamic clothing. Men may wear a lungi (a traditional wrap-around garment) and a kurta, while women may wear traditional dresses like the purdah, which is a long veil covering the body.
  5. Art and Craft:

    • Mappilas have a tradition of creating intricate handicrafts and artistic designs. Wood carving, brassware, and handwoven textiles are some examples of their craftsmanship.
  6. Social Customs:

    • Mappila weddings are elaborate affairs, with unique customs and rituals. The wedding ceremony, known as Nikah, is an important event in the community.
    • The Mappila community places a strong emphasis on family values and community support. Social gatherings and events play a significant role in their culture.
  7. History and Heritage:

    • The history of Mappila Muslims is intertwined with the history of Kerala, and they have played a crucial role in the cultural and economic development of the region.
    • Mappilas have a history of trade and commerce, and many were involved in maritime activities and spice trade with the Arab world.