Protest Erupts After Kerala Temple Puts Up Board ‘Banning’ Entry of Muslims

This is not the first time such a board was seen outside the temple during Vishu.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Protests broke out, questions were raised, and a controversy arose after a board outside the Malliyodu Palottu Kaavu, a temple in Kunhimangalam of Kannur, said that Muslims were not allowed inside the premises during festival time.

The board was put up during the Vishu-related festival in the temple this year, held between 14 and 19 April. It was not the first time such a board was seen outside the temple during Vishu.

Last year, a similar board was kept outside the temple with the same message. A person who was formerly in charge at the temple confirmed that the board was put up. MV Jayarajan, CPI(M)'s Kannur district secretary, told media that it was unfortunate that such a board was kept outside the temple and it would be good if whoever kept it could also take it down.

He mentioned that a conflict in the area involving members of the Muslim community many years ago appeared to be the trigger for the board to come up.

Members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) protested the ‘ban’ on Muslims at the temple. The DYFI Madayi Block Committee condemned the move, calling it a challenge against a secular society, installing a board at a place like Kunhimangalam, known for its brotherhood and cultural commitment.

“It is lamentable that the authorities have repeated the action after a lot of protests had risen against it last year,” they said in a Facebook post.

The Athiyedam Palottu deity, which is inside the temple, is said to have been brought by a man called Chemmaran Panicker to what was then Chirambakkavu, according to the Kerala Tourism page. The deity is believed to be the first incarnation of Vishnu, one of the three major Hindu gods.

Theyyam Rituals

A number of Theyyam performances happen at the kaavu every year. Theyyams are dance worship rituals, where the person becoming Theyyam is considered a channel communicating to god. “The Theyyams had no such restrictions in the old days. All these developments – keeping a board outside preventing the entry of Muslims – must have happened within the last 50 years,” says Kannan YV, a folklore historian in Kannur.


Theyyams in north Kerala addressed everyone in the society and no one is a stranger, he says. “The Theyyam would come out of the temple fences and go to the people who waited at the bottom of the big aalmaram (banyan tree). Everyone, including Muslims, would be given the ‘kuri’ (turmeric powder, offered as blessing of god) and the Theyyam would also talk to them. To Muslims, the Theyyam would tell the mappilavedam (myths around early days of Islam in Kerala). Later on, the fences were broken and in its place big buildings were made,” Kannan says.

The Kerala King Who Embraced Islam

The legendary story of Cheraman Perumal, a king from Kerala who famously embraced Islam, is cited as one of the tales the Theyyam told Muslims. The legend has many variations and the Cheraman Juma Masjid, recognised by many as the first mosque in India, is believed to have been built in Kodungalloor in the aftermath of the king’s sojourn. Legend says that he went to Mecca and spent several years there. When he was on his way home, he died, after sending word home to build mosques.

This is not the first time such a board was seen outside the temple during Vishu.

Board banning Muslims from last year.

(Photo: TNM)

However, none of the mayhem on social media about the ‘controversial board’ seems to have affected the people of Kunhimangalam, writes VK Anilkumar, documentary filmmaker, who writes about Theyyams and the lives behind the art form. He visited the temple and saw people sitting around the said board last evening (17 April), he said.


“Theyyam temples, where the most common people of various castes and religions gather, are above religious observances. A Theyyam temple cannot discriminate between people. A Theyyam can never see Muslim siblings as others. And a Theyyakkaavu will not become a traditional temple,” Anilkumar writes in his post.

He further asks, “How can Theyyams, who have declared Brahminism as their enemy, be bound with the rules of Vedas and mantras?”

(Published in arrangement with The News Minute.)

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Topics:  Temple   Islam   Muslims in India 

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