The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ramazan salve on Kerala scars

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 26: For a state desperately trying to get over its worst communal killings at Marad in Kozhikode in May this year, the just-concluded Muslim month of fast and penance has given Kerala a much-needed healing touch.

Ramazan saw Hindus and Christians, especially in the north, trying to bridge the religious divide by holding iftars.

For instance, the Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kodungalloor, a historical mosque, saw a group of Hindus spread out the table for breaking the fast.

One of the foremost centres of Kerala’s syncretic traditions, it was in Kodungalloor that St Thomas set foot in the first century to preach the Gospel.

It also houses one of the earliest Shiva temples in the country and is the site of the first Jewish arrivals in the 15th century.

Similarly, an iftar in Choondy near Ernakulam organised by Father Antony Chirappanathu, a former dean of the Mahatma Gandhi University, at his parish house attached to the St Pius Church drew Hindu sants from the Advaita Ashram.

Going a step further in Kollam in the south, local government employee K.S. Surendrakumar observed the month-long fast, joined by his wife on alternate days, saying he was making an earnest effort to assimilate the best from various religions.

But there was nothing to beat the fast undertaken by 103-year-old Govinda Pillai, whose first experience with fasting was in connection with observing temple rituals.

Gradually, the month-long fast appealed to him and he has been observing it for years now.

The fasts and feasts apart, several individual efforts served to heal the scars left by the May 2 violence and the acrimony thereafter. Standing out were two writers — a Muslim and a Hindu — “who embarked on rare pilgrimage to the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala to script a valuable lesson in communal amity and peaceful co-existence”.

Short-story writer K.P. Ramanunny and C. Ashraf, winner of the prestigious Edassery literary prize, left their hometowns of Ponnani and Kodungalloor on a trip to various religious centres before worshipping at the Sabarimala, a venture blessed by one of the state’s most popular authors, M.T. Vasudevan Nair.

Marad, however, was unprepared to host an inter-religious iftar.

Efforts were made at different quarters to organise one but the police were chary of bringing together two communities who were at loggerheads untila few days ago.

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